Growing Up with a Parent Who Has an Addiction


Child with stuffed animal

It is estimated that nearly 21.5 million Americans struggle with an addiction and/or substance use disorder each year. There are many highly addictive drugs that increase the natural levels of the brain’s neurotransmitter, dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure – increased use of a drug can cause a person’s body to become dependent, meaning they will experience withdrawal symptoms if use is stopped. Addiction is an unfortunate reality that many children must face with their parents, and it can affect them in many ways. Let’s explore these ways below.

A study published in the Current Drug Abuse Reviews stated that children with parents who engage in substance use experience more risks with academic performance, emotional, behavioral, and social problems, an earlier onset of substance abuse, faster acceleration in substance abuse patterns, and higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse disorders. If you’ve grown up with a parent with an addiction, you’ve likely experienced the uncertainty of your parent’s actions, and this may have led to further complications with your physical and emotional well-being.

Educational consequences of parental drug abuse include learning difficulties, reading problems, poor concentration, and generally low performance, often because the parent has limited involvement in the child’s education. Since violence often accompanies drug use, many children experience physical risks when challenging the parent’s behavior, expressing their opinions, complaining, or becoming involved in arguments with the parent. A UK-based research book titled, “Research in Practice: The Impact of Parental Substance Misuse on Child Development” states that many children experience ‘difficult cycles of relating’ to their parent – a term coined by researchers from the UK. This term refers to hostile response a parent may give their child when approached with a child’s efforts to communicate. This can extend into adulthood, as the parent and child continue to be lost in communicating with one another.

If you’ve grown up with a parent who had an addiction, it’s important that you seek help so that you can begin working towards healing and moving forward with your life. If you’re somewhat close with your parent, staging an intervention may be an excellent option for you to introduce their seeking help now that you are older. Never give up on yourself. Recovery is still possible.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse treatment program. We believe in holistic recovery, meaning that we will work with you to restore your mind, body, and spirit. If you’re seeking a treatment center that focuses primarily on mental health, call our parent property, New Vista Behavioral Health, at 855-398-7959. If you’re seeking treatment for either substance abuse or dual diagnosis, call us at 888-743-0490. There are many people that can help you develop the tools you need to succeed.