Alcohol and other drug dependence is the most serious national public health problem in the United States and it does not discriminate. It is common among all social, economic, and ethnic groups and is prevalent in all regions of the country. Although one person in the family may have a dependence issue, the whole family suffers, especially children.
“According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a staggering one in four children is affected by a family alcohol problem,” said Helen Jones-Kelley, Executive Director of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board. “Our first step to helping these children is to break the silence about this issue.”
Families with alcohol and other drug problems are usually high-stress and high-confusion environments. This type of family environment creates a risk factor for early and dangerous substance use, as well as mental and physical health problems for the children involved. This means that children in families experiencing alcohol or other drug abuse need attention, guidance and support from safe, reliable adults. They need adults who they can confide in and who will support them, reassure them, and provide them with the age appropriate help that they need.
It is important to talk honestly with children and encourage them to express their concerns and feelings about what is happening in the family. Children need to trust the adults in their lives and believe that they will support them. They can also benefit from participating in activities offered through local faith communities, extracurricular programs at school, or community recreational centers. Here, these children can have their experiences validated, hang out with other kids, and use and develop special talents, strengths, and skills while making friends and having fun!
For more information about National Children of Alcoholics Week and how to help these children, call ADAMHS at 443-0416 or visit their website at www.mcadamhs.org.