Much focus is placed on the individuals who suffer from substance misuse disorders, but less so is given to the family, friends and loved ones who are also affected. Children especially are heavily impacted when parents misuse substances like alcohol, opioids or other drugs. We’re exploring the various ways that substance misuse can create struggles for an entire family — and how to get both parents and children the help they need.
What happens when parents misuse substances?
According to the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, roughly seven million Americans under the age of 18 live with at least one parent who misuses alcohol. Children of an alcoholic could be affected as early as in utero if their mother drinks while pregnant. Studies show that “children from alcoholic families experience more physical, emotional and mental health problems than other youngsters.” They have to cope with the stress of their parents exhibiting emotional problems or irrational behavior and may even experience abuse or neglect.
What are ACEs?
Children who live in a home with someone who misuses substances are likely to accumulate several ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences. According to the CDC, ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur from the age of 0-17, which can include (but are not limited to) experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect or witnessing violence in the home or community. Children of parents who misuse substances may also experience the ACE of living in an “environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding.”
ACEs are often preventable, but unfortunately, they can have a lasting impact on individuals who experience them. Someone who has grown up with toxic stress, like living with a parent suffering from addiction, may have a hard time forming healthy or stable relationships in the future. They can struggle with finances, have an unstable work history, and may repeat patterns or further exposure to toxic stress, “due to systemic racism or the impacts of poverty resulting from limited educational and economic opportunities.” Some racial/ethnic minority groups, as well as women, are at greater risk for experiencing multiple types of ACEs.
If you are interested in learning more about ACEs and whether you have experienced any of them, you can take an ACEs quiz at americanspcc.org/take-the-aces-quiz.
Help for children when parents misuse substances
Most people have heard of AA or NA, also known as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, respectively. But did you know that there are also similar support group organizations for those who have loved ones with an addiction? Al-Anon is “a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.” Locally in Greenfield, these individuals can find support groups located at Bradley United Methodist, Amity United Methodist and The Way Out Club. Teens who are struggling with the effects of someone else’s drinking can attend an Alateen support group, with local options at Trinity Lutheran Church in Indianapolis or Ascension St. Vincent Anderson Center in Anderson.
The Support Navigators at the Healthy365 Connection Center can also provide a non-judgmental confidential listening ear for families and children affected by loved ones who misuse substances. We would be honored to connect you to local organizations and resources that can alleviate your suffering and improve your family’s overall wellness. Over the last few years, our Support Navigators have developed hundreds of meaningful relationships, partnered with numerous local organizations and offered support to many local families and individuals in their journey towards better mental health and freedom from substance misuse.
Contact us at 317-468-4231 or visit the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd. Suite G in Greenfield to work with a Support Navigator today!