Child Abuse and Parental Drug Addiction

Child abuse and parent drug addiction are closely interlinked. Research studies have also shown that when parents abuse drugs, it can have a major impact on the health and wellness of their children.

Unfortunately, it has been estimated that about 12.5 percent of children living in the United States - about 8.7 million children - have live with a parent - at least one - who abuses drugs.

When parents are addicted to drugs, it is less likely that they will be able to function well in their parental responsibilities and roles. This is because these intoxicating substances can cause them to suffer constant psychological and physical impairment, issues with regulating their emotions, difficulties controlling impulsivity and anger, and a reduction in the availability of resources in the household.

This is as a result of the fact that they would be spending most of their time, energy, and focus on looking for, getting, and abusing drugs as well as recovering from the effects of these intoxicating substances.

To this end, it is not exactly surprising that most parents who abuse drugs also engage in various kinds of child abuse, including but not limited to neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and physical abuse.

The Relationship Between Parental Drug Addiction and Child Abuse

What many people who are addicted to drugs do not realize is that their behavior and actions often affects others around them. If you are a parent and you choose to put your substance abuse and addiction first, you will end up putting your family - including your children - on the back burner. As a result, you may not take care of them as you otherwise would have done.

If you raise your children in a home where there is substance abuse and addiction, it is highly likely that you may end up harming them in a wide variety of ways. This problem is so prevalent that the NSDUH - the National Survey on Drug Use and Health - reported in 2017 that more than 8 million children were living in homes where at least one parent had a substance abuse problem.

Your children would naturally look up to you for guidance, care, and discipline in various ways. To this end, if your judgement and mental functioning is affected by the abuse of drugs, this could end up causing them to suffer emotional, physical, and mental trauma. It could also hinder their development at various stages in their lives.

Physical Effects of Parental Drug Abuse

While looking at the relationship between child abuse and parental drug addiction, it is important to note that this condition can have a physical toll on children. This toll could start even before the children are born.

In case you are expecting a child and you still abuse drugs, it is highly likely that you will harm your children severely. As a result, they may end up struggling with such physical defects as organ malformation, growth stunting, and even mental health disorders like attention disorders and attachment difficulties.

As a pregnant woman, you might be ashamed of your drug dependence and addiction. This is due to the stigma that is attached to this issue. To this end, you might not seek the adequate care that you need - including but not limited to prenatal care. Therefore, it is highly likely that your children will start off on the wrong footing.

While you are under the influence of these addictive substances, you might not be able to care for and observe your children. Further, you might lack the initiative needed to ensure that your children are safe and sound.

For instance, you may forget to take them to see a doctor when they fall ill or neglect to provide them with basic dental or optional care because you spend most of your money buying drugs.

On the other hand, your children might develop anxiety issues due to your addiction. These issues include but are not limited to migraines, asthma, and ulcers. If you leave them untreated, they might become seriously debilitating.

In the same way, it is highly likely that you might lose your sense of morality while intoxicating in the course of your drug addiction. As a result, you might not be able to realize the difference between what is considered appropriate and actions that are inappropriate.

In such a situation, if you are upset or angered under the influence of drugs, you might last out at your children. This is often how the relationship between child abuse and parental drug addiction starts.

If your children are caught up in this form of maltreatment, it is highly likely that you might cause them to suffer physical and psychological scarring. Whether they experience violence and abuse or they witness someone else suffering from it, your children could end up struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder - also known as PTSD.

As a result of the emotional and psychological complications that arise from growing up in such an unsupportive and tumultuous family environment, your children might feel unimportant and unloved. When you pair this with child abuse, it is highly likely that they will also struggle with negative feelings that may lead to the development of depressive disorders. In turn, this depression could turn into such physical actions as suicidal attempts and self-harm.

Psychological Effects of Parental Drug Abuse

If you are struggling with substance abuse and addiction, your children might find themselves struggling with their own set of problems that arise from your addiction. In this situation, it is highly probable that your family will be characterized by unclear communication, insecurity, and chaos.

The unhealthy environment at home might also cause your children to perform poorly in school. This is because you will be so focused on your drug addiction that you will not support them in their efforts and hard work.

In the same way, they might start failing their classes, getting expelled, or turning truant. Additionally, there is a risk that they could also suffer mental deficiencies if you started abusing drugs when you were pregnant with them.

Since there will be no visible repercussions for your actions, your children might start believing that they should not respect figures in authority. Additionally, they might exhibit behavioral problems while trying to attract attention by acting out.

When you do not enforce rules in the home environment or supervise your children, it is also highly likely that they will start engaging in illegal or dangerous activities - with or without your knowledge.

In the same way, raising children while struggling with drug addiction might increase the risk that these children will also develop this problem later on in their lives - starting from their teenage years and going forward into their adulthood. This is because they would have learned how to mimic your behavior. They might also get the idea that it is acceptable to abuse drugs to cope with problems and stress - much in the same way that you do.

In case they are able to escape this cycle of drug abuse, there is still a probability that they will end up dating and marrying people who are addicted to these intoxicating and mind altering substances. This is because you would have skewed their locus of control and self-worth that they will feel compelled to continue on the unhealthy road to abuse and maltreatment.

Emotional Effects of Parental Drug Abuse

While struggling with drug addiction, you will most likely be focused on getting your next batch of addictive substances. As a result, you might end up neglecting the emotional needs and requirements that your children have. This could cause a wide variety of issues - ranging from social disconnection and trust issues to feeling ashamed about your behavior.

The negative impact of addiction on the emotional of children often starts from an early age - or even before birth. This is because you need to bond with your children so that they can feel connected to you.

If you are high on drugs, it could alter your perception and sense of propriety. As a result, it is unlikely that you will be able to provide your children with the adequate focus and attention that they need.

Babies, for instance, communicate by crying. If you are unable to pick up on these social cues and provide them with the care that they need, they will stop displaying these cues. Eventually, this pattern might continue later on into their teenage years as well as into adulthood.

This lack of care will, on the other hand, cause your children to grow up with dependency and trust issues. Additionally, your addiction and lack of attention could cause them to not show their empathy or remorse because they did not receive it when they were growing up.

Additionally, the children might suffer from depression because you did not show them any care or love within the home environment. Due to the fact that the home will lack nurturing, routine, predictability, and security, your children might end up struggling with emotional stunting and under-development.

When they grow older, they might feel that they need to take care of you. Alternatively, they may get the feeling that they are responsible for your addiction - and that they are to blame for this habit.

This type of role reversal can be extremely stressful. It could also cause anxiety for children who believe that they need to work harder to ensure that the family keeps on running like it should.

The Cycle of Substance Abuse

As we have seen, child abuse and parental drug addiction are linked. This is because it is highly probable that you might abuse and neglect your children in the course of your substance abuse and addiction. This form of abuse, on the other hand, will end up devastating effects on your children all through their lives.

For instance, there is a high risk that your children will experience trauma and other mental health disorders, have difficulties with learning and concentration, lose control over their normal emotional and physical Responses to stressful situations, and find themselves unable to form healthy and trusting relationships with other people.

Epidemiological studies have also shown that children who were abused by their parents due to drug addiction could also end up struggling with substance abuse and addiction later on in their lives.

If you abused your children when they were young, they might turn to these addictive substances to cope with the awful experiences that they endured during their formative years. This is because they would be trying to deal with the childhood trauma that you caused them.

Long term studies that were conducted on children who were raised in an unhealthy environment showed that those who experienced abuse during the first 5 years of their lives ended up struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

The unfortunate thing is that when these children abuse drugs when they are adults, they could still end up abusing their own children. This is why the relationship between child abuse and parental drug addiction is now considered to be a never ending cycle of harm and addiction.

The likelihood that this cycle could affect your family is so high that the Development and Psychopathology journal released a report demonstrating that child abuse tends to be reproduced across several generations especially when substance abuse and addiction is also involved.

Drug Abuse in Families

The existence of a relationship between child abuse and parental drug addiction is so high that studies have shown that at least 20 percent of the children who live in homes with at least one parent who abuses drugs end up suffering from emotional, physical, and psychological abuse. This abuse, on the other hand, could affect them for many years to come.

If you abuse drugs, they could interfere with your natural ability to take care of your children as well as provide them with the safe and nurturing environment that they need to thrive - particularly during their formative years.

As a direct result, it is likely that your children could end up developing emotional and physical issues. They might also suffer from substance abuse and addiction later on in life or even abuse their own children because of the lessons that they learned growing up with you.

If you leave your substance abuse and addiction untreated, it could potentially destroy your family, disrupt the chain of communication in the home environment, cause you to suffer from financial difficulties, disturb the healthy roles that should exist in your family, and act as a fuel to physical altercations.

But what are the negative effects of drug abuse and addiction on children? According to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, there are many different ways in which your ongoing substance abuse could have a negative impact on your children. These include but are not limited to:

1. Violence

For starters, research studies have shown a relationship between domestic violence and substance abuse. The American Society of Addiction Medicine, for instance, reports that 40 to 60 percent of all incidents involving domestic violence occur as a result of drug abuse and addiction.

If you are addicted to these intoxicating substances, you might also make your children suffer from neglect, child abuse, and sexual abuse. As a result, they may end up struggling with trauma which later causes them to develop the symptoms and effects of a mental health disorder such as addiction or post-traumatic stress disorder.

2. Mental Illnesses

As a parent who abuses drugs, it is highly likely that you will suffer from a wide variety of problems. These problems include financial difficulties, physical abuse, legal issues, divorce, and unemployment. All these issues could create a stressful environment at home.

For this reason, research studies have pointed out that children who grow up in such an environment are highly likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal ideation and attempts, and many other mental health disorders.

3. Physical Health Issues

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, almost 25 percent of all the children who are born to mothers who struggle with substance use disorders - or addiction - do not receive the child health care and maintenance services that they need during their first 2 years.

Additionally, if you are addicted to drugs, your children might end up suffering from health issues that are linked to the stress that they experience growing up in the same home with you. These issues include gastrointestinal problems and migraines. The drug paraphernalia and needles that you use to abuse intoxicating substances could also create an unhealthy and unsanitary environment at home.

4. Chaotic Home Life

If you are addicted to drugs and you have a family, your home environment could be chaotic and unpredictable. This will compel your children to take up family roles that are inappropriate for them or for their age. For instance, they might start taking care of their siblings like they are the parents. Alternatively, they could assume the financial responsibilities that are required to run the household.

Since there will be unclear or even non-existent communication among the leaders of the household, it is probable that your children will be living in an environment in which there is no structure to rely on.

5. Academic Difficulties

Your ongoing drug addiction could cause your children to be distracted at school as a result of the lack of sleep, psychological and emotional stress, fears and worries, and other feelings about their experiences at home.

In the same way, your children might be reluctant to form and cultivate healthy relationships with other children at school. This is because they would be too embarrassed by the situation in their own home.

6. Emotional Issues

Since your children are growing up with a drug abusing parent, they may experience negative emotions. Examples of these emotions include but are not limited to mistrust, insecurity, fear, and shame. It is also highly likely that they may struggle with a lack of trust or respect for authority.

7. Future Addiction

If you are addicted to drugs - and especially if you abuse your children as a result of this mental health disorder - there is a strong likelihood that they will end up struggling with similar issues later on in their lives.

Research studies, for instance, report that the children who grow up with parents like you have twice as high a likelihood as those who grow up in safe and cultivating homes to end up struggling with alcohol and substance use disorders during their teens or later on in their adult lives.

Getting Help

To overcome all these issues as well as overcome your own substance abuse and addiction, it is essential that you get help as soon as possible. You can only get started on the journey to recovery by understanding and accepting the fact that you have been struggling with substance abuse as well as acknowledging that there is a relationship between child abuse and parental drug addiction.

It is recommended that you take the first step by checking into an addiction treatment and rehabilitation facility. You will be provided with a wide variety of services that can help you get started on the road to recovery.

Examples of these services include but are not limited to medically supervised detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient treatment, individual therapy, family counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, couples counseling, motivational interviewing, group therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, medication management, aftercare planning, relapse prevention, participation in support groups, and enrollment in a sober living facility.

However, you also need to realize that your addiction does not just affect you - it also has had a negative impact on your children. This is irrespective of how old they are or at which stage of development they have reached.

To this end, you should also seek counseling and therapy services for your children to ensure that they understand that you did not mean to do all the negative things that you did to them when you were addicted to drugs.

In the process, they will also be able to heal from the abuse and neglect that they suffered due to your abuse of intoxicating substances. Additionally, they will learn to overcome the negative impact of the child abuse that you meted out on them.

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