Researches from Harvard Medical School announced new findings in how children whose parents (or caregivers) abuse alcohol and drugs, or distribute drugs, face significantly higher risks of medical and behavioral problems; including substance abuse themselves. Substance abuse is a significant public health problem for people from all walks of life, and people of all ages. Millions of American children live in homes with caregivers who are regularly involved in alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drug use, abuse, distribution, and manufacturing. One in five American children live in homes with parental substance use disorders. It is generally a double whammy for children living in these conditions; the combination of toxic effects of drug and alcohol exposure, and the parent’s inability to provide basic physical, psychological, and emotional needs for their kids. This study reports that children whose parents use drugs and/ or misuse alcohol are three times more likely to be physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, and four times more likely to be neglected than their peers. The study focuses on how children who are exposed to substance abuse commonly experience developmental, and educational delays, along with mental health, and behavioral problems later in life. There is a lot of community support out there for this, and many treatment facilities address the family as a whole. It is recommended that if you or someone you know has a situation like this, or is involved with one that they ask for and seek professional help.
The AAP encourages every pediatrician in the country to begin including questions in their routine check-ups that would give them an idea if there is alcohol or drug abuse going on in homes of their patients. They then can asses the extent of the substance abuse happening in their home, and eventually notify the appropriate party. Most Pediatricians are now trained in “what to look for” as it pertains to children that could be dealing with dangerous situations like this. Through these routine check-ins, often they are able to offer some direction and resources to parents in need. To be clear the pediatricians are not expected to solve, manage, or treat these issues; rather, they can partner with other professionals, and the resources they provide to these families to find the best possible help available. Any help out there for children to get the assistance and help they need is commendable. If you or someone you know suspects child neglect, mistreatment, or abuse please report it so the child may remain safe and get the services needed.