Embarrassment, shame, worry, guilt, and anger: You have probably felt these emotions and many others if your parents are using drugs. You should know that you are not alone. There are many other kids who have parents that drink too much or take drugs.
You should also know that it’s not your fault. You cannot stop your parents from using drugs. It’s up to them. Your parents do not take drugs because of you.
Why should I be concerned?
It’s hard to ignore when someone close to you is out of control and unable to cope. You may try to make up for your parents’ mistakes or shortcomings. You may get angry and feel trapped in a family that “just doesn’t work.” Your own life may begin to change as you try to deal with or “ignore” what your parents are doing.
Have you noticed any of these changes in your life?
- Falling grades or lack of interest in school work
- Losing friends
- Not having enough time to take part in school or social activities
- Working extra hours or odd jobs to support the family
- Using alcohol or drugs
- Doing extra chores around the house
- Leaving home for several days or more at a time
- Feeling depressed or suicidal
- Feeling like running away
- Getting into fights with friends and/or parents
- Being overly focused on attaining goals and honors; becoming a “super achiever”
What can I do?
The first thing you must do is make sure that you are safe. If you feel threatened, fear being harmed or are thinking about suicide, seek help at a local teen shelter. You can get a place to stay and counseling.
What can I do to help my parents?
- Learn about drug abuse so that you can understand your parents’ problem.
- Don’t help them get drugs or lend them money for drugs.
Just as important are the things that you cannot do:
- You cannot stop your parents from using drugs.
- You cannot change the way you are to make them stop taking drugs.
What can I do for myself?
- Think before you act, especially when you are upset. Think why you want to do or say something. Can it hurt or help you? Did it help or hurt you in the past?
- Take one step at a time. Don’t try to solve all of your problems at once.
- Let go of what you cannot control.
- Let go of yesterday. Focus on today.
- Don’t try to change your parents’ lives. Focus on your own life and how you can stay healthy.
- Be aware of how you feel and what you are thinking. Accept your feelings and talk to a trusted friend or someone in Alanon or Alateen.
- Don’t feel down if friends stop visiting you at home. They may not understand your parents’ problem.
- Stay involved with the things that interest you. Your friends and activities are important to you.
- When times get tough, focus on something you believe in.
- Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol. You cannot solve your problems by taking drugs. Drugs are not helping your parents and they cannot help you.
Why should I get counseling?
Feeling unloved, angry, hurt, or resentful is normal. Counseling can help you to feel better about your life and yourself. You can meet with other kids who have parents that take drugs and learn ways to cope at home. Counseling will also teach you about drug abuse and how it changes your life.
You cannot help anyone if you are unhappy and confused. Your parents must help themselves. When you help yourself, you show your parents that help is available for them, too.
Where can I get help?
For referral to drug and alcohol treatment programs in your area, call:
ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline
24/7, 365 days a year
SAMHSA’s National Helpline
24/7, 365 days a year
- ChildLine: Parents and alcohol
- Moore T, Noble-Carr D, McArthur M. Who cares? Young people with parents who use alcohol or other drugs talk about their experiences with services. Australian Institute of Family Studies 2010;85:18-27.
- American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress: Effects of parental substance abuse on children and families
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Children of alcoholics
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: Children of alcoholics
© Copyright 1995-2017 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/28/2015...#4411