Parents’ behaviors have a large impact on their children’s actions, and this link is especially evident when viewing the connection between parent’s drug abuse and their children’s mental well-being. In April 2007, research in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, one of the first large-scale studies attempting to chronicle the effects of parental drug abuse on children found that the kids in question were significantly more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and related conditions.
In a project tracking the progress of its subjects at regular intervals for more than a decade, researchers assessed the influence of parental drug use by drawing subjects from a group of more than six hundred patients. After controlling for variables like sexual or emotional abuse and a genetic propensity toward anxiety disorders, they found that children whose parents regularly used drugs had a much higher occurrence of varied disorders, including a fourfold increase in social phobia. The most common of the problems reported, social phobia encompasses paranoia and fear of rejection or perceived judgement by others. In addition to the listed disorders, these children were also less likely to advance in their educations and develop lasting relationships or marriages later in life, and they registered higher rates of unemployment. They were also much more likely to abuse drugs themselves. Regular exposure to second-hand smoke can leave children with significant physical impairments, and the children of smokers are also almost four times as likely to become smokers as well.
Also prominent among the subjects was recurring panic disorder, most likely brought about due to the unstable home conditions engendered by chronically intoxicated adults. The inevitable mood swings and often abusive behavior of those struggling with addiction often leave their children in a constant state of fear as they anticipate the next emotional or financial crisis. Though these children almost certainly despise the substances that hold their parents captive, they also grow to view them as inevitable and even acceptable. Effective treatment for children affected by their parents' drug problems is a crucial step toward improving their physical and mental health. They are more vulnerable and must be treated as high-risk cases warranting intervention by school or legal authorities before the cycles of addiction are allowed to claim even more victims.