Substance use and abuse is a far greater problem than many would think. In fact, almost 10 percent of the U.S. population older than 12 has used psychoactive substances. While this is problematic for the primary individual involved, it is especially troubling for any children within the home. Because children need a great deal of physical care as well as emotional support particularly when they are very young, they may be at risk of having insufficient care if they are living with parents or adult caregivers who abuse alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs.

Classic Pediatricians Provide Care & Counsel

The child’s pediatrician can provide a listening ear when it comes to this situation. Parents are routinely asked questions regarding their child’s health at well-child examinations, and they are often asked about their own health and health practices as well. Many pediatricians will question parents about whether the child is around any tobacco in the home, and the doctors may also ask the parent regarding whether any illicit drugs are used, made or stored in the home.

To understand how vital it is that parents resist using drugs or alcohol unsafely in the home, one should look at the physical and emotional health outcomes of children who are raised in these types of environments. Babies who are exposed to drugs and alcohol while they are still in the womb are often born with fetal alcohol syndrome or other complications, such as prematurity and low birth weight, which can lead to physical problems later in life. These babies may also go through drug withdrawal symptoms.

Protecting Children from Abusive Substances

Children who live with parents who abuse drugs or alcohol are often not cared for properly and are at high risk of being abused. Children who are around drug paraphernalia have a great likelihood of acquiring blood-borne diseases. Additionally, these children and teenagers are at high risk for numerous mental disorders, such as depression, ADD, and oppositional defiant disorder, due to permanent changes in their brains following neglect and long periods of stress.

Parents who have concerns either about their own drug or alcohol use or about that of their spouse can trust their child’s pediatrician to be an excellent first resource. While a pediatrician cannot provide counseling or drug rehabilitation treatment, he or she can provide a referral to a professional treatment location where the adult can get the medication, counseling, and support that is needed to quit.