Parental Drug Abuse Leads to Anxiety, Social Problems
> 5/15/2007 11:13:21 AM

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 who'd enrolled in a Harvard/Brown Anxiety Research Project from 1989-1991. 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. Paranoia and fear of rejection or perceived judgement by others were often heightened in these patients. 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 reigstered higher rates of unemployment. Of course, they were also much more likely to abuse drugs themselves. That influence becomes clear when considering independent studies involving children whose parents abuse tobacco. Beyond the obvious physical impairments brought about by regular exposure to second-hand smoke in the home, children of smokers are nearly four times as likely to smoke themselves.

Also prominent in the study's results 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. Surely no parent would voluntarily subject his or her children so such potentially crippling conditions, but as anyone who works with drug addicts will know, rationality very seldom plays a part in the equation. These findings may prove invaluable in planning effective treatment for children affected by their parents' drug problems. 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.

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