Millions of Kids Live With Substance-Abusing Parents

Expert says situation causes mental, physical problems in offspring

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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.

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