Understanding Substance Abuse and Addiction in Parents
Addiction does not discriminate–it can affect all types of people from all walks of life, including parents. Parents may struggle with addiction for a number of different reasons. Some struggle with addiction before and during their parenthood due to unrelated risk factors such as genetics, trauma, or mental illness. Others begin abusing drugs or alcohol after becoming a parent while they are trying to deal with the stressors of parenting while others are trying to come to terms with the fact that the child-free life they once lived is no longer a reality.
What starts as a couple of glasses of wine with dinner can quickly escalate to a full-blown alcoholism problem. Or, what begins as a prescription for anxiety can evolve into prescription drug abuse and addiction. Regardless of the situation, substance abuse and addiction in parents is dangerous, and it affects children in inconceivable ways.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an annual average of 8.7 million children aged 17 or younger live in households in the United States with at least one parent who had a substance use disorder (SUD).
Recognizing the signs of addiction in parents as well as how parental substance abuse affects children is imperative in helping parents get the help they need and deserve. If you or someone you love is a parent struggling with addiction, please don’t hesitate to contact us for help. Our compassionate admissions coordinators at ARISE Treatment Center are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Signs of an Addicted Parent
Parents who are struggling with addiction may display common signs of a substance use disorder, such as:
- Developing a tolerance causing them to need to increase the number of drugs or alcohol consumed to achieve the desired effects
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when the drugs/alcohol wear off
- Lying to friends and family
- Isolating from loved ones
- Neglecting personal responsibilities related to work, school, or home-life
- Making multiple failed attempts to stay sober
- Having intense and regular drug/alcohol cravings
- Engaging in dangerous, risk-taking, or illegal behaviors
- Continuing to abuse substances despite negative consequences to one’s mental or physical health
- Inability to control how much and how often they use drugs or drink alcohol
Addicted parents may also take steps to conceal their addiction issues. For example, they may ask the other parent or a family member to take their kids to social events so other parents don’t realize they are under the influence. They may place blame on their kids or their busy schedule for things like a disheveled appearance, showing up late to events, or simply being unreliable.
A parent who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may also:
- Excuse themselves from sporting events or kid’s social events to use drugs or drink alcohol
- Be extra forgetful about their child’s needs or obligations
- Lash out at their children if their kids confront them about their substance abuse
- Justify their drinking or drug use due to stress
- Schedule their kid’s lives around their substance abuse
- Seem emotionally distant or unable to connect emotionally with their kids
Sadly, a parent’s addiction affects their kids just as much, if not more, than it affects their own lives.
The Effects of Parental Addiction on Kids
Parents who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction may be unable to be emotionally available for their kids. They may be more likely to abuse or neglect their kids, even if they wouldn’t normally do so if they were sober.
The traumas children suffer as a result of parental addiction stay with them for a lifetime, and can affect the way they think, feel, and behave. Children who are raised in a home with one or more addicted parents are likely to suffer from a variety of emotional and developmental problems. Children who grow up in an addicted household are:
- Up to three times more likely to be the victim of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Four times more likely to experience neglect
- Between four to eight times more likely to develop a substance use disorder (SUD) themselves in the future
Children who live in homes with addicted parents may experience angry outbursts, depression, anxiety, or unhealthy attachment styles. They are also at a much greater risk of developing mental or behavioral health conditions.
If children are exposed to their parent’s substance abuse issues from a very young age, they can experience speech delays, malnutrition, and cognitive functioning issues. If they are exposed directly to substances while they are in the womb, parental drug use during pregnancy can result in birth defects, neonatal withdrawal syndrome, and lasting health issues.
Nationwide surveys indicate that nearly 1 in every 8 kids in the United States each year grow up in households where substance abuse is an issue.
Barriers to Treatment for Parents Struggling With Addiction
Unfortunately, many parents refuse treatment or delay getting help because they don’t feel like they can go to rehab. After all, parents have their hands full, and they have a lot of responsibilities.
Reasons why parents may not get the help they need include:
- Lack of reliable childcare
- Inability to take time off work due to housing and childcare-related expenses
- Fear of child protective services involvement
- Fear of having to tell their child(ren) the truth about their addiction issues
- Fear of judgment from other parents or authority figures
- Concern about how other people knowing about their addiction may affect their kids’ academic and social lives
While these barriers represent real concerns among parents who are struggling with addiction, they can be overcome. For example, outpatient rehab programs offer addiction treatment on a flexible basis, allowing parents to get sober without taking time away from their kids or work.
The fears surrounding treatment must be overcome internally. This requires parents to realize that by continuing their substance abuse, they will only do harm to their children and that the only way to be truly present in their child’s lives is to get sober.
Addiction Treatment for Parents
Effective addiction treatment must address the unique needs of the individual. Parents are no different.
When it comes to parents, they must be able to receive treatment on a basis that allows them to still care for their kids, if needed. Outpatient is a great treatment option for single parents who do not have adequate childcare and cannot attend a residential or day treatment program.
Addiction treatment should also go beyond the conventional aspects of mind and body, helping parents improve their parenting skills as well as their relationship with their children. If their children are of appropriate age, children may benefit from the option to participate in family therapy. Family therapy can give the parents, children, and any other family members a safe, supportive place for healing.
Addiction treatment for parents usually consists of:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Behavioral therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and others)
- Holistic therapy (art, music, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and more)
- Trauma therapy
- Relapse prevention therapy
- 12-Step facilitation
- Aftercare planning and support
Find Help Now
Whether you are an addicted parent or your mom or dad is struggling with addiction, you’ve come to the right place. ARISE Treatment Center is a top-rated substance abuse treatment facility that can help parents overcome their addiction issues. By offering a range of flexible recovery programs and aftercare support, we can help parents get to the root cause of their addiction and learn the skills they need to stay sober. We can even provide referrals to support children who are affected by their parent’s substance abuse.
The sooner you get sober, the faster you can get back to being the solid, reliable parent that your child(ren) deserves. Don’t wait any longer. Call now to speak with a trusted admissions counselor about starting addiction treatment.