Drug addicted parents and the effects on their children

Updated February 21, 2017

Parents who are addicted to illegal substances are at risk for severing a relationship -- as well as guardianship -- with their children. When parents have drug addictions, they are no longer deemed responsible caretakers, as they often expose their kids to situations involving neglect. Exposure to certain chemical substances can also have a negative impact on a child's physical and mental health. Action on Addiction reports that children of substance abuses are seven times more likely to develop a drug problem than the average UK child.

Physical impact

Prenatal drug exposure has the potential to cause growth defects and other ailments in unborn children. When the chemicals from drugs enter the mother's womb, she is exposing her baby to toxins that can alter neurological development to the point that nerves become damaged. Seizures are another neurological disorder that can result from children being exposed to drugs in the womb. If parents use drugs after a child has already been born, they can still do damage to the child's physical health.

Emotional impact

Children born of drug addicted parents are at risk for developing emotional disturbances, such as depression or anxiety disorders. When children grow up in a home that is unstable, or where they witness their parents behaving inappropriately due to the influence of drugs, it can scar a child and cause permanent emotional damage. This is especially the case if the Social Services get involved and have to remove a child from his or her home.

Displacement impact

Social Services will remove a child who resides with drug addicted parents for fear of child abuse or neglect. However, 34 per cent of drug addicts registered for treatment in the UK live with a child in the house. Displaced children are temporarily housed with foster parents while biological parents are given the opportunity to get treatment to become sober. Sometimes, children are returned to their biological parents after a temporary removal, and sometimes not. Children can spend years in the foster system, moving from one foster home to another. The effect this has on children can be detrimental and cause emotional trauma. Not only do these children often feel they have no stability in their home life, but they also become at risk for manifesting aggressive behaviour as a result of their frustration.

Educational impact

Children of addicted parents may have more trouble in school than children who are not born of drug addicted parents. Indirect drug exposure can have lingering effects on a youth's ability to learn effectively. Learning disabilities may surface as a result of the exposure. Additionally, children may develop mental health problems that cause them to lose interest in their education and drop out of school.

Substance abuse impact

Alcoholism and other drug addictions can be passed down from a parent to a child. Children who grow up with drug addicted parents may experience a learnt behaviour that, in turn, causes them to start using drugs. This unhealthy cycle can continue until someone intervenes or the family receives professional treatment.

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About the Author

Kyra Sheahan has been a writer for various publications since 2008. Her work has been featured in "The Desert Leaf" and "Kentucky Doc Magazine," covering health and wellness, environmental conservatism and DIY crafts. Sheahan holds an M.B.A. with an emphasis in finance.