The Office of National Drug Control Policy defines a Drug Endangered Child as:
“…a person, under the age of 18, who lives in or is exposed to an environment where drugs, including pharmaceuticals, are illegally used, possessed, trafficked, diverted, and/or manufactured and, as a result of that environment: the child experiences, or is at risk of experiencing, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; the child experiences, or is at risk of experiencing, medical, educational, emotional, or physical harm, including harm resulting or possibly resulting from neglect; or the child is forced to participate in illegal or sexual activity in exchange for drugs or in exchange for money likely to be used to purchase drugs.” – Federal Interagency Task Force for Drug Endangered Children (2010)
Children deserve childhoods. They deserve to grow up in stable homes, with stable families, and stable conditions. Children deserve to be nurtured and encouraged; to live, and grow, and develop away from the stresses of adulthood. They deserve a certain amount of naivety. However, on any given day, millions of children wake up to find themselves living in the shadows of substance-abuse.
Children who grow up in homes where one or both parents abuse drugs or alcohol are often at a significant disadvantage – developmentally, emotionally, and socially. Children who grow up in drug-filled environments develop distorted perceptions of what home life is supposed to be like. For the children of drug addicts, life becomes all about survival. Abuse, neglect, and dangerous living conditions are just some of the things these children have to deal with on a daily basis.
Children need a safe, predictable environment for healthy development. Parental addiction creates an atmosphere that is anything but stable. When a parent struggles with drug addiction a child’s life becomes centered on the parent’s substance abuse. Households with addicted parents often lack the supervision kids need to learn appropriate behaviors and stay safe. For example, a parent who is high or hung-over is much less likely to make sure a teenager comes home at a reasonable hour or a child isn’t engaging in a dangerous activity.
The American Academy of Experts in Trauma Stress delineate several key statistics and impacts affecting children of substance abusers or alcoholics:
- Parental substance abuse places children at higher risk for a range of emotional, physical and mental health problems.
- Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and suicide attempts are more common among children of alcoholics than among their peers.
- Children of alcoholics or addicts may have more difficulties in school than others.
- These children may also have increased physical health risks, both in terms of inadequate routine care, and stress-related health problems like gastrointestinal disorders, headaches, migraines, or asthma.
What to do
If you have good reason to suspect a child is in danger via substance abuse or alcoholism in their home, do not hesitate to contact the authorities or social services. If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol, contact the admissions specialists at Serenity Acres today to determine if treatment is needed.