Among the most tragic consequences of addiction is the devastating – and sometimes lifelong – impact on the children of an addict. More than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics. Prescription drug addiction has been rising over the past decade, with more stories about moms keeping their addiction secret. While many of these children go on to lead healthy, productive lives, they also struggle in a way that is characteristic of their upbringing. For example, we know that children of alcoholics:
• Are up to four times more likely to struggle with alcoholism and other drug abuse than other kids.
• Exhibit more symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other emotional and behavioral disorders than children from non-addicted families.
• Score lower on academic achievement tests and have other difficulties in school.
• Take on too much or too little responsibility to compensate for the lack of parenting they receive from an addict.
• Struggle in interpersonal relationships as a result of mistrust and deficits in communication skills (50 percent of children of alcoholics marry an alcoholic).
• Are more likely to witness domestic violence and become victims of abuse, incest, neglect and other childhood traumas, sometimes resulting in removal from the home.
In the midst of active addiction, the addict can do little to help themselves, not to mention their children. So what can spouses, relatives, friends, neighbors and others do to help when they see a child suffering in an addicted home?