The research on the number of parents that have an addiction in the United States shows that for every eight children, one of them has a parent who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. To better frame the data, for most elementary schools, the classroom size is approximately 20 students; for middle school 25; and high school 30. This means there are about three students who have a parent who is an addict in nearly every classroom in the country.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that children of parents who use drugs and alcohol often struggle financially, feel neglected, and develop behavioral problems. That’s in addition to the increased susceptibility of becoming an addict or alcoholic themselves. Luckily, drug treatment for addicted parents is available and can successfully help parents regain their lives for their families sake and for themselves.
Parents with an Addiction
For parents who have a substance use disorder, the denial is often much more difficult to face because often the entire family has accepted the parent’s condition as the norm. To help a parent who is an addict or alcoholic, it is important for family members to take the lead and have professional help within reach for setting up an intervention. When a parent gets help for their addiction, the family must also get help for their codependency, denial, as well as other behavioral and emotional problems, all stemming from the effects of the parent’s addiction.
Additionally, the options for appropriate treatment programs for parents are usually fewer and more difficult to locate. Parents who decide to get help are often burdened with fewer financial resources, available time to go to treatment, and the question of who will care for the family/children while they attend treatment, as well as whether a program offers family counseling or not. A single parent with a substance abuse problem is, even more, less likely to seek treatment. Without additional support from another parent, single parents have fewer options.
Finally, another barrier that occurs for parents needing treatment is that the family contributes to the addiction by denying that there is a problem so that the parent does not leave to attend treatment — or in light of a severe dependency — some family members will not accept the parent changing at all.
Help from Pediatricians
Fortunately, pediatricians have recently become advocates for spotting addiction among parents. In a 2019 article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pediatricians are taking steps to help parents get treatment for their addiction to prevent the children of that parent from developing behavioral, emotional, and or substance abuse problems.
In the course of providing health care services to children, pediatricians are likely to encounter families affected by parental substance use and are in a unique position to intervene…parents’ substance use interferes with their ability to raise their children and provide a safe, nurturing environment…and may affect their ability to consistently prioritize the child’s basic physical and emotional needs over their own need for substances. Cigarette smoking often accompanies substance use and can pose additional hazards to children. Furthermore, the home environment may be unsanitary or unsafe, particularly if illegal or legal drugs, chemicals, or paraphernalia are accessible or if drugs are being cultivated or manufactured in the home. Such conditions can lead to poor child health and developmental outcomes or child maltreatment and even child death. (AAP)
For a family that needs to get a parent into a professional substance abuse treatment center, it is necessary to find a rehab program that offers family counseling to each member of the family, or as a group. Without family counseling, the parent will be fighting an even greater battle to change, because addiction affects the entire family, not just the parent. The programs at Garden State Treatment Center include family counseling and outpatient programs that meet the needs of parents.
Get the Help that is Needed
If you or your parent or a family member has an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it is critical that they receive help for their disease to prevent further damage to the family and especially children. Our Family Therapy programs focus on repairing and healing relationships and improving the family’s awareness of addiction and the emotional and mental challenges that addicts and family members face.