The effects of drug misuse on children & families

Updated April 17, 2017

Drug misuse by children or any member of the family can have a corrosive effect on the children, parents and other family members. The effects of drug misuse can be emotional, medical, educational or psychiatric.

Medical Problems

No amount of alcohol is safe for a woman to consume while pregnant. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) in children. Children with FASDs have certain characteristics, such as low body weight, poor coordination, hyperactive behaviour, poor memory, small head size and abnormal facial features. Such problems require lifelong rehabilitation and care, which will certainly affect the family.

Psychiatric Effects

Mental retardation and other mental dysfunctions have been linked to maternal drinking or the use of drugs during pregnancy. Anxiety and depressive disorders are also more common among adolescents and adults who were exposed to families where drugs were misused. For instance, adult addicts and alcoholics are more likely to have fathers or mothers who were alcoholics themselves. There is also a strong link between antisocial personality disorder (ASP) and dysfunctional homes where the use of drugs was commonplace.

Educational Effects

Children from families with a history of substance abuse are more likely to have learning disabilities and exhibit antisocial behaviour, leading to truancy and delinquency. Also, children from such homes are more likely to miss school due to expulsion and institutionalisation. Children from dysfunctional homes may be too tired to concentrate on school activities due to the events in the home. This may affect their social lives and their ability to make friends because they may be too embarrassed to bring friends to their home.

Emotional Consequences

Parents who have an alcohol or drug problem are very unpredictable. This affects the children because the rules are constantly changing, depending on the state of mind or the amount of drugs the parents have taken. These types of extreme mood swings can affect the child's ability to trust people and lead them to be distrustful of authority figures and adults in general, in a bid to protect themselves from being let down. Another consequence of the misuse of drugs in the family is the feeling of guilt that other family members feel toward the person taking the drugs. Family members may blame themselves for the person's behaviour and reason that it is due to something they did or didn't do. There is also a feeling of shame on the part of other members of the family, who will feel deeply embarrassed by having a drug addict in the family. Finally, another emotional consequence is the feeling of low esteem and insecurity arising from such a chaotic home environment.

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