Calls to Increase Funding for Children Raised by People With Substance Abuse Problems

Substance abuse problems cause a variety of problems, both for individuals and their families. Alcohol (or more accurately, ethanol), is a psychoactive substance that sees common use within this country. The drinking culture of the UK has normalised its abuse and this in turn has led to many mental and physical complications for those who do so. The short-term euphoria and lack of inhibition it produces make it attractive until the next day’s hangover. When long-term use emerges as a substance abuse disorder, it’s not only you who suffers; it’s also the people around you.

Observing the negative patterns of behaviour that alcohol abuse creates in a loved one can be extremely difficult. Not only is it hard to observe the health of your parents or children degrade by their own hand, but the effect on their mental health means they are likely to lash out at others. It is for this reason that there is now a call for greater awareness surrounding the topic, including funding for the improved treatment of those who suffer from the addiction of their parents. This treatment should be of a high standard, and readily available to all.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder is characterised by a pattern of drinking that continues despite many negative consequences. While almost everyone in the UK is aware of the pleasant short-term effects of alcohol, they can lead to far more negative consequences such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • High blood pressure
  • Memory loss
  • Proclivity for violence
  • Addiction
  • Premature death
  • Depression

We can observe that the extensive list of negative consequences should be enough to seriously consider limiting alcohol intake not only for your sake, but for those around you. However, as with all substances that cause dependency, quitting can be very difficult. The vicious cycle that alcohol abuse creates is usually hardest on the children of those who face alcohol dependency.

A Hard Home

Childhood, and especially adolescence, can be a difficult period. It is a time of social upheaval and constant change. It is why so many children benefit from having a stable home life. When this stability is disrupted by the substance disorder of a parent, the effects on a child’s development can be devastating.

These problems are highlighted by people like Lily Cohen, 24, who says that her mother’s substance abuse has left her with damaging mental health problems such as PTSD, panic attacks, and an eating disorder for which she was eventually hospitalised. Like many children, Lily felt she had no choice but to keep her mother’s drinking habits a secret, so as to exhibit a veneer of normalcy to her peers, a veneer that she states left her feeling “very angry”. Lily’s mother eventually died from liver damage caused by alcohol, effectively abandoning her twice-over. It is people like her who are calling for renewed funding from the government to help children who face these same problems.

The government has so far pledged £530 million to help local authorities fund substance abuse treatment, acknowledging that around 200,000 children in England have to deal with a parent facing this issue. Despite this acknowledgement, the government has pulled funding for many charities that deal with this problem, such as the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, citing the economic uncertainty of the pandemic as the reason. This has left a lot of disenfranchised individuals feeling left behind, especially in a time where the pandemic has worsened quality of life standards and led to increased alcohol abuse.  

Pain as a Heritage

Having a parent who suffers from alcohol misuse has devastating consequences on children. It not only stunts their development but also harms their ability to interact socially. Many children are like Lily Cohen, having to pretend that everything is okay to their friends. In doing so, they develop a warped idea of what friendship and relationships are, as they are unable to be fully honest about who they are. 

This pattern of dysfunctional relationships can extend well into their adult lives. It affects the way that they interact with their spouses and can lead to increased chances of divorce and domestic abuse. Despite wishing for more normalcy in their relationships with their own children, they are also likely to affect parenting strategies that are inefficient or that perpetuate the cycle of tragedy that their own childhood revolved around.

This cycle is also reinforced by the added negative consequences that alcohol misuse brings about. Parents with substance use disorders are more likely to fall into patterns of depression which can seriously affect their child, since the parent is unable to cope with the demands of parenting. In this way, their children are both more likely to have depression themselves and to mirror the failed parenting strategies that were employed upon them. The added tragedy that the adverse physical effects of alcohol brings about, such as organ damage, increased risk of cancer, and premature death only serve to worsen the trauma that they endure, ensuring a lifetime of tragedy and disappointment.

A person who is left stranded and alone by a parent who misuses alcohol should not have to deal with the residual mental damage by themselves. The recommended strategy is treatment and rehabilitation. It is for this reason that increased awareness and funding for national treatment programmes is so important. No child should be left behind, especially when we have the power to provide the means to make sure that they are taken care of.

Read More: Andrea Chong

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