Nearly 10 Million American Kids Live with a Parent with a Substance Use Disorder

Nearly 10 Million American Kids Live with a Parent with a Substance Use Disorder

Nearly 10 million American kids under the age of 17 are living with at least one parent who has a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders (SUDs) are defined as "recurrent use of alcohol or other drugs (or both) that results in significant impairment." A new study from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health says that 7.5 million kids under 17 - 1 in 10 children - lived in households with at least one parent who had an alcohol use disorder. And 2.1 million kids - 1 in 35 children - lived in households with at least one parent who had an illicit drug use disorder. The findings are based on data from the annual National Surveys on Drug Use and Health for the years 2009 through 2014, which was the most recent national data.

These kids have a tough time

Previous studies have shown that kids from homes where one or both parents suffer from an SUD have a much harder time succeeding in life. They are more often from areas of lower socioeconomic status (SES) - that is, areas of lower education, income and occupation, or lower social standing. Without getting complicated, just think "low income" and "second-rate education" and "fewer opportunities" and you get the usual picture. These kids suffer greater difficulties in school, have a tougher time fitting into social situations, have far fewer economic opportunities and their family lives are frequently unhappy and unhelpful, if not a recurring nightmare. This is true when compared not just with kids from more affluent families, but even when compared to kids from the same neighborhood whose parents don't have an SUD.

Studies show SUD risk for kids

As well as kids from depressed neighborhoods, there are plenty of kids growing up in more affluent homes where one or more parents have an SUD. Those kids also suffer as a result, primarily at risk of developing their own SUDs as well as various other developmental problems. A report in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions says kids from homes with parental SUDs "are more likely to have higher rates of mental and behavioral disorders." A study in the journal Pediatrics agrees, saying that "exposure to parental SUDs predicts SUDs in the offspring." In other words, families where parents have SUDs definitely raise the risk of the kids in that family acquiring SUDs of their own - especially as teenagers. The study said that "adolescence was a critical developmental period for exposure to parental SUDs. These results support the critical importance of the familial environmental risk factors for the development of SUDs in youth in general, and particularly in those at high risk for these disorders."

Changes in approach are needed

The study concluded that the results "highlight adolescence as a critical period for the deleterious effects of exposure to parental SUDs, supporting the need to develop preventive and early intervention strategies targeted at adolescents at high risk for SUDs." The National Surveys on Drug Use and Health report also calls for changes to how we view the situation. The millions of children aged 17 or younger living in U.S. households with at least one parent with an SUD "highlights the potential breadth of substance use prevention and treatment needs for the whole family-from substance use treatment for the affected adults to prevention and supportive services for the children," the study concluded. "As substance use and SUDs among parents often occur in households that face other challenges - e.g., mental illness, poverty, domestic violence - the recovery process may need to extend beyond substance use treatment to produce the changes in a family that are necessary to ensure a healthy family environment for a child."

Here at Novus, we help parents - and indirectly their kids - put an end to the problems of parental SUDs. We help parents get their lives back, and their children reap the benefits. If you or someone you know is a parent with a drug or alcohol problem, call Novus today.

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