The Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs on Children

Chrome 2001
Aetna Intelihealth InteliHealth Aetna Intelihealth Aetna Intelihealth
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Harvard Medical School
Chrome 2001
Chrome 2001

The Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs on Children

Mental Health
Injury and Illness Prevention
The Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs on Children
The Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs on Children
Learn how alcohol affects your child.
InteliHealth Medical Content
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School
The Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs on Children

Children are deeply affected by their parents' alcohol and other drug use. If either parent abuses legal (for example, alcohol, some prescription and over-the-counter medications) or illegal (for example, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and amphetamines) drugs, it can have significant consequences.

Parents who are intoxicated with alcohol or other drug(s) are much less able to care for their children; they may not provide their children with physical needs (for example, food or shelter) or emotional support. An estimated 40% to 80% of the families who become child protective service cases have problems with alcohol and/or drugs. Parents are putting their lives and the lives of their children at risk if they drive while intoxicated. Use of any quantity of alcohol or other mind-altering drug always results in some level of impairment.

A parent's alcohol or other drug use sends strong messages to a child. Since children model their own behavior on that of their parents, children of substance-abusing parents are more likely to abuse substances themselves. For example, children of alcoholics are at increased risk of becoming alcoholics. Moreover, adolescents who drink alcohol are more likely to also use other drugs.

Parental substance abuse has also been associated with other behavior and mental-health problems in children, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, and learning difficulties.

Stop now

If you think that you or your partner may have a problem with drinking alcohol or using other drugs, get help as soon as possible. Your health and the health of your children depend on it. Talk with your doctor about local treatment programs and support groups. You can also get information from one of the resources listed below.


Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA 23454-5617
Phone: 757-563-1600

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services
P.O. Box 459
New York, NY 10163
Phone: 212-870-3400

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
5635 Fishers Lane, MSC 9304
Bethesda, MD 20892-9304
Phone: 301-443-3860

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Information (NCADI)
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20847-2345
Toll-Free: 1-800-729-6686

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Last updated February 24, 2010

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