According to the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 20 million people in the United States had a past-year substance use disorder in 2019.
Substance use disorders, or the repeated misuse of substances like drugs or alcohol, can be influenced by both hereditary and genetic factors—and thus, can run in families.
Learn more about the impact of substance abuse in families
Children Of Parents With Substance Use Disorders
An estimated one in eight children under the age of 17 in the U.S. live in a household with at least one parent who has a substance use disorder.
This is according to data from SAMHSA, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, from the 2009 to 2014 annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Additional statistics on substance use in families:
- About one in 10 children live in a household with at least one parent who has an alcohol use disorder.
- About one in 35 children live in a household with a parent who has a past-year illicit drug use disorder (e.g. cocaine addiction, meth addiction, hallucinogen abuse).
- In 2019, parental alcohol abuse was listed as an identified condition of removal for nearly 40 percent of U.S. children removed from their homes and placed in out-of-home care.
- An estimated 671,000 adolescents (aged 12 to 17) used cocaine for the first time in 2019.
- Over one million U.S. adolescents in 2019 reported binge drinking or drinking at least four to five drinks within two hours, in the past year.
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Most Common Types Of Substance Abuse In Families
Substance abuse, or misuse, can come in many forms and can be mild, moderate, or severe in nature.
Certain substances, including some prescription drugs, are more commonly misused than others—and can become easily accessible to family members, including children.
Common substances of abuse include:
- prescription painkillers (e.g. opioids/opiates)
- prescription sedatives (e.g. benzodiazepines)
- stimulants (e.g. amphetamines)
- illicit drugs (e.g. heroin, cocaine, meth)
Family members may get substances of abuse from other family members (e.g. steal prescriptions), or get them from friends, neighbors, or others they regularly interact with.
Risk Factors For Substance Abuse In Families
There are a number of risk factors, including hereditary and genetic factors, that can increase the likelihood of substance use issues in families, particularly among teenagers.
These risk factors include:
- high levels of stress
- childhood abuse or neglect
- physical or sexual abuse
- parental substance abuse
- co-occurring mental health conditions
- high tension in the household
- family history of addiction
Drugs and alcohol may often be utilized as a method of coping with emotional distress or stress more broadly—as a result of work, school, or other social or personal factors.
In addition, simply having access to substances in the household, such as prescription drugs, can also play a role. This can make it easier to use substances and potentially develop an addiction.
Get Help For A Family Member Addicted To Drugs Or Alcohol
Understanding how common alcohol and drug addiction is within families can be one step towards identifying and getting help for a family member struggling with a drug problem.
For more information about this, call our helpline today to learn more about substance abuse and how to find drug or alcohol treatment options for yourself or a loved one.
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- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Children Living with Parents Who Have a Substance Use Disorder
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
- U.S. National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare — Child Welfare and Alcohol and Drug Use Statistics
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: NCBI — Familial, Social, and Individual Factors Contributing to Risk for Adolescent Substance Use