Breaking the Chain: The Cycle of Addiction in Families

For parents, one of the days they treasure most is the day their newborn child was placed in their arms. If you were to tell them in that moment when they first look into the eyes of their child, that one day those same eyes that look back at them would one day be filled with tears as they are pulled from their parents’ arms because of the parent’s addiction, you would probably get thrown out of the delivery room.


For 8.3 million children under the age of 18 who are exposed to a parent’s addiction, that truth is a reality they live in fear of every single day. Learn more about this cycle of addiction in families from the infographic below, created by JourneyPure Emerald Coast:

Turmoil and Conflict

While being removed from the home is just one of the fears the child of an addicted parent faces, the turmoil and conflict they face in the home makes its mark in other ways as well. They can face difficulties in school, including failing a grade or being suspended, and they can also have more health issues — both emotional and physical.

Statistics show that children exposed to addiction by a parent are four times more likely to begin abusing alcohol or illegal drugs themselves, especially if they have been removed from the home and placed in foster care.

Foster parents do the best they can to raise the children in their care, but sometimes a child’s life before being removed from the parent(s) with the addiction leaves wounds that are hard to heal, and scars that run deep.

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The cycle of addiction continues as children move through adolescence and into adulthood. It runs almost as if on auto-pilot, buried in their subconscious.

Young women placed in foster homes are twice as likely to become pregnant before they are out of their teens, and those who become pregnant once are 46% more likely to get pregnant a second time.

As adults, they carry the memories of a parent who struggled with addiction and face the consequences by having a higher chance of marrying someone with an addiction or who experienced the same type of childhood. If their parents were alcoholics, it’s four times more likely they’ll develop similar dependencies and addictions.

Break the Cycle

Breaking the cycle of addiction in families means having the courage to stop your own addictive behaviors, or stepping in when you see a child at risk. It takes other family members, teachers and trusted friends to reach out and step up by notifying child protective services if they are aware of a child being abused. Breaking the cycle means saying no. It means ending co-dependent behaviors that enable the addict to continue in their destructive behaviors.

Breaking the cycle can be one of the hardest things a parent, grandparent, family member, teacher or trusted friend can do. But it can also be the best and most loving thing ever done for a child.

Stay alert for the signs of a child facing neglect or abuse from an addicted parent. Your interference could save their life.


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