When we talk about addiction and alcohol abuse, we often tend to focus the scope of our concern on the individual battling that disease, and rightfully so. However, a recent study in Australia comes as a timely reminder that no action is without its secondary effects, and more often than not, people struggling with addiction aren’t the only ones dealing with the consequences.
Study shows children suffer significantly when adults drink
According to the recent Hidden Harm report conducted by Australia’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, nearly one-fourth of all Australian children have suffered in one way or another from the alcohol consumption of adults around them. The most common examples include children witnessing verbal or physical conflicts, or inappropriate behavior of some sort. There are also many cases where children have been left unsupervised or physically harmed themselves. These kinds of incidents are becoming all too common across the continent, as The Sydney Morning Herald points out, about half of all reported incidents of family violence and child protection cases in Australia involved alcohol.
Although those statistics are specific to Australia, the common effects that children endure when an adult caretaker abuses alcohol are not. The secondary harm caused to children across the globe ranges from neglect and exposure to inappropriate behavior, all the way to accidental injury or physical abuse, all of which can foster emotional damage such as fear, behavioral problems and shame that can haunt these children for life.
While the examples involving physical harm often appear most damaging, the psychological suffering can prove just as detrimental in the long run according to Lois Adaway, the chief executive of support groups for family members of alcoholics, Al-Anon. She explained to The Herald that it’s common for children of heavy drinkers to have low self-esteem and blame themselves for their parents’ addictions. They grow used to being treated as a burden, and in turn develop a high risk for addiction themselves, as numbing their emotional pain with drugs or alcohol becomes a dangerous option.
How can we curb alcohol abuse and its effects on children?
The report’s contributors argue that rather than relying on standard measurement to gauge what an appropriate level of alcohol is, society should pay closer attention to its overall impact on family life. None of the authors suggested banning alcohol altogether, but they are pushing for even “regular” instances of alcohol consumption, ranging from a post-work glass of wine to a few drinks at the family picnic, to be examined in terms of its potential negative effects.
Center for Alcohol Policy Research Director Robin Room, one of the authors of the report, especially emphasizes the need for parents who drink to consider how they do so around their children, because failing to do so can take its toll in a number of ways. “A lot of the time it’s social rules, things that should get done and don’t, some of the family budget going on drinking rather than food,” Room says. “What we’re highlighting is the variety of other ways, other than domestic violence, that drinking can have a bad effect.”
This isn’t entirely an issue of personal self-control, though. Many experts believe another important preventative measure is rethinking liquor licensing laws, citing the fact that alcohol’s prevalence and proliferation in today’s society is a major reason why it is so easily abused. “We live in a society that encourages drinking as part of every social activity,” says Christine Olaris, chief executive of Women’s Health East. “We all like a drink, alcohol is not terrible, but we need to change the culture and acceptance of binge drinking.”
For those already suffering, it is never too late to get help
Those types of preventative measures are important to examine and implement, but what about those who are already suffering? What about the people who are no longer making the conscious decision to drink, but are driven to alcohol by the physiological changes that occur as part of suffering from the disease of alcoholism? Those people still have the opportunity to make a change, to stop inflicting harm on themselves and those they love, and to live their life without being suppressed by such a debilitating disease. We can help you take advantage of that opportunity here at The Watershed. Call us today at 1-800-861-1768.Tags: adult children of alcoholics, childhood trauma, children of alcoholics, SOS Children's Village