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Growing up with an addict: effects on the teen generation

by Lloyd Kenyon

Whenever a loved one or family member is going through a struggle, including a form of addiction, it effects the entire family in one way or another. It can especially have a profound influence on young children constantly surrounded by the use of illegal substances.

Quite often, the primary reason for initial drug use is dismissed but it plays an important part in understanding how the addiction came to be. In most cases it is a voluntary choice for a number of different reasons, but the environment around us can also have a profound effect.

A parent’s drug abuse usually links to a number of things; chaotic homes, stress-induced routines and child neglect. None of these conditions are ideal for the development of children in what should be, the comfort of their own homes.
It is a truth that parents or senior family members who regularly abuse drugs, including alcohol, can increase a child’s risk of developing their own substance problems.

In most cases, children are forced to grow up fast and look after their parents. Focus which should be targeted at studying and living their childhood is instead averted to the well-being of their parents. In this way, children of long-term addicts may end up suffering in other ways, such as becoming a recluse socially or needing help for mental distress.

Teenage years are difficult enough as the transition from child to adult is always tricky. Youngsters are impressionable and so if they are brought up in an environment that freely encourages drug use and are seen to be taken daily, they will see it as nothing out of the ordinary. They are more likely to develop an addiction themselves. Moreover, there is a likelihood of carrying addiction into adult life by taking an illicit substance at an early stage.

In fact, research shows that in the US, more than 90% of people struggling with addiction began smoking, drinking or using other drugs before the age of 18. So what could start off as a few drinks or smoking a bit of cannabis can lead to hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, illustrating how easy it is for things to spiral out of hand.

Preventing the influence from one generation to another is difficult to address. Behavioral patterns are hard to break, especially those that are passed down through families. If a child’s grandparents and parents took illicit substances, there is a likelihood that they will too. It isn’t however, a concrete fact.

There are teenagers who see the destructive consequences of drug-taking and manage to avoid it altogether. Changes can be made by taking small steps such as:

Talking and listening to one another regularly

Accepting the help you receive. (A child’s biggest influence is their parents)

Set limits and make it clear that you don’t want them following in your steps

What we can discern is that is takes a number of factors that contribute to addiction including environment, lifestyle and behavior. Children who are surrounded by family members who actively partake in illicit drug use are left vulnerable to developing a dependency. However, it is also true that the teenage generation as a whole are more educated about the dangers of drugs and therefore, not all succumb.

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Children with Addicted Father
by: Emilia

My children are ages 10 and 13. Their father is a drug addict with over 20 years active addiction to crack cocaine. I do not smoke, drink or use any drugs and never have. As a former social worker, the kids and I are very close and have a lovely, stable home life together. However, their father is currently serving his 3rd prison sentence for drug related crimes and is in a halfway house as part of his sentence.

The children on their own approached me and said they are no longer interested in seeing or speaking to their father. My son is very angry with his father. They never held him responsible in the past...they would forgive and forget easily. They are very well educated and aware of his addiction. I think they are just done...they are exhausted by his lies, incarcerations, disappointments, etc.

They seem to be moving son often breaks down sobbing because he wants a dad but realizes this is just not going to happen with their biological dad. Their father calls enraged and insistent that he be able to see them and thinks I should force the kids.

I would love to hear how other people might be dealing with similar situations or how their children are coping with an addict parent.

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