How Common Is Substance Abuse In Families?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021

Millions of Americans in the U.S., including parents and teens, are affected by drug and alcohol abuse. Substance use issues can often run in families, as they may be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.

How Common Is Substance Abuse In Families

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:

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.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021
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