Impact of Addiction on Families: How a Child’s Life is Jeopardized

In even the best of circumstances, today’s children are forced to grow up fast. Children of addicts, however, face challenges few others can even fathom.

With an estimated 25% of children in the United States exposed to familial substance abuse, figuring out how addiction impacts kids is a huge step towards protecting them.

Health Problems and Substance Abuse

Children who are raised in households where at least one parent struggles with addiction face higher rates of medical and behavioral problems. Children living in environments with addicted parents are more likely to develop depression and anxiety at an early age. Facing these mental health disorders early on causes a circular effect in the family. Children who deal with depression and anxiety often continue the addiction cycle by turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with their mental health problems later in life.

Access to Substances

Children who live with substance abusing parents have more access to drugs and alcohol than children with parents who aren’t addicts. When living in an environment where substance abuse is common, children of addicts often follow in their parent’s footsteps. A recent study found that, for children who start smoking marijuana in their young teens,  the risk of having a drug abuse problem by age 28 is a staggering 68%. Exposing children to substances—even substances deemed less dangerous than others—increases the risk of using and engaging with other kids who use drugs and alcohol.


Although there are many loving parents who struggle with addiction, children impacted by addiction often face higher rates of abuse. This abuse can manifest itself in physical, sexual, emotional, or neglectful ways. This may include being there emotionally at a young age for an unstable parent, being blamed for a parent’s addiction, or having to physically care for their addicted parent.

According to a study from the NIH, children with addicted parents are 2.7 times more likely to be physically or sexually abused and 4.2 times more likely to be neglected than children who do not live with a substance abusing parents.

Abuse endured during childhood can significantly impact a child’s future success. One study conducted by the CDC discovered that children who grow up in abusive households are at a higher risk of negative outcomes throughout their lives. Some of these include drug abuse, heart disease, depression, teenage and adolescent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, liver disease, poor work performance, and financial problems.

How to Help Children of Addiction

Luckily, children with substance abusing parents can lead healthy and fulfilling lives. If you know a child who is dealing with parents who struggle with addiction, reach out to them. Encourage them to seek enjoyment outside of their home, be with their friends, and talk to their guidance counselor or another trusted adult who can help them. As for their safety, make sure they have a list of safe places to stay and phone numbers for adults they can turn to if needed.  Given the right resources, these children can thrive despite their home environments.

Get Help Today

If you’re an addicted parent looking to give your children the best life possible, get help today. Battling addiction isn’t easy, but help is available. The GateHouse provides licensed and certified counselors to help you overcome your addiction.

Contact us today to talk with our staff and see how we can help you and your family.

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