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Substance Abuse and Parenting – Physical and Behavioral Outcome for Children (Part II)

Substance abuse is a serious issue and health problem for millions of families of all ages in the modern world. Be it a newly born child, a teenager or an adult, the impact of a relative who is an addict is felt in many ways — it has an very strong impact on their emotional and physical health.

As the previous article was devoted to the topic of the emotional outcome for children whose parents are chronic substance abusers, this time the focus is shifted to the possible physical and behavioral effects.

Many newborn babies continue to be affected by substance use because their mothers used while pregnant. It leads to these babies being diagnosed postpartum with something known as “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.” This syndrome may occur when a pregnant woman takes drugs such as heroin, codeine, oxycodone, methadone or buprenorphine. Babies with such syndrome experience drug withdrawal symptoms such as jitteriness, tremors, sweating, fever, poor feeding, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

Infants born from alcohol-addicted mothers can develop a series of complications ranging from Alcohol-related birth defects (such as loss of hearing, defects of bones, heart, kidneys) to Alcohol-related neuro-developmental disorder (specifically full or partial behavioral and learning in-aptitude), or even Fetal alcohol syndrome (causing full learning disability, abnormal growth of organs or even death).

As to the families where children are older — and one or both of the parents are addicts — cases of child abuse and neglect tend to be very common. Ranging from labor exploitation (doing chores which cause danger to them or others) to physical violence (ranging from minor cuts and bruises to broken bones, bleeding or even death) or even sexual abuse (child molestation, rape, incest), this type of maltreatment is proven to be one of the causes of psychiatric disorders, physical disabilities, abusive relationships, alcohol or drug addiction, and so on.

Studies show that at least 50% of the children of substance addicted parents are at a high risk of emotional or behavioral problems. The destructive influences of an addicted parent(s) on the child vary:

  • The child grows up being antisocial and scared of making connections with other people around;

  • The child often has to go looking for the parent who is using due to him or her disappearing for some time and the child being left on its own;

  • The child has to watch the behavior of an addict at home on a regular basis, involuntarily adopting it for its own future behavioral patterns;

  • In families where there are two or more children, the older kids are made to mature in a much more rapid pace due to them feeling the responsibility of taking care of their younger siblings;

  • Pretty often addicted parents tend to act violent towards their kids, thus, making them hide or run away from home.

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