How Addiction Impacts Young Children


According to Psychology Today, 1 in 5 children grow up in a home where a parent abuses drugs or alcohol. Witnessing the trauma of a parent suffering addiction at a young age has long-term effects on the child. Children growing up seeing a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol are more likely to develop substance use disorders in their adulthood. They are also 3 times more likely being neglected, physically, and sexually abused. Seeing a parent on drugs often creates distressing emotions which not only create delays in learning and development but pronged mental and emotional disorders.

Since children are still developing their personalities and are vulnerable to external influences, they run the risk of repeating such behaviours. Children may be exposed to aggression or violent behaviour due to a parent or both parent’s drug use. Arguments between parents may be normal, causing the child emotional distress as they witness family members fighting.

Read How Addiction Affects The Family:

Early exposure to a home divided by drug use can cause the child to feel emotionally and physically neglected and unsafe. As a result, they can become more mentally and emotionally unstable. Children may develop extreme guilt and self-blame for a parent’s substance abuse. They may develop feelings of unworthiness for disturbances around the home or develop dysfunctional attachments in their adulthood. In extreme cases, children can be removed from the home and placed in foster care.

Teenage Addiction Affects the Family

The CDC reports underaged drinkers to have more drinks per drinking occasion than their adult counterparts. At least 19% of individuals between 12 to 20 years old drink alcohol regularly, but due to underreporting the figure is most likely much higher. Marijuana use is more common in teens than cigarette smoking and other drug use. Teenagers deal with peer pressure in school and are also constantly bombarded with the temptation of trying new or dangerous drugs.

Many are still impressionable while forming their identity. Additionally, teens who have experienced parental substance abuse are more likely to abuse substances in adulthood. Much of the cause of teenage addiction can stem from external (peer pressure in school) and internal factors (genetics and self-medication).

Substances like cocaine can over-stimulate teens, causing to them sleepless and perform poorly in school or hang out with friends who abuse substances. Prescription opioids and synthetic opioids may produce euphoric effects, but consequently require frequent use with damaging side effects.

These causes have a direct impact on family dynamics such as:

Side effects


Strained relationships

Financial hardships

Poor school performance

Exposure to other drugs

Reckless behaviour within the home



Stealing money from parents to support their habit

Running away from home

Causing parental grief

Teens can become overwhelmed by addictive substances and strained relationships at home and may want to run away from home. Parental distress can seemingly push troubled teens into the arms of a substance to “escape”. Above all, once a teen runs away from home, they are vulnerable to sexual, economical, and emotional exploitation.

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