By Raising Children Network
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multiple packets of pills being held in a pair of hands credit iStockphoto.com/FotografiaBasica
 
If your alcohol or other drug use has become problematic, it might be hard for you to be the parent you want to be. Your situation could also have negative effects on your children. But there are support services that can help you change things for yourself and your children.

About problematic alcohol and other drug use

Problematic drug use is when you’ve lost control over how much, how often, and when you use alcohol and other drugs. This includes prescription and illegal drugs.

You might have a problem if your alcohol and other drug use is causing you to neglect your responsibilities, miss work or let others down. And if you’re relying on alcohol or other drugs to get a particular physical or emotional feeling or just to feel normal, it might mean you’re dependent on these substances.

If you’ve become dependent on alcohol or other drugs, this can have serious negative effects on your health and relationships. Depending on the drug you use, the amount you use and the way you use it, alcohol and other drug use can make you:

  • anxious and upset
  • uncoordinated
  • easily angered or aggressive
  • forgetful and unaware of what’s happening around you
  • more likely to have an accident when you’re doing everyday things like driving a car.

Long-term problematic drug use is also associated with mental health issues like anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.

Some people use alcohol and other drugs to have a good time or to relax. Other people use alcohol or other drugs to deal with trauma, unhappiness, problems with self-esteem, or to cover up feelings of guilt or shame. If you’re worried about your alcohol or drug use or want to cut down, consider talking with your GP or another professional.

Parenting: how it’s affected by problematic alcohol or other drug use

Using alcohol or other drugs doesn’t make you a bad parent.

But frequent or problematic use of alcohol or other drugs can make it harder for you to be as involved in your children’s daily lives as you might otherwise be. This can mean missing important events like school concerts and their friends’ parties. 

If you’re seriously and frequently affected by alcohol or other drugs, you might not be able to do things like prepare meals for your child, bathe your child, supervise your child or ensure your child is getting to school or child care. You might have less money to pay for your child’s school excursions or other needs.

And problematic alcohol or other drug use can also have negative side effects like mood swings, depression and anxiety. These might make it hard for you to tune in to your children’s emotional needs or be emotionally available when your child needs support or comfort. 

Problematic alcohol and other drug use can also affect your relationship with your partner, making it hard for you and your partner to work together to raise your children.

When there’s someone in a family who uses alcohol and other drugs in a problematic way, there’s also an increased risk of family violence. Alcohol and other drug use is never an excuse for using violence against anyone.

Children: how they’re affected by problematic parental alcohol or other drug use

As a parent, you’re trying to do the best you can for your child. But if your alcohol or other drug use has become problematic, it can directly affect your child as well as you.

For example, parents who use alcohol or other drugs in problematic ways are more likely to neglect and physically or emotionally abuse their children. Children who see their parents struggling with alcohol and drug use are more likely to experience emotional stress and to develop social, emotional and behaviour problems. They’re also more likely than other children to start smoking tobacco, and to have their own alcohol or other drug problems in the future.

Parents who smoke cigarettes typically expose their children to second-hand smoke, which is harmful to children.

Using alcohol or other drugs while pregnant can harm an unborn child’s health and affect the child’s development. Most drugs including alcohol and tobacco cross the placenta and can cause fetal distress, abnormalities, miscarriagepremature labour, low birth weight and developmental delay.

Australia-wide help with alcohol and other drugs

If you want to reduce your alcohol or other drug use or stop altogether, or if you’re worried about how it’s affecting your parenting, speak to your GP, a trusted friend or family member. Taking the first step towards help is often the hardest part.

You can also get in contact with a drug and alcohol support and treatment service directly.

    Lifeline
    Lifeline is a national crisis support and suicide prevention service. Talk to a trained counsellor on the phone or use Crisis chat, the online counselling service:

    • Phone: 131 114
    • Hours: 24 hours, 7 days
    • Crisis chat hours: 8 pm-4 am, 7 days

    Quitnow
    Visit the Quitnow website for online support to give up smoking or call Quitline:

    • Phone: 137 848
    • Hours: 8 am-8 pm, Monday-Friday

    Family Drug Support 
    Family Drug Support provides information, advice and support to families and friends who are coping with the alcohol or drug use of someone close to them:

    • Phone: 1300 368 186
    • Hours: 24 hours, 7 days

    Australian Capital Territory: alcohol and other drug services

    ACT Health offers information, advice, referral, intake, assessment and support. Phone (02) 6207 9977, 24 hours, 7 days.

    New South Wales: Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)

    NSW ADIS provides information, telephone counselling and referrals for people struggling with alcohol and other drug use, families and friends of users, and health and welfare professionals. Phone (02) 9361 8000 or 1800 422 599 (outside metropolitan area), 24 hours, 7 days.

    Northern Territory: Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)

    NT ADIS provides information, telephone counselling and referrals for people struggling with alcohol and other drug use, families and friends of users, and health and welfare professionals. Phone 1800 131 350, 24 hours, 7 days.

    Queensland: Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)

    Queensland ADIS provides information, telephone counselling and referrals for people struggling with alcohol and other drug use, families and friends of users, and health and welfare professionals. Phone 1800 177 833, 24 hours, 7 days.

    South Australia: Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)

    SA ADIS provides information, telephone counselling and referrals for people struggling with alcohol and other drug use, families and friends of users, and health and welfare professionals. Phone (08) 8363 8618 (Adelaide) or 1300 131 340, 8.30 am-10 pm, 7 days.

    Tasmania: Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)

    Tasmanian ADIS provides information, telephone counselling and referrals for people struggling with alcohol and other drug use, families and friends of users, and health and welfare professionals. Phone (03) 9416 1818 (Hobart) or 1800 811 994, 24 hours, 7 days.

    Victoria: alcohol and other drug services

    DirectLine is a confidential telephone counselling, information and referral service for people struggling with alcohol and other drug use, families and friends of users, and health and welfare professionals. Phone 1800 888 236, 24 hours, 7 days.

    Family Drug Help provides support and information to family members of someone with problematic alcohol or other drug use. Phone 1300 660 068, 24 hours, 7 days.

    Western Australia: alcohol and other drug services

    The Alcohol and Drug Support line is a telephone counselling, information and referral service for people struggling with alcohol and other drug use, families and friends of users, and health and welfare professionals. Phone (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 (outside metropolitan area), 24 hours, 7 days.

    The Parent and Family Drug Support Line is a confidential, non-judgmental telephone counselling, information and referral service for anyone concerned about a loved one’s alcohol or drug use. Phone(08) 9442 5050 (Perth) or 1800 653 203 (outside metropolitan area), 24 hours, 7 days.

     
     
     
    • Last updated or reviewed 24-11-2017