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Helping Children of Addicted Parents Find Help

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Sara Bellum
February 16, 2012

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.


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, and on NIDA’s Teen website, Also, our sister agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website,, has a lot of good resources, including information on “mutual support groups.”

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.

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
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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.


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 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 ( for more information about this initiative. Also, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism ( for more resources about alcoholism and the toll it can take on families.

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