Effects of Having Addicted Parents: Impact, Prevention, and Care

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Addiction is a chronic disease that affects not only the person abusing substances but also their loved ones.

In the case of parents addicted to drugs or alcohol, the consequences of addiction can significantly impact the lives of their children both short-term and long-term. Children of addicted parents may be at risk of issues that impact their development, but with the right support and guidance, children of addicted parents can learn to cope and thrive.

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What Children of Addicted Parents Should Know

Children of drug-addict parents may feel overwhelmed, scared, and confused about their parent’s addiction. It is vital for these children to understand that addiction is a diagnosable disease and that the addiction of their parents is not their fault.

Here are some things that children of addicted parents should know:

  • They are not alone: Many children of drug-addicted parents are dealing with similar issues. There are support groups available where children of addicted parents can share their experiences and connect with others who understand what they are going through from lived experience.
  • Addiction is not their fault: Children of addicted parents often blame themselves for their parent’s addiction or feel that they could have prevented it somehow. They should know that addiction is a complex disease that has many causes and that it is not their fault if a parent abuses drink or drugs.
  • They cannot control their parent’s addiction: Children of addicted parents may feel responsible for their parent’s addiction and try to control it by hiding their parent’s drug or alcohol use, lying to others about their parent’s addiction, or trying to force their parent to stop using. Children of addicts should know that they cannot control their parent’s addiction and that the responsibility for getting help lies with the parent.
  • They deserve support and can seek help: It can be challenging to cope with the effects of parental addiction on your own. Children of addicts deserve support and should seek out appropriate resources – therapy, support groups, or trusted friends and family members, for instance.
  • They can break the cycle: Growing up with addicted parents can increase the risk of developing addiction later in life. However, it is possible to break this cycle and lead a healthy, fulfilling life. Through self-care, seeking support, and making healthy choices, children of addicted parents can overcome the challenges of growing up with caregivers who abuse addictive drugs or alcohol.

What are Addicted Parents?

Addicted parents have issues with drug or alcohol abuse that may involve a diagnosable addiction. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, 12% of U.S. children have a drug addict parent or alcoholic parent.

Addiction is defined by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) as a chronic disease that is progressive, relapsing, and incurable. Clinically described as substance use disorder, addiction can impact all areas of life for the person abusing substances. The effects of addiction also ripple outward with parents who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications often struggling to provide a stable, nurturing environment for their children, potentially triggering long-lasting developmental effects.

Children of parents with drug or alcohol addictions are at increased risk of maltreatment, poverty, and neglect. Research shows that two-thirds of incidents of child abuse are associated with a parent with some form of chemical dependence. Studies also show that 30% of children that Child Protective Services remove from their homes are removed due to the risk of parental substance abuse.

The Impact of Parental Addiction on Child Development

Children of addicted parents may experience a range of emotional, behavioral, and cognitive issues as a result of their parent’s addiction. These can include:

  • Physical effects that begin before they are born: For children of addicted parents, physical effects may begin before they are born if their mother is abusing substances during pregnancy. The effects of substance use during pregnancy include stunted growth, physical defects, and mental, attention, or attachment disorders.
  • Emotional and psychological trauma: Children may experience emotional and psychological trauma as a result of living with an addicted parent. They may witness erratic or abusive behavior, experience neglect or abandonment, or suffer from the effects of their parent’s substance abuse. Adult children of alcoholics share many common character traits after experiencing ACEs (adverse childhood experiences).
  • Developmental delays: Children of addicted parents may experience developmental delays, both physically and emotionally. They may have problems forming healthy attachments and regulating their emotions. They also frequently struggle with social skills.
  • Increased risk of addiction: Children of addicted parents are at increased risk of developing an addiction themselves. They may learn unhealthy coping mechanisms from their parents or feel a sense of inevitability about addiction due to their family history.
  • Instability and neglect: Parental addiction can lead to a lack of stability and structure in the household, which can manifest as neglect and inadequate care for children. Children of addicts may not have access to basic necessities like food, clothing, or a safe home environment.
  • Exposure to risky behaviors: Children of addicted parents may be exposed to risky behaviors such as drug use, criminal activity, or unsafe sexual practices. This can lead to a higher risk of engaging in these behaviors themselves later in life.
  • Poor academic performance: Children of addicted parents may struggle academically due to a lack of support and stability in their home environment. They may have trouble concentrating in school or keeping up with their studies.
  • Social isolation: Children of addicted parents often feel isolated and stigmatized by their family’s addiction, which can lead to social isolation and a lack of support from peers.
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Get Addiction Help at California Detox

If you are addicted to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit narcotics, we offer treatment programs at all levels of intensity here at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.

Kickstart your recovery with a supervised medical detox program to streamline cravings and withdrawal symptoms during detoxification. You can then move directly into one of the following treatment programs: 

  • Inpatient programs
  • Partial hospitalization programs
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs (for co-occurring disorders)

At California Detox, the treatment team will create an individualized treatment plan that combines science-backed and holistic treatments that include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare

Call 949.694.8305 for immediate assistance and treatment for any type of addiction in Laguna Beach.


A parent’s addiction can have a profound impact on a child’s development, potentially triggering emotional, behavioral, and social problems. Children of addicted parents are also at heightened risk of developing an addiction themselves.
There is evidence to suggest that addiction has a strong genetic component, with as much as half of your risk profile for addiction being due to genetic factors. There is no single cause of addiction, though, with social and environmental factors also contributing to the development of substance use disorder.


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