We have discussed the topic of negative parental influence on children who use drugs and alcohol before, but now there is shocking new evidence showing just how serious the problem is. ChildLine, a well-known counselling charity for children up to age 19, recently reported the number of calls it has received from children concerned about alcohol and drug use among parents has soared in the last year.

The BBC reports that ChildLine staff in Scotland handled nearly 1,000 calls from concerned children in 2013. The total number of alcohol-related calls across the UK numbered 5,323, more than double the 2,509 calls received the previous year. ChildLine told BBC it estimates there may be tens of thousands of children living with parents who have drug or alcohol abuse issues.

The seriousness of the problem is underscored by three very troubling trends:

  • Physical Abuse – Children are more likely to be victims of physical abuse if their parents are regular drug and alcohol abusers. Substance abuse is known to cause violent behaviour in adults, especially if it is persistent over a long period. 
  • Learned Behaviour – Numerous studies over the years have proved that the children off alcohol and drug abusers are more likely to become abusers themselves when compared to their peers who live with non-abusers. It stands to reason. Drug and alcohol abuse is learned behaviour more often than not. 
  • Suicidal Tendencies – Unfortunately, many of the children calling charities like ChildLine do so because the hopelessness and despair they experience causes them to entertain suicidal thoughts. From our point of view, this is the most tragic aspect of the story. To know that children would be prone to self-destruction due to the behaviour of their parents is very unsettling. 

There is no doubt that we, as a society, need to start taking this problem seriously enough that that we are willing to stand up and do something about it. We can no longer allow our children to suffer at the hands of parents who abuse drugs and alcohol.

National Intervention

One of the strategies used by drug addiction specialists to help addicts overcome is known as the intervention. An intervention is a scenario in which a group of family members and friends confronts a drug or alcohol abuser in the hopes of motivating him or her to seek treatment. The intervention can be very effective when used appropriately.

Perhaps what we now need in the UK is a ‘national intervention’. Perhaps our entire society should stand up and confront alcohol and drug abusers with the evidence that their behaviours are damaging their children. Perhaps it is time for things like heavy drinking to be put into the same category as cigarette smoking: behaviour that can no longer be tolerated because of its damaging effects on innocent victims.

Time to Reflect

If you were a drug or alcohol user, would you be willing to step back and take some time to reflect on what you are doing? Are you willing to honestly look at how your actions could potentially affect your children? Perhaps your children are among those that have called ChildLine during the last year.

Do not believe the lie that your life circumstances will not allow you to overcome drug or alcohol abuse. It is simply not true. If you are willing to undergo the appropriate treatment, you can learn to live a life free of addictive substances. As a result, you can also provide a better life for your children – both now and in future. Please take a good look at your own habits and, if necessary, change them.