The US Department of Health and Human Services states that more than 8.3 million children are currently living in a household where at least one parent is addicted to alcohol or drugs.
We therefore consider it crucial to recognize how a parent’s chemical dependency affects their children. If we are simply able to help people spot the signs and raise their willingness to do something about the problem, we will all be able to help children live in safer and more loving homes.
This can be as simple as encouraging someone with substance use disorder to get help — but either way, the steps to creating a safer home begin with recognizing that there’s a problem.
Chemical Dependency and Neglect
One of the saddest effects of chemical dependency is simple neglect in the home.
Many drugs result in the user caring less, or not at all, about their nutrition and hygiene. They are so focused on using that all the other details in life start taking a back seat. (For example, meth is famous for leading addicts to stop brushing their teeth, washing their bodies, or changing their clothes.)
If an addict isn’t able to perform these simple basics of life for herself, how can she make sure they are happening for her children? In many cases, addicts simply won’t bother.
The children may suffer malnutrition as a result of being fed improperly or simply not fed enough. They may smell bad or be physically dirty because they haven’t been bathed or don’t have access to clean clothing.
Unfortunately many forms of addiction are so powerful that parents do not stop using or start taking care of their children on their own, which is where outside help — such as rehab for women with children — can be necessary.
Substance Use & Newborns
The fact is that almost everything pregnant mothers eat, drink, or take end up making their way to the growing baby’s body too. As a result, pregnant women who use drugs or alcohol may severely damage their baby’s health in many ways.
Drug use may damage the baby’s central nervous system, leave the baby with an abnormally small brain and head, give the baby heart malformations, or even leave them with a high risk of mental retardation later in life.
Unfortunately the risks do not stop once the baby is born. When a baby is breastfeeding, any drugs which the mother takes may still pass on to the child. It’s therefore crucial that new mothers and pregnant women refrain from using alcohol or drugs.
Sadly many don’t. If a child seems to be neglected, it’s within your rights to approach the family about the child’s situation.
While it can be hard to spot a mother using drugs, as the use is generally not done in public, if you have suspicions that a woman whom you care about might be endangering her future child’s life, it is well worth while to broach the subject gently and help her get educated on the problem.
The Importance of Caring Enough To Take Action
Though many people believe it’s not their business to involve themselves in the situation, the sad fact is that children of drug addicts may have nobody else who can defend them besides concerned friends and relatives.
Drug addiction is an American epidemic, and many of the victims are innocent children. In order to start solving the problem, the first thing to do is overcome the fear of talking with your loved one about the situation they are creating.