Substance Abuse In Families: How Big Is This Problem and What Are The Risks?

Substance Abuse In Families: How Big Is This Problem and What Are The Risks?

The origins of addiction are as complex as the disease itself. Decades of research have shown different factors such as genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental issues playing roles in the risk of someone developing a substance use disorder or addiction. However, the role of the family in addiction has been gaining a lot of attention, and the theory that children living with parents or caretakers suffering from substance use disorders have an increased susceptibility to the disease. 

A recent Gallup Consumption Habits article based on two polls, with the question in each poll asking Americans if drinking or drug abuse has ever been a problem (meaning throughout their life) in their family, reported :

  • More than a fourth report family troubles because of drug abuse
  • More than a third of Americans say alcohol has caused trouble in the family
  • Altogether, 46% have experienced one or the other issue

So why is this information important? Polls and studies such as the one above are crucial in helping clinicians, healthcare professionals, and addiction specialists can gain valuable insight into how common substance abuse run in families, but more importantly how and why those living in these households develop an addiction. With an estimated 25% of youth under the age of 18 growing up in households where there is substance abuse, research shows that children of addicts are eight times more likely to develop an addiction (Chicago Tribune). Understanding all of the factors surrounding this problem can hopefully lead to more interventional programs preventing children from developing addictions later in life.

Risk Factors of Living in Families With Addiction

In addition to an increased chance of developing an addiction or substance use disorder, there are other risks children face when living with a parent or caretaker with a substance abuse problem including:

Educational Problems:

According to a study from The National Library of Medicine and The National Institutes of Health, having one or more parent with a substance use disorder can cause: 

  • Problems with unexcused absences in childhood eventually turning into more serious truancy problems in adolescence, eventually culminating in school dropout. 
  • children may have difficulty with attention and concentration due to increased anxiety levels related to a chaotic home environment. 
  • Unstructured bedtimes and mealtimes as well as witnessing domestic violence and safety issues all contribute to an increase in learning problems and behavioral problems for children at school. 

Social and Emotional Disorders

According to a study from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), research has found that children of parents with an alcohol use disorder are at greater risk for:

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety disorders 
  • Problems with cognitive and verbal skills
  • Parental abuse or neglect 

The same study also found that children of parents who have an illicit drug use disorder are at higher risk for mental and behavioral disorders and functional issues than children of parents with alcohol use disorder.

Problems in Adulthood

The negative risks and outcomes of living with an addicted parent can last well into adulthood. These issues can include problems with anger and violence, low self-esteem, increased rates of divorce, and the development of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

There is Hope in Recovery

Alcohol and drug addiction can happen to those with a history of family substance abuse, but you can stop the cycle of addiction by entering a treatment program. Having access to quality drug and alcohol treatment, multifamily group therapy, individual therapy, and post-rehab services such as SMART recovery or 12-Step programs can increase your chance of breaking the cycle of addiction for good.

By working with supportive, compassionate and trained clinicians, the obstacles and hurdles on the path to sobriety are made clear and peer-to-peer support and accountability have been proven to demonstrate higher rates of success with respect to substance abuse and other co-occurring disorders. If you want a chance at a healthier, substance-free life, contact us at Silver Lining Recovery today at (866) 511-9676.

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