Drug dependency is nothing new in the United States.
In fact, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism predicts that at least 25% of children under the age of eighteen are exposed to substance abuse while growing up.
That means one in four kids are growing up in a home with alcoholic or drug addicted parents.
Being in a home with substance abuse often means feeling like you are alone. It can often mean feeling like you have no one or nothing to turn to for help.
But this is not the case. Scroll down for tips on how to help children (or yourself) cope with parents with addiction issues.
Know the Signs of a Child Having a Drug Addicted Parent
It is hard to help children of addicts if you do not know what to look for.
Often, children of drug addicts do not do well in school. It is not uncommon for them to “act out” and have emotional and behavioral problems in social settings like school or church.
They are more than likely to begin experimenting with drugs or alcohol at an earlier age. It is likely for them to see their family members use drugs leisurely. So, it often does not seem like a “big deal” to them.
These problems accumulate. Children who come from a home with a drug addicted parent often show signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, fewer friends, and low self-esteem. They do so at an age much earlier than their peers.
Pay attention if you begin seeing a combination of these signs and symptoms in a child. If you are unsure what to do, it may be best to get child services or another form of authority involved.
What to Do If Your Parents Are Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol
First and foremost, you have to acknowledge that there is a problem. Trying to hide it only makes the problem worse.
Addiction being a secret is often part of the disease and the problem. Find an adult you trust, like a teacher, counselor, friend, relative, or someone from your religious organization, and ask them for help.
If you feel like there is no one in your life that you can talk to, feel free to call the National Drug Helpline.
Your parent’s addiction makes them see things less clearly, and even if it does not seem like it, they would want you to be taken care of.
Another important part of what you need to do when you have drug addicted parents is to stay informed of their actions and your emotions.
Make sure to pay attention to how your parent’s drug or alcohol use is affecting you and your family. Also, pay attention to the things they feel comfortable doing while high like driving.
You also need to make sure to check in on your own feelings. Often people dealing with family members who use drugs can feel anger, fear, and discouragement about their parent’s drug use.
If you do feel angry at your parent, do not make it worse by feeling angry with yourself. Your thoughts and feelings are valid, and it is important that you do not discount them or become upset with yourself for having them.
Making a note of these actions, thoughts, and feelings can be hard. But it is done with a purpose. Keeping track of your parent’s habits and how they make you feel can often give you the courage to speak up and get help.
Coping Is Something You Do a Day at a Time
Being in a home where there is constant drug or alcohol abuse is no easy task. The first thing you should do as a child growing up with drug addicted parents is to learn healthy coping strategies.
This can be easier said than done. But try to find ways that help you deal. Perhaps keep a journal, get into art or theater, get involved with sports at school, or find anything to keep you and your feelings on track.
Most importantly: find support.
Having a support system is a coping essential. You need to look for and identify individuals in your life that you can look to if or when you need help. This can be adults, and it can also be people your own age and among your peer group.
Don’t Repeat History
Addiction is something that literally runs in your blood. Recent studies show that addiction is both nature and nurture. Yes, part of your probability of becoming addicted is genetic.
Because of this, it is easier for children of parents who have struggled with addiction to become addicted themselves. It is also easier for children of drug addicts to become addicted to drugs or alcohol because it is part of their “normal” environment.
Yes, you come from a family who is susceptible to addiction. But that does not mean you will repeat those addictive habits in the future.
If you are a child of an addict, it is best not to experiment with drugs or alcohol, even if they are legal and you are of age.
If you have a medical procedure that will require painkillers, it is also important to make your doctor aware of your family’s history of drug abuse.
There is Help Out There For You
It is not uncommon for children with drug addicted parents to have to be the adult in their families. It is also not uncommon for them to feel frustrated. And more often than not, they feel all alone in this big world.
But this does not have to be the case. With one in four children living in a home with an addicted parent, there is a chance for solidarity between both children and helpful adults.
No child should have to live in a home with a drug addict. But if they do? Well, then they shouldn’t have to deal with it all on their own.
If you know of a child or adult that needs help, please feel free to contact us.