The 2007 Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 8.3 million children in the US lived with at least one parent who suffered from substance abuse issues currently or in the previous calendar year. Children of parents who abuse drugs or alcohol experience physical disruptions and emotional turmoil that can affect the rest of their lives. This article will first look at the effects of parental drug abuse on children before and after birth and at the ways to approach the issue.
Prenatal affects of maternal drug abuse can be debilitating to a developing fetus. Anything that enters a mother’s body will be shared by the growing child through the umbilical cord.
Smoking cigarettes during pregnancy, for instance, can interfere with a fetus’ ability to absorb oxygen and therefore with many of the processes that depend on it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that smoking during pregnancy increases a child’s odds of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, stillbirth, lower birth weight, preterm birth, and respiratory issues.
Similarly, alcohol can wreak enormous damage during pregnancy. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome(FAS) is a well documented condition with the severity of the disease directly related to the amount of alcohol a pregnant woman consumes. The effects of this disease range from physical changes to developmental processes and cognitive abilities being effected.
Drug abuse will continue to affect a child after birth. Many elements are necessary for a child’s development, including emotional support and physical safety. Drug abuse can interfere with parents creating a stable environment in which children can flourish. Parents with substance abuse issues also may place drugs above the care of children and spend money on getting high rather than buying food.
Drug issues can also go hand in hand with criminal activity, exposing children to questionable activity and placing parents in risk of incarceration, which will compromise their ability to maintain a support structure for their children. In more extreme cases, the fluctuating mentality of a parent in the grips of a drug addiction can lead to mental and physical abuse. Drug addicts account for 75% of domestic violence. Children are particularly vulnerable in these cases and will harbor ill effects for the rest of their lives.
As well as disrupting a child’s life, an environment where drug abuse is prevalent may subconsciously encourage children to pursue such behavior themselves. The example of a parent’s drug abuse is tacit permission for children since it is seen as appropriate. This phenomenon works in tandem with the inherited predisposition towards addiction, a genetic tendency. These are incidents where the cards are stacked against children.
Fighting such a problem is a difficult task. Prevention and treatment are the best approaches. Parents or parents to be should seek professional help if they have drug use problems. In many the minds of many, there could be nothing worse than teaching poor habits to a child. A mind compromised by drugs may be unable to grasp this concept though. Reaching the most at-risk populations is tricky. Those who need guidance and treatment the most are the farthest from it.
Bringing awareness to low income and other at-risk populations is the focus of many programs but often the welfare system is tasked with addressing such problems after the damage has already been done. The government, in its efforts, has recognized prevention and treatment to be the most effective means of changing the parent drug use situation in the US.
With a wide variety of pre- and post-natal effects of parental drug use, this represents a serious threat to the children of the nation. The tools to fix the problem are in action but it is up to citizens to make sure they are effective.