What is problematic alcohol and other drug use?
Problematic use of alcohol and other drugs like prescription or illegal drugs might be an issue if:
- you’ve lost control over how much, how often, and when you use alcohol and other drugs
- your alcohol and other drug use is causing you to neglect your responsibilities, miss work or let others down
- you’re relying on alcohol or other drugs to get a particular physical or emotional feeling or just to feel normal.
How problematic alcohol and other drug use can affect you
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
- 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
- more likely to neglect important priorities or goals.
If you’re worried about your alcohol or drug use or want to cut down, it’s a positive step for you and your child. Consider getting professional help.
How problematic parental alcohol or other drug use affects children
When parents use alcohol or other drugs in problematic ways, it can directly and negatively affect children.
For example, children whose parents use alcohol or other drugs in problematic ways are more likely than other children to:
- experience neglect and physical or emotional abuse
- experience emotional stress
- develop social, emotional and behaviour problems
- start smoking tobacco
- have their own alcohol or other drug problems in the future.
Using alcohol or other drugs during pregnancy can harm an unborn child’s health and affect the child’s development. Drinking alcohol in pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Most other drugs including tobacco can cause fetal distress, abnormalities, miscarriage, premature labour, low birth weight and developmental delay. If you’re trying to get pregnant or there’s a chance you might become pregnant, you should avoid alcohol and other drug use.
How problematic alcohol or other drug use affects your ability to care for children
Children do well when they have parenting that’s nurturing, warm, sensitive, responsive and flexible. But problematic alcohol and other drug use can harm your ability to respond warmly to your children and give them what they need.
It can make it harder for you to be as positively 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 regular and healthy 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 conflict or family violence. Alcohol and other drug use is never an excuse for using violence against anyone. You can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for help.
Australia-wide help with alcohol and other drugs
Like all parents, when parents with alcohol and other drug problems are supported, they’re better able to care for their children and their children do better.
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 ability to care for your children, a good first step is to contact an alcohol and other drug telephone helpline or a support and treatment service. You can also try talking to a trusted friend or family member or your GP.
National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline
The National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline provides free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs. You’ll be redirected to the alcohol and drug information service in your state or territory:
- Phone: 1800 250 015
- Hours: 24 hours, 7 days
Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF)
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation is a national website providing information and advice to prevent and minimise harm caused by alcohol and other drugs.
Family Drug Support
Family Drug Support is a national service that 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
Lifeline is a national crisis support and suicide prevention service. Talk to a trained counsellor on the phone, by text or use Crisis chat, Lifeline’s online counselling service:
- Phone: 131 114
- Hours: 24 hours, 7 days
- Online crisis chat hours: 7 pm to midnight (AEST), 7 days
- Text chat hours: 12 pm to midnight (AEST)
Visit Quitline for online support to give up smoking or call Quitline:
- Phone: 137 848 (or text ‘call back’ to 137 848)
- Hours: 8 am-8 pm, Monday-Friday