The Effects of Addiction on Children
One of the saddest things to witness in addiction is the effect it has on children. Unfortunately, many underage people suffer from the effects of addiction due to their parent’s substance abuse. The short and long-term effects of exposure to addiction are vast and devastating. Children are often powerless to get away from drug and alcohol abuse. Once they are old enough to do so, many of the negative consequences have already taken hold.
Addiction is hereditary. It is a known fact that the children of addicts have a higher chance at becoming addicts themselves. Even if they don’t become addicts, they are likely to suffer from adverse effects like mood disorders. They are also often victims of abuse. No matter what the situation, the effects of addiction on children is vast. It is essential that those in that situation get the help they need.
The Effects of Addiction on a Young Mind
Unfortunately, there have been multiple stories in the news about children being found with parents who were overdosing. Whether in a car, in a store, or at home, these young children were witness to their parents essentially dying. For a young child, their parents are their everything. The people they turn to when they are sad or scared. When a parent is an addict, they cause a lot of sadness and fear in their children. This leaves the child with a lack of trust in adults, and nowhere to turn.
One woman described her experience with a mother who was a heroin addict as something that molded her life. Now in her late 20s, she still has issues with trusting others. While she luckily never became an addict herself, she can’t get over her mother choosing drugs over her. Her childhood memories consist of visiting her mom’s “friend’s” houses, and being left alone. She now realizes she was accompanying her mom when she was using drugs. She was often left unattended for hours at a time at a very young age.
Even now, this woman has a hard time with all of her relationships. The experience of her mom always putting her in second place to drugs has scarred her. The concept of love is warped, and a sense of abandonment is always present. The woman also battles with a low self-esteem and guilt over not feeling good enough. She takes medication for an anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, due to her mother’s actions, these feelings will likely be something she’ll battle throughout her life.
In this case, this young woman was lucky that she escaped addiction herself. Many people with the same upbringing do not. Addiction becomes a cycle that repeats itself generation after generation.
Children of Addiction Often Become Addicts Themselves
People are a product of their environment. Children with parents who smoke have a higher chance of picking up smoking too. Same with alcohol. And, unfortunately, the same with drugs. It starts when a young person is growing up and sees their parents using or drinking. To them, this excessive behavior is normal. It isn’t until they grow older that they may realize that this is not the case. By then it might be too late. Children as young as eleven and twelve have been known to start drinking and experimenting with drugs. At this age, they are still spending most of their time at home. If they are around this kind of behavior, they are likely to pick it up.
The earlier a child begins drinking or using drugs, the harder it is to stop. Additionally, their young minds are still developing, and substances can hinder normal progression. They will have trouble in school, and may also have a hard time in social situations. To make things worse, children of addicts are often considered outcasts. When other parents figure out what is going on, they don’t want their children associating with them. Thus, the child will turn to what they know, and who they are accepted by. If family members are supplying drugs, they will continue to use. Unfortunately, the parents won’t realize the scope of the negative impact they are creating in their child’s life.
Addiction and Child Abuse
Sadly, children who live in a home with an addict have a high chance of getting abused. Alcohol abuse has one of the highest rates of abuse. People who drink in excess tend to have periods of blacking out. Their personality can completely change, and violence easily occurs. For example, an alcoholic father may get upset at a baby crying. In a drunken stupor, they will abuse the child instead of handling the situation. Sadly, these situations happen often, sometimes with fatal consequences.
Abuse can also be verbal. Addicts don’t know what they are doing, and how their actions affect those who love them. Negative words are devastating to someone young, especially coming from family. Verbal abuse leads children to develop mood disorders like anxiety and depression. They often participate in self-harm like cutting or burning themselves.
When this kind of behavior continues for a while, the child is likely to begin self-medicating with drugs and alcohol themselves. This isn’t the same as the adult offering the child drugs or alcohol. However, the end consequences of the child becoming an addict is the same.
How to Help a Child in Addiction
Whether the child is a friend or a family member, it is easy to feel helpless watching events unfold. The number on thing that needs to happen is the adult needs to get help. If they can get sober and clean up their lives, it will be better for everyone. Their child will have a shot at a normal life. Getting help isn’t easy, but it is possible.
Often, children suffering from the effects of addiction need additional support outside of their family. Mentors from school, church, or a sport league can be a hugely positive influence. If the situation at home is abusive, it’s necessary to report it and help the child as soon as possible.
Being a child born into addiction isn’t easy. It has profound negative effects that can last a lifetime. The best thing for everyone involved is to get professional help as soon as possible. This way, everyone involved can live a normal, healthy, and happy life.