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Drugs & Health Blog

Helping Children of Addicted Parents Find Help

Sara Bellum

A child looks to his parents or caregivers for total support—from birth to adulthood. But what happens to a child when the parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol?

It’s estimated that 25 percent of youth under age 18 are exposed to family alcohol abuse or dependence. Research shows that children in this environment are more likely to develop depression or anxiety in adolescence and use alcohol or other drugs early on. Having a parent who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can lead to lifelong problems if the child or teen doesn’t get help and support.

February 12–18, 2012, is Children of Alcoholics Week, an event to celebrate the recovery of children of all ages who have gotten the help they needed to recover from the pain they experienced as a result of a close family member’s alcohol problems. The observance also offers hope to those still suffering.

Help is out there. Teens can talk to a school guidance counselor, coach, or trusted teacher. For those who attend religious services, a clergy member is also an option.

Group of people holding hands.

Teens may be reluctant to talk to an acquaintance about such a personal problem. Another good option is Alateen, a program that offers support for children of parents who are addicted. Alateen members come together in a free and confidential setting to:

  • Share experiences and hope.
  • Discuss difficulties.
  • Learn effective ways to cope with problems.
  • Encourage one another.

Another option is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This service is also confidential, and counselors can help with substance abuse and family problems, in addition to suicide prevention. Find out more about Children of Alcoholics Week.

Comments

shame on you and NIDA for not coming up with alternatives to AlaTeen

Alateen is one of several nonprofit mutual support groups that help families of alcohol or drug abusers. These groups are not connected with the Federal Government. No doubt family members of drug abusers need a forum to share their experiences. NIDA supports research and does not provide services like support groups. But we do have lots of information available on our website, www.drugabuse.gov and on NIDA’s Teen website, http://teens.drugabuse.gov. Also, our sister agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website, www.samhsa.gov, has a lot of good resources, including information on “mutual support groups.”

What about the children that r not teens the ones who don't no how to get help all I see is help for the addicts rehab and so on they say get the parent clean so they can take care of their children what about the children now what r they going through while the parent is getting clean the children can't wait they need help now
I understand. My grandson is eight. He has never had a sober parent. He is spinning out of control. He is mad at every thing and everyone. I have found nothing.
I just recently saw your post and I share a similar story. My 16 year old daughter, Lexie, has been struggling for most of her early teen years with substance abuse. I know this because I picked it up in her behavior… she started to sleep much more often, borrowing money from me, throwing up, constantly coming up with excuses to not do things, and I came to the conclusion that she was abusing substances. However, it is has come to the devastating point where she has unfortunately become addicted to heroin… It breaks my heart to know this, and even worse to see her high. My first thought was “what did I do wrong?” I tried everything I could… moving her away from her friends, changing schools, more strict rules on going out, I did all that I could. Fortunately, she has admitted to her addiction problem and I have convinced her that she needs professional help. As much as she doesn’t want help, we both know it’s what’s best for her. After sending her to 2 failed rehab centers, I recently found another rehab center in Malibu [link removed per guidelines] and have sent her there. I am pleased to say I am SO happy with the results. This is the only rehab center that has worked for her and she is 100 days clean today, gained back 14 pounds and is happy. They were so nice and understanding. Lexie looks and feels SO much better and I am ecstatic that she back to being the beautiful little girl she used to be before heroin took over her life. If any parent needs help or even just advice about their teen with any substance abuse problems, I HIGHLY recommend this place, and I wish all you parents luck.
you are so fortunate that this is going well. my daughter is now 40 and still on and off using. i am now in full charge of her daughter who is 9. my challenge is how to keep her away from these horrible drugs. wish we could go to an island where there aren't any.
While I can appreciate the effort of this program, it assumes that a child (like a spouse of an alcoholic) has a choice to stay around and learn to cope. As a child, my only parent (mother) was a schizophrenic alcoholic, I can tell you first hand, that giving a traumatized child adult level coping skills to deal with an alcoholic is inappropriate. I know what these kids go through, hoping that their parents will change, and feeling stuck in a horrific situation. To survive these kids roam the streets, stay with friends, they'll do anything to not be at home. They deserve better and we as a society can do better. With the billions of dollars annually being given to enable ill-equipped parents, focus needs to instead be turned to permanently removing these kids from their parents and giving them a nurturing home life (i.e. Publicly funded "Father Flanagan's Boys/Girls Homes"). Kids should not have to learn to cope and endure a situation filled with such chaos and uncertainty.

Hi! I read this post and i want to say something about that;
to my opinion first reason to start using drag, smoking etc. circle of friends. Bad friends is way to bad addict
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well written
arun
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It’s very good to know that children’s whose parents get addicted to drug or alcohol there is Alateen program which offers support for children. In this program all the children’s whose parents are addicted to drug can share their experience, their difficulties with one another. I think this is the best platform where they can get support and love.

Its so sad for these poor kids who have to go through life and can't rely on their parents because they're parents are addicted to drugs. It must be really hard for them, they must feel scared sometimes. Thats good people formed this group called The Alateen Program which helps and teens and kids to give them support because of there parents addicted to drugs or alcohol. I'm glad people care for these teens and kids. What love and kindness people have. WELL DONE!!!!!

Its great for the ones who can get help. Sadly nobody helped us as kids . We were scared, confused verbally abused and witnessed our parents killing each other .. It's taken me a good ten years to get over 18 years of pain. Nobody helped us !! Have my own daughter now. Love her so much x

I am reaching out to you because my niece and nephew are in a similar situation and I am thinking over things that I can do to help. My first reaction is to take them as fast as I can away from it all and I also realize that may not be the answer because legally and emotionally for them. However, what are your feelings on me pursuing to get custody of them or even just flat out asking the mother to give them to me (the father is my brother and he has his own set of issues, he's working on them but is not able and should not have the kids full-time either). I worry that if I pursue this the kids will hate me and so will the mother and then I won't have any kind of influence in there life. From a child's perspective since you lived through it would you have wanted someone to come it and take you away from your parents, that you love. My niece is 12 and my nephew is 9. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

@Cindy

Your situation is challenging and you are courageous to look for solutions. As you know, substance abuse impacts more than just the user; it also affects family and friends of the user. Whatever decision you make will have a big impact on you, your niece, your nephew, and other family members so it’s important to talk to an expert about your options and the options provided in your state. There are a couple of resources that would be a good source of information to help you understand your options and what decision will be best for your situation.

  • Contact your state office of child and family services to get advice on how you can help your niece and nephew. Your state office of child and family services will have experts and counselors that can help determine the safety of your niece and nephew’s situation and what alternatives and services there are to help improve their well-being.
  • Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration treatment locator by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visiting http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov if you think you might be able to help the mother of your niece and nephew get treatment.
  • Look to see if there is a support group in your niece and nephew’s community or at their school that might give them support and help without taking them away from their parents. Perhaps you could talk to your niece and nephew about different support groups and how they might help them.

I would just like to say that im pleased that there is programs directed at assisting children whose parents abuse alcohol. Kids Under the Influence is a campaign im running in Australia. I would eventually like to get younger adults who have recovered from their parents misusing alcohol to help establish a website and be mentor for children who are still being effected. Do these young adults get involved in Children of Alcoholics Week? and how do they assist children who are still affected? I would love to explore this campaign further so that i can adopt it similarly in Australia. If you want to check out my Facebook: [link removed per guidelines] Keep up the good work!

What a great goal! Yes, Children of Alcoholics Week is for children of all ages! Do check out the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (http://www.nacoa.org/) for more information about this initiative. Also, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/) for more resources about alcoholism and the toll it can take on families.

i need help finding a support group for my 19 year old daughter who happens to have a father who is addicted to heroine, as her mother it is difficult for me to give support because i was a victim of domestic violence with her father due to his addiction issues for a period of 20 yrs,can anyone give me some resources for her, we live in toledo ohio. This situation is especially hard for me because in my daughters childhood my daughter was the parent and her father was the child, my daughter has been put in the role of the parent for most of her childhood and she is very distraught after years of pain, im afraid i cant do anything to help her.... anyone out there please respond... my daughters life depends on it.
i need help finding a support group for my 19 year old daughter who happens to have a father who is addicted to heroine, as her mother it is difficult for me to give support because i was a victim of domestic violence with her father due to his addiction issues for a period of 20 yrs,can anyone give me some resources for her, we live in toledo ohio. This situation is especially hard for me because in my daughters childhood my daughter was the parent and her father was the child, my daughter has been put in the role of the parent for most of her childhood and she is very distraught after years of pain, im afraid i cant do anything to help her.... anyone out there please respond... my daughters life depends on it.

Hi Michelle.  This sounds like a heartbreaking and difficult situation.  Al-Anon is a a nationwide support group for friends and relatives of addicts.  Most communities have meetings. They have meetings just for teens.  Visit http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/ to find out more.  

The mother of my granddaughter has lost three children due to mental issues and heroin abuse. I fear she has given up all hope. She has been given chances at rehab and left to be with her drug-addicted boyfriend. I will spend my old age raising her daughter, which is not fair to the child, but it looks as if my family is all this little girl can depend on. I am afraid for my granddaughter growing up knowing that her mother is not stable enough to care for her. It's not easy giving up on your own Mom. I am sure there will be obstacles, but I do my best every day to see that this toddler is taken care of, emotionally and physically. She has her father and he's very good with her, but needs our help with childcare and housing. I just hope I can be the person I need to be in this situation.
I AM A PROUD MOM OF AN 11 YR OLD DAUGHTER WHO LOVES ME THROUGH THE GOOD AND EVEN MORE WHEN TIMES ARE BAD. WE HAD ONE HELL OF A YEAR APART WHEN DYFS CAME AND TOOK ME OUT OF THE HOME AND THERE WAS AN ORDER SIGNED BY A JUDGE SAYING I COULD NOT BE AROUND HER EVER UNLESS A DYFS WORKER WAS THERE ON A SCHEDULED ONCE A MONTH 2 HR VISIT. I WAS DEVASTATED ALONG WITH 100 OTHER EMOTIONS. GUILT WAS THE MAIN ONE, BUT I FELT GUILTY THE FIRST TIME I USED HEROIN. I STARTED USING WHEN PAIN MANAGEMENT KICKED ME OUT IN 2012. I KNEW I HAD A PROBLEM AND I WANTED TO STOP AND I DID A FEW TIMES FOR 3 MONTHS I LAYED SICK IN BED DETOXING BUT ALWAYS PICKED UP AGAIN. I CALLED THE METHADONE CLINIC AND HAVENT SNORTED THAT JUNK EVER SINCE MY FIRST DRINK. I'VE BEEN GIVEN AN COURT ORDER TO BE ALLOWED TO RETURN HOME WITH MY KID AND HER DAD SINCE OCTOBER 2014. BY THE WAY I WAS TAKEN AWAY AUGUST 28, 2013 WHEN MY PROBATION OFFICER CALLED THEM WHEN I SAID I HAVE DIRTY URINE SINCE MY APPOINTMENT AT THE METH CLINIC WAS NEXT WEEK SO I WAS STILL USING ON AND OFF BECAUSE THEY DON'T OFFER THE PROGRAM TO YOU UNLESS YOU TEST POSITIVE THE FIRST DAY. ANYWAY MY DAUGHTER WAS VERY SUPPORTIVE DURING THE WHOLE PROCESS. SHE SEEMED TO UNDERSTAND I WAS SICK WITH ADDICTION AND WOULD BE GETTING BETTER FOR MYSELF AND THE FUTURE OF OUR FAMILY. I WOULD NEVER RELAPSE BECAUSE ONCE IS ENOUGH LOOSING MY DAUGHTER. LATELY SHE HAS BEEN DEPRESSED, HAS SOVIAL ANXIETY TO THE POINT WHERE SHE WON'T GO TO SCHOOL FOR DAYS. NO ONE TALKES TO HER AT SCHOOL SHE EVEN SITS ALONE AT LUNCH. SHE SAID SHE CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE SHE'S FEELING LONELY, INVISIBLE AND WORTHLESS. I FEEL THIS WAS BROUGHT ON BY MY ACTIONS AND THE WHOLE FAMILY'S CONSEQUENCES. DYFS CAME AND DESTROYED MY FAMILY, BROKE MY LITTLE GIRLS SPIRIT AND I'M TRYING TO GET HER THE HELP SHE NEEDS BY PROFESSIONALS. I AM STILL INVOLVED WITH DYFS, MY CASE IS NOT CLOSED MAYBE IN 6 MONTHS OR SO AND THEY MOST LIKELY LEARN OF MY DAUGHTERS PHOBIAS AND FEARS. I DON'T KNOW IF THEY WILL HOLD THIS AGAINST ME AND KEEP THE CASE OPEN TILL THEY SEE SOME CHANGES IN MY DAUGHTERS DEPRESSION. I AM BEING THERE FOR MY DAUGHTER NOW AS SHE WAS FOR ME DURING OUR SEPERATION BUT I CAN'T STOP BLAMING MYSELF FOR HER PAIN AND FEELINGS OF SADNESS ARE CREEPING UP ON ME. I KNOW THIS IS BECAUSE OF DYFS REMOVING ME FROM THE HOME AND HER LIFE. I KNEW THE FIRST TIME I USED HEROIN I WAS NEVER GONNA BE THE SAME PERSON IN HER EYES BECAUSE I WASN'T IN MY OWN. I MADE THE WORST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE AND CAN NEVER TAKE IT BACK. I WAS TRYING FOR SO LONG TO GET CLEAN AND MY FIRST DYFS WORKER LIED IN COURT SAYING I WAS REFUSING ANY HELP WHEN IN REALITY I WAS IN TREATMENT FOR A FEW DAYS AND SHE KNEW DAMN WELL I WAS BECAUSE MY COUNSELOR TOLD ME AFTERWARDS SHE SPOKE WITH THE DYFS WORKER FOR 45 MINUTES THE DAY BEFORE COURT AND WAS TOLD I WAS GOING TO THE METHADONE CLINIC AND COUNSELING AS WELL AS NA. THAT WAS THE ONLY REASON THE JUDGE REMOVED ME FROM BEING AROUND MY DAUGHTER. I WAS ALLOWED TO BE IN THE HOME BY MYSELF WITH HER AS USUAL UNTIL HE WAS UNDER THE IMPRESSION I WANTED TO BE A JUNKIE NOT A MOM SO HE DECIDED I WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO HAVE VISITATION'S UNTIL I SHOWED A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF CLEAN TIME SINCE HE WAS TOLD I HAD NO INTREST IN TREATMENT HE WAS TEACHING ME A LESSON. WELL I WAS ALREADY CLEAN AT THAT TIME EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A FEW DAYS INTO MY SOBRIETY I WASN'T HIGH SINCE. I HAD NO CONTROL OF HOW LONG IT TOOK FOR AN APPONTMENT AT THE CLINIC, THERE IS A FEW WEEKS BETWEEN MY INTAKE AND MY FIRST DOSE. MY DAUGHTER UNDERSTOOD SO WHY COULDN'T DYFS GRASP IT. I HOPE MY DAUGHTER'S ROAD TO RECOVERY IS NOT A LONG PAINFUL PROCESS. SHE'S ALWAYS HAD FRIENDS AND LOVED SCHOOL BEFORE, AS I HOPE SHE WILL AGAIN... REAL SOON. THANKS FOR LISTENING, I NEVER VENTED ABOUT ANY OF THIS BEFORE. I'M IN DESPERATE NEED OF HELP FROM OTHERS IN ORDER TO HELP HER OVERCOME THIS TIME IN HER LIFE THAT IS HOLDING HER HOSTAGE.
Is their help for 17 year old boy that being physically and verbally abused. He doesn't use drugs or alcohol. Mother and stepfather are recovered addicts. No family in the area. This kid is scared to death to report for fear of being put into foster care being uprooted from his girlfriend, highschool, etc. He plans to get emancipated of course when he turns 18, that's not for another year! His girlfriend has observed the verbal abuse but not the physical abuse. He called her tonite crying to the point she couldn't understand him. His mother punched him in the chest 3 times. He has never fought back, nor would I encourage him to ever do so. Honestly he's very shy and timid. Abuse has gone on since he was a child. He has exaggerated startle. This event was mild compared to past abuse. He has never shared this with anyone and is terrified of cps or any type of reporting for the fact he fears he won't be believed and he'll be worse off than before. He was afraid to even go take a shower for fear she would start in on him again. Apparently he forgot to take the trash out!! I feel helpless/hopeless for him. I'm a victim of much abusesive childhood and adult traumas so I know the fear myself. Thankyou

Hi Angie, in addition to the ideas in the post, here are a few resources that may be able to help:

- You can contact your local office of child and family services to get advice on how you can help. They will have experts and counselors who can help make sure this boy is safe and connect him with services to improve the situation.

- A support group in his community or at the school may also be able to provide help and counseling.

- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) helps lots of people dealing with different issues, not just suicide. It might be good for him or for you to talk with the counselors there about how to help.

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