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What effects does parental drug taking have on children?

When a parent has a problem with drugs, it affects their children. The negative impact parental drug abuse has can affect the child both in the short and the long term, and can cause problems throughout their whole life. Having a parent who is addicted to drugs can place both their physical and emotional well-being in danger. Drug addiction is not something that just affects the person taking drugs, it can affect their families and friends too.

Living with an addict means walking on egg shells, and a child his parents use drugs may never know what to expect. The parent’s behaviour may be erratic and unpredictable. Their behaviour and moods are prone to change quickly-from being kind and loving one-minute to angry and even abusive the next. Their home life may be chaotic, and someone who are addicted to drugs may not pay as much attention to the essential responsibilities of their parental role. Drugs may take priority over keeping the house clean, washing clothes, making sure there is food in the cupboards or a meal on the table. A parent who takes drugs frequently may be more interested in the cycle of their addiction, getting hold of drugs, taking drugs and recovering from their use rather than helping their children with their homework, playing with them or looking after their emotional needs.  Research has shown that children who have parents with addiction problems are more likely to suffer from abuse or neglect. Even those who seem to present a face of normality to the outside world may be struggling to keep on top of things at home as they descend into a very private drug addiction.

Children of drug addicts are statistically more likely to become addicts in the future. IT’s debated whether there is a hereditary link to compulsive and addictive behaviour patterns – or whether it’s more nurture than nature. An addict may think that their addiction is solely their problem, and theirs alone but this is merely part of denial. Research has shown that children from homes where addiction is present are more likely to suffer from abuse or neglect.

Children of addicts may suffer from low self-esteem, and be plagued by insecurity. They may have been “blamed” for their parents drug use and feel that if they behaved better, or achieved better grades then their parent would not use drugs. They may try and modify their behaviour accordingly or may go off the rails without proper parental supervision and attention. A child of an addict may be desperate for attention, and may behave in inappropriate ways to gain it. Even later in life, the offspring of an addict may have trouble forming close personal relationships due to the effect addiction has had.

Drugs can tear whole families apart. If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs, then the best thing you can do is seek help as soon as possible. It’s even more important to help stop this vicious cycle when children are involved – a parent’s drug addiction can have a devastating impact on both their emotional and physical well-being.

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