‘Parental substance misuse’ is the long-term misuse of drugs and/or alcohol by a parent or carer.
This includes parents and carers who:
- consume harmful amounts of alcohol (for example if their drinking is leading to alcohol-related health problems or accidents)
- are dependent on alcohol
- use drugs regularly and excessively
- are dependent on drugs.
It also includes parents who aren’t able to supervise their children appropriately because of their substance use (NSPCC, 2018).
Most parents and carers who drink alcohol or use drugs do so in moderation, which doesn’t present an increased risk of harm to their children (Cleaver, Unell and Aldgate, 2011).
However, parents and carers who misuse substances can have chaotic, unpredictable lifestyles and may struggle to recognise and meet their children’s needs. This may result in their children being at risk of harm.
Alcohol misuse includes:
- excessive and harmful drinking
- alcohol dependence.
Harmful drinking is a pattern of alcohol use. It can cause alcohol-related problems including:
- physical illnesses
When someone is dependent on alcohol, they are likely to crave alcohol and continue drinking in spite of the harmful consequences. Alcohol dependence is associated with:
- increased criminal activity
- domestic abuse
- increased rate of significant mental and physical health problems (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2011).
Drug misuse is a dependence on, or regular excessive consumption of, psychoactive substances. It can lead to:
- social problems
- mental and psychological illness
- physical illness
- legal problems.
Drug misuse is more prevalent in socially deprived areas (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2012).
In England and Wales the most commonly used psychoactive substances include:
Opioids such as heroin may be less common but can lead to the most significant health problems (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2012).