I can see it in his eyes
when he comes creeping in.
He’s been somewhere he promised me
he’d never go again…
… This is our lives he’s tearing apart.
It’s not a funny game.
It’s destroyed our family and killed our love.
Because he loves “Cocaine.”
- Source: Melissa Scott, Because He Loves Cocaine
The lines from the poem ‘Because He Loves Cocaine’ portrays the emotions running through a child living with a parent addicted to the deadly drug. As rightly mentioned, drugs don’t just affect the people dependent, but destroy their families too. The impact of parental drug abuse is particularly huge on the children. Being in a developmental and impressionable age, these children are forced to bear the brunt in numerous ways, such as cognitive decline, poor performance at school, development of risky behaviors, etc. Many a time, they become susceptible to violence and aggression, leading to fatal injuries.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that approximately 12 percent of American children (over 8.3 million kids) cohabitated with at least one parent or guardian dependent on drugs or alcohol between 2002 and 2007. Drug abuse by parents is a serious offense; most authorities in the child protection and judiciary consider it as a form of neglecting parental duties.
Since the entire journey from addiction to recovery can be extremely challenging, it becomes difficult for children to hold on to their parents addicted to drugs. Such children become emotionally vulnerable and run the risk of emulating their parents. Given the dangers of growing up with parents suffering from substance use disorders (SUD), various laws and measures have been promulgated by federal and state governments to ensure their safety and well-being. Irrespective of the state, authorities can use parental drug abuse as a qualifier for child abuse.
House Bill 85, the child protective law
One of the child protective laws of Texas, House Bill 85, is tough on parents who relapse during rehabilitation. The court in this case can apply for the termination of their rights toward their children. Though seen as an effective step against parental drug abuse, many people who have gone through the pain of separation of their children have cast serious doubts over the outcome.
Such a punitive measure can inflict major repercussions on both – the parent suffering from SUD and the child. The separation from their parents could be a harrowing experience for the children and vice versa. The trauma could affect their bearing in later life. Since children and adolescents are attached to their parents, taking them away to foster care could hamper their growth and development.
Studies have highlighted developmental issues in children growing up in such a surrounding, like mental health problems. Rather than being a healing process, it can turn out to be a distressing experience. In the absence of a stable environment and attachment as provided by parents, they witness problems in the short- and long-term development of the brain.
Moreover, parents who are estranged from their children are less likely to be motivated for recovery. As losing a child can be a big blow for any parent, they are more likely to fall back to their old ways again. Many people have mentioned the role of families in their recovery. Despite relapsing once or twice during the treatment, they were able to achieve sobriety due to the sheer love of their children. The goal of reuniting with their children and other loved ones helped them in overcoming addiction.
Happiness is in having a caring family
Regardless of the circumstances, any form of substance abuse does not arise because of the fault of an individual. It is a chronic illness of the brain that can be treated with the right intervention. It is common for an individual to suffer a relapse during rehabilitation, as the withdrawal pangs can become too severe for him or her. Moreover, detoxification and rehabilitation are complex processes that require time. Therefore, drug abuse cannot be addressed in one go.
Addiction usually starts with occasional use that soon turns into a serious habit. As an individual becomes dependent on any drug, the brain’s reward system changes, resulting in more frequent cravings, leading to negative impact on his or her ability to function at home or work. Drug addiction should be treated at the earliest through treatment programs that include pharmacological and psychological interventions.