Growing Up With An Addict: Effects On The Teen Generation

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familywalk2Whenever a loved one or family member is going through a struggle, including a form of addiction, it effects the entire family in one way or another. It can especially have a profound influence on young children constantly surrounded by the use of illegal substances.

Quite often, the primary reason for initial drug use is dismissed but it plays an important part in understanding how the addiction came to be. In most cases it is a voluntary choice for a number of different reasons, but the environment around us can also have a profound effect.

A parent’s drug abuse usually links to a number of things; chaotic homes, stress-induced routines and child neglect. None of these conditions are ideal for the development of children in what should be, the comfort of their own homes.

It is a truth that parents or senior family members who regularly abuse drugs, including alcohol, can increase a child’s risk of developing their own substance problems. In most cases, children are forced to grow up fast and look after their parents. Focus which should be targeted at studying and living their childhood is instead averted to the well-being of their parents. In this way, children of long-term addicts may end up suffering in other ways, such as becoming a recluse socially or needing help for mental distress.

teensTeenage years are difficult enough as the transition from child to adult is always tricky. Youngsters are impressionable and so if they are brought up in an environment that freely encourages drug use and are seen to be taken daily, they will see it as nothing out of the ordinary. They are more likely to develop an addiction themselves. Moreover, there is a likelihood of carrying addiction into adult life by taking an illicit substance at an early stage.

In fact, research shows that in the US, more than 90% of people struggling with addiction began smoking, drinking or using other drugs before the age of 18. So what could start off as a few drinks or smoking a bit of cannabis can lead to hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, illustrating how easy it is for things to spiral out of hand.

Preventing the influence from one generation to another is difficult to address. Behavioural patterns are hard to break, especially those that are passed down through families. If a child’s grandparents and parents took illicit substances, there is a likelihood that they will too. It isn’t however, a concrete fact. There are teenagers who see the destructive consequences of drug-taking and manage to avoid it altogether. Changes can be made by taking small steps such as:

• Talking and listening to one another regularly

• Accepting the help you receive. A child’s biggest influence is their parents

• Set limits and make it clear that you don’t want them following in your steps

What we can discern is that is takes a number of factors that contribute to addiction including environment, lifestyle and behaviour. Children who are surrounded by family members who actively partake in illicit drug use are left vulnerable to developing a dependency. However, it is also true that the teenage generation as a whole are more educated about the dangers of drugs and therefore, not all succumb.

– Written by Guest Author, Lloyd Kenyon.