Lesson 6 of 7  - learn to parent effectively

Millions of US Kids Live With
Substance-Abusing Parents

HealthDay News via
Yahoo Online News - 4/30/09

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The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/parent/news/coa_stats.htm

Updated  04-17-2015

      Links below will open a new window or an informational popup - so please turn off your browsers popup blocker or accept popups from this nonprofit, ad-free Web site. See my comments after the article. The links and hilights below are mine. - Peter Gerlach, MSW

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THURSDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Almost 12 percent of children in the United States live with a parent who has a substance abuse problem, says a federal government study released this week.

Living in this type of home environment can cause long-lasting mental and physical health problems, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which did the study.

The analysis of national data from 2002 to 2007 also showed that:

Almost 7.3 million youths lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol

About 2.1 million children lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused illicit drugs

About 5.4 million children lived with a father who met the criteria for past-year substance dependence or abuse

About 3.4 million children lived with a mother who met these criteria

The findings were based on responses from 87,656 parents, aged 18 and older, who were asked about their substance dependence and abuse.

"The research increasingly shows that children growing up in homes with alcohol- and drug-abusing parents suffer -- often greatly," Eric Broderick, the agency's acting administrator, said in a news release.

"The chronic emotional stress in such an environment can damage their social and emotional development and permanently impede healthy brain development, often resulting in mental and physical health problems across the life span," Broderick said. "This underlines the importance of preventive interventions at the earliest possible age."

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers advice to teens on how to deal with an alcoholic parent.


      This statistical summary is very misleading. The good news is that it alerts the public to a serious health problem. The bad news is it understates the actual statistics because chemical addicts commonly deny they have a problem. We also don't know what the survey defined as chemical abuse or dependence. There is widespread disagreement on what these terms mean.

      This report implies but avoids stating directly that families with one or more chemically-dependent adults are "dysfunctional" - i.e. they often cause serious psychological and physiological problems to their members and to society.

      The author misses a chance to stress that chemical addiction is a family problem, not an individual one. S/He also misses the chance to note that there are three other types of addiction (moods, activities, and relationships) that are equally damaging. This is another reason that the actual number of American kids living with an addicted parent (i.e. living in a low-nurturance family) is far higher than 12%. 

       The report says the results emphasize the need for "preventive interventions at the earliest possible (child's) age." As with most media coverage of addictions, the author suggests substance "abuse" is the problem, rather than a symptom of what causes it. From 35 years' clinical experience and study, I propose that all addictions are unconscious attempts to minimize significant inner pain which starts in a low-nurturance childhood.

      Online Lesson 1 in this nonprofit Web site focuses on how to assess and reduce the inner pain that causes up to six major psychological wounds  - which promote addictions  - Peter Gerlach, MSW

For more perspective see this article on addictions and interventions. Also see the Web sites of the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NaCOA) Foundation and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA).

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      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or someone else?

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