Parental drug and alcohol abuse

Children are at greater risk of harm when they are living in households with parental substance misuse problems, with a greatly increased risk of domestic violence and abuse, a poor home environment and exposure to unsafe substances.

Associated issues include social isolation, emotional neglect and abuse, behavioural problems, inconsistent and disturbed care and routines, poor school attendances, difficulties with adult relationships and a much greater risk of adult substance misuse. Problems are often interlinked with other issues, for example, a study found 44% of those attending mental health services report alcohol or drug problems.

The risks

The effects of alcohol and drugs vary in each individual situation; excessive drinking and drug misuse can produce symptoms such as erratic mood swings, paranoia and hallucinations, or feelings of elation and calm, diminished concentration, memory impairment and a loss of consciousness. Withdrawal symptoms can induce nausea and vomiting, cramps, hallucinations and epileptic-type fits. Stable, but controlled, use of drugs or alcohol can minimise the above effects and this could be a reasonable medium-term goal of treatment.

Young children whose parents inject drugs are at risk of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis A, B and/or C from poorly stored used needles and syringes. Children may also be exposed to unsafe adults when their homes are used by other drug users and dealers.

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