Shame and secrecy impose desperate toll on children of drug addicts
CHILDREN of drug addicts are suffering in desperation as shame and secrecy shroud the substance misuse in families, it was claimed today.
Youngsters whose parents take drugs are also more likely to have problems with substances, as well as their mental health, social skills and academically, a seminar heard.
Joan O'Flynn, director of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD), said there is a need for more integration between addiction services, children's services and medical professionals.
"Alcohol and drugs misuse by parents can impact negatively on a child's experience of positive parenting and can create stressful family circumstances that impact on child development," she said.
"For many of the affected children, the effect of their parents' substance misuse continues into their adult lives.
"For some, the impact can be multifaceted and persist not only into adult life but even into the lives of the next generation."
She added that stress, combined with the increased likelihood of the child being in care or homeless, leaves young people at a high risk of emotional isolation or social marginalisation.
Alcohol Action Ireland estimates between 61,000 and 104,000 children aged under 15 are living with parents who misuse alcohol.
Director Fiona Ryan said: "Shame and secrecy shroud the issue of substance misuse in families with children living lives of quiet desperation.
"Alcohol Action Ireland has spent the past three years campaigning for children affected by parental alcohol problems to be seen and heard."
An NACD report - Parental Substance Misuse: Addressing its Impact on Children - was launched at a seminar it jointly hosted with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues.
The report reviewed all major international research on the impact of parental substance misuse on children and identified what steps can be taken in Ireland to reduce its impact.
It recommended additional research and data be collected to properly estimate the number of children whose parents have substance misuse problems.
It also wants an assessment of which adult alcohol and drug treatment services are supporting parents and liaising with child support services.
Women should also be educated on the adverse effects of consuming alcohol and drugs during pregnancy, it added.