Parental Substance Abuse

How Parental Substance Abuse Affects Children

Parental substance abuse can significantly affect the lives of their children. Let us discuss how it may impact them.

Regrettably, parental substance abuse can have a devastating impact that affects many families. For one reason, or another, parents find themselves addicted to substances, and this can have serious long-term effects on their children. In these types of family situations, it is, unfortunately, the children that suffer the most.

Whether the parent just has a small addiction, or it’s possession with intent to supply, there is no denying the numerous impacts that substance abuse can have on children. Now, let’s delve into the broader impacts and discuss them in more detail.

Why Do Parents Become Addicted?

Substance Abuse

Sadly, there are many different reasons why parents can become addicted to substances. For some, it’s a lifelong habit that they have not managed to overcome, even with the birth of children. For other people, it is a way of dealing with stress and ‘letting off steam’.

The exact reason why people become addicted to substances or start using them in the first place varies from one person to the next. An individual might innocently start drinking as a way of dealing with stress, and it spirals into a full-blown addiction.

How Does Substance Abuse Affect Kids?


Substance abuse can have a considerable impact on the lives of children, and many will struggle in all areas of life as a result. There can be numerous consequences that lots of people won’t understand until it becomes obvious.

A big problem is often damage to the mental or psychological well-being of the child. They may experience distress and anxiety because these substances may warp the behavior of the parent. Alternatively, the substance abuse makes them unreliable parents, who frequently disappear for days on end, and this can cause feelings of isolation and abandonment. These problems often bleed into every aspect of a child’s life. They may become socially, withdrawn, or even shy, and may struggle in school.

Education is often one of the areas where a child will suffer because they don’t have a positive role model to encourage them to do well. Some children may even stop going to school together once they get older because they don’t have anyone around to enforce their attendance.

How to Spot a Neglected Child

Parental Substance Abuse

Being able to identify a neglected child is very important because as a teacher or concerned adult, intervention could mean the difference between saving a child’s livelihood or allowing them to also become stuck in their parent’s addiction.

Neglected children may often appear unwashed and ungroomed. They may be wearing dirty clothes and not have any food. They may also be irritable, withdrawn, or anxious. Getting them to talk about what’s going on is difficult, but encouraging discussion and offering a safe space is key.

How to Help Neglected Children


It’s important to know how to help a neglected child if you are a concerned parent or teacher.

Staff members working in education have a responsibility to report any safeguarding concerns to the next superior member in the chain of command within the school. This may be a teacher, headteacher, or other member of staff. The staff member whom you report to will then have the responsibility to investigate the situation.

Alternatively, there are resources like NSPCC or Childline that can be contacted by members of the public. Knowing what to do can be very important because, in a lot of cases, intervention is the only way to help the child. The parents will often be too far lost in substance abuse to be able to stop their behavior or even be self-aware enough to know what’s going on. The intervention by a school or concerned adult may be the only solution left, in which case acting is imperative.

Protecting Children from Harm

drug abuse

Obviously, protecting children from parental substance abuse is very important. There are lots of parents who fall into the trap of substance abuse for a number of different reasons, and it can be very difficult for the children to lead normal lives as a result.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the education system to step in and help children where possible. However, that does not mean that parents should not be held accountable. There needs to be some level of cooperation between schools and other relatives.




The information contained within this article is meant to be advisory in nature. It is not a substitution for legal or medical advice regarding substance abuse and protecting children from harm.





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