Sovereign Health Group Blog

The impact of addicted parents on children

Posted on 01-18-2016 Posted in Drug Abuse - 0 Comments

The ideal parents nurture their offspring, providing warmth and care in both the good and bad times. When powerful drug addictions take hold, these guardians can make every day a negative experience for their families. As a result, the children must often contend with trauma and psychological ramifications.

While the effects can vary depending on the individuals and situations, literature from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) argued that children of addicts often take on inappropriate roles in the family to compensate for parental defects. Families plagued by parental drug abuse can also experience:

  • Negativity – Communication is consistently downbeat, and attempts at positivity are ignored. Crises are often necessary to attract attention from family members in these environments
  • Unsuitable management of anger – Rather than resorting to healthy communication of anger or other intense emotions, addicted parents may abuse substances to suppress these feelings
  • Inconsistency of authority – Children can experience confusion when parents set unclear, arbitrary or inconsistent rules for the family to follow. Youths raised in this environment may confuse the boundaries of right and wrong well into adulthood
  • Low expectations from parents – “If expectations are too low, and children are told throughout youth that they will certainly fail, they tend to conform their behavior to their parents’ predictions,” SAMHSA concluded

Specialists with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress also point out that children can blame themselves for the drug abuse in the family and react by either trying to be the perfect child or withdrawing completely to avoid trouble.

The organization has also tracked long-term consequences of children living with addicted parents. They found increased rates of pathological gambling, sociopathy, anxiety and depression among children of substance abusers compared to those of the general population. In better news, only one in four children of substance abusers will go on to misuse drugs in the future.

“Most children and teens are able to draw upon their inner strengths to cope with their circumstances and succeed in life. Children of addicts can be helped in many ways – both formal and informal – to call on their resiliency,” the article concluded.

Bringing the best out of people who experienced the strain of a drug addicted parent and broken home can take time with mental health professionals. With proper treatment, patients can unpack their traumas and move forward.

Sovereign Health of Florida employs therapists ready to treat patients with histories of drug addiction and other mental illnesses. Find out more about available treatment programs by calling our 24/7 helpline.

Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer

For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at

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