Children at Risk in Homes with Substance Abusing Parents

Children at Risk in Homes with Substance Abusing Parents

A child living with one or more parents who are struggling with a substance abuse problem are at risk. According to researchers writing in the BMC Public Health, current figures underestimate the number of children who may actually be at risk of harm from parental substance abuse.

In a recent Science Daily release, researchers produced new estimates from five national surveys which include measure of binge, hazardous and dependent drinking, illicit drug use and mental health.

In the UK, previous estimates suggested that 250-350,000 children were living with problem drug users and 780,000-1.3 million were living with problem drinkers. These findings were based on those individuals seeking treatment and researchers argue that these numbers fail to capture the actual picture.

A new study funded by Action on Addiction and the Wates Foundation and conducted by Dr. Victoria Manning and colleagues at the National Addiction Centre, included a secondary analysis of national household surveys that allowed for a focus on parenting and substance use.

According to new figures, approximately 3.4 million children in the UK live with at least one binge drinking parent. Another 2.6 million children live with a hazardous drinker and around one million live with a parent who uses illicit drugs.

For drug use risk, about 335,000 children live with a drug dependent user, 72,000 with an injecting drug user and 108,000 with an adult who has overdosed. Researchers suggest the risk of harm may increase for the 500,000 children living with a parent or parents who have both mental health and substance misuse problems.

Manning said in Science Daily: "In order to meet the needs of both parental substance misusers and their children, we first need to understand the true nature and scale of the problem. Without knowing the number of potentially at-risk families, we are unable to assist them until they come to the attention of agencies at crisis point."

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