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The Effect of Drug and Alcohol Abuse on Children

A recent report from the NSPCC has indicated that around 2.5 million children in the UK are living with parents who drink too much. Investigations into the support for these children have found that many councils do not have strategies in place to address the issue. With alcohol abuse being a major problem across the country, the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme decided to interview three adults who grew up with an addicted parent to get their opinion on how this affected them.

Full of Anger

Josh Connolly lived with his alcoholic father until he died when Josh was just nine years old. Josh said that he has been left ‘full of anger’ and that this anger would often be directed at other people. He said he felt ashamed of his father and then guilty for feeling this way. He added, “I tend to only remember a lot of the bad things and also the feelings. That is what stayed with me through my life and is still tangible today; the way that my dad’s drinking and everything that comes with that made me feel.”

Like a lot of children of alcoholic parents, Josh suffered his own problems with alcohol abuse when he was a teenager. He said, “I desperately wanted more than anything else in my life not to be an alcoholic, but when I was 12 or 13 and found alcohol, it just became the perfect escape route for me. I was never really able to look after my dad. At school I acted the clown, at home I am trying to be the best possible me that I could be, so alcohol gave me an escape from that.”


Jade Bailey lived with her father, who was a heroin addict. As far back as she can remember, her dad took drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy around her and told her it was his ‘medicine’. However, as Jade got older, her father began taking harder drugs such as heroin with his friends. Jade said, “I knew it was never right and never their medicine. I remember them going into the bathroom, I can even picture it now, and doing it, coming out and all being off their faces. When he went on to heroin, I was about ten years old, and he was a mess. Our fun time on the weekend was going to the skip and trying to find toys. At that age, I thought it was amazing as my dad was always my hero.”

Jade’s mother stopped her from seeing her father when she discovered what was happening during their visits, and she was only allowed to speak to him on the phone. Jade said, “I have never had that answer from him of why wasn’t I enough to make him stop. Why do you not love me enough to stop and be my dad? He knew how much I adored him and I knew he adored me, I knew I was the only thing he cared about, apart from the drug. It makes you feel very alone and abandoned by them, but you love them so much you can’t ever leave them, no matter what they do.”

Walking Away

Sarah’s father was an alcoholic, and she admits that she was forced to walk away from him because of the way his drinking changed their relationship. She said, “In my early years, it was happy. It made it harder when he turned to alcohol because I couldn’t understand and it made it harder to walk away. I missed the old dad he was and always wished I could have the old dad back.”

Like many children who live with an alcoholic parent, Sarah kept her feelings bottled up and did not tell anyone about her father’s drinking. However, she believes that the experience of dealing with his illness made her stronger and more resilient. Nevertheless, she also said it affected her in terms of her attitude towards alcohol, adding, “I always feel anxious when I am around drunk people. It reminds me of the time I was looking after my dad, the feelings I got from that and the embarrassment, shame and sadness.”

Overcoming Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Drug and alcohol abuse is a common problem, and while not everyone who abuses these substances will go on to develop an addiction, many will. The good news is that help is available. Here at Addiction Helpline, we offer free advice to those in need of help for addiction.

Our service includes a comprehensive assessment from which we can determine your treatment needs. We can then put you in touch with a suitable treatment provider where you will get the help you need to overcome your addiction. For more information on our service, contact us today via our 24-hour helpline.

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