Deleterious consequences of drug abuse and addiction are an indisputable issue; it comprises interconnected social, economic, and health care aspects. Moreover, drug abuse is a global problem, which involves both individual and social development. Drug abusing parents fail to give their children enough love, attention, and support; they neglect their children’s emotional, social, and educational needs due to negative consequences of toxic substances consumption.
Drugs are toxic substances; they radically differ from those necessary for a person’s normal functioning. The consumption of drugs significantly complicates health conditions. Toxic
substances afflict every organ in an abuser’s body and increase risks of numerous severe and even incurable illnesses. Although physiological, mental, behavioural, and other welfare-related issues associated with drug abuse have been well documented and disseminated, according to the recent data provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 15.3 million people have drug use disorders worldwide (WHO, 2010; WHO, 2012). Taking into consideration interconnections between countries’ future development and the younger generation, such significant losses stipulate pertinent governmental policies and research studies on reasons, displays, prevalence, and consequences of drug use, abuse, and their negative impacts on children and adolescents.
Illicit drugs include cocaine, opioids, marijuana, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), cannabis, and non-prescribed psychoactive prescription medication (WHO, 2010). Abuse of illicit drugs is associated with the following basic symptoms: abusers’ failure to perform duties and obligations, their continued drug consumption despite persistent problems caused to themselves and their surroundings, a loss of control over drugs consumption, legal problems, mood-altering behaviours, and decreased health conditions (Stolerman, 2010; NIDA, 2010). Drug abusers frequently experience psychoses, losses of memory, concentration, and motor control, difficulties in decision-making, learning, and cognition due to toxic properties of drugs. “However, symptoms may vary depending on whether the user is a child, adolescent, or an adult” (Bell et al., 2005, p. 185).
Behavioural patterns of drug abusing parents influence their children mental and physical development; paternal and/or maternal drug dependence increases risks of “global impairment of their children” and can induce drug abuse in children (Kreske, 2008; Ashrafioun et al., 2011; Bylsma, 2011; Eiden et al., 2011). Drug abuse is associated with violent, aggressive, uncontrolled, and high-risk sexual behaviour, accidents, traumas, disability, and preventable deaths. It prompts increasing rates of criminality, violence, orphanhood, and marginalization of society. Thus, it leads to dramatic social problems and humanitarian crises. Drug intake can trigger congenital or inherited intellectual and physiological abnormalities of infants born to substance abusing parents. Adverse effects of drug abuse cause losses of labour capacity and deaths of middle-aged people who possess the most valuable professional skills. Thus, this phenomenon depreciates investments in education and training and leads to social and economic losses.
Natural curiosity of adolescents and children contribute to their decision to take drugs. Moreover, they are “particularly vulnerable because of the strong influence of peer pressure” (NIDA, 2010, p. 6). A child’s consumption of toxic substances can progress from their casual use to regular or frequent use inducing psychological, emotional, and physiological dependence. While patterns of drug intake may differ across the human lifespan, adolescents who begin using toxic substances prior to age 14 are more likely to develop drug dependence later. According to the definition provided by the World Health Organisation, drug abuse results in dependence syndrome, which is characterised by “a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state” (WHO, 2012). A child’s dependence on drugs can result from several interrelated factors, such as genetic predisposition (heritable risk factors), environmental impacts (family-related characteristics, peer influences, child maltreatment, and drug availability), and a combination of these factors (“Parental Drug Use...”, 2009; Brook et al., 2010; Stolerman, 2010; Eiden et al., 2011). Moreover, the more family members use drugs, the higher risks of their children drug dependence.
Reasons for adolescent drug use and abuse include his/her specific psychological and physiological characteristics, system of values, surroundings, relationships with others, social and economic conditions, and specific circumstances. Such personal characteristics as weak development of self-control, immaturity, low stability to difficulties, inability to solve problems, propensity to melancholy and depression, spiritual emptiness, a lack of vital interests, and unawareness of adverse effects of drugs increase risks of drug abuse and dependence in children and adolescents.
“Abuse of drugs... by parents and other caregivers can have negative effects on the health, safety, and well-being of children” (“Parental Drug Use...”, 2009). Parents do not realise and assess impacts of their behaviour on their children due to toxic properties of drugs. Conflicts between drug-abusing or drug-dependent spouses are inevitable; they result in diminished attention to a child, his/her education, development, health care, and other problems. A child appears to be on the periphery of his/her family system, in a situation of emotional dispassionateness. Therefore, a child’s needs for love and emotional affinity appear unsatisfied; children often perceive this fact as a tragedy. It can lead to diverse disorders and psychological infringements. In order to attract parents’ attention, a child can start using drugs.
“A progressive increase in the frequency and intensity of drug use is a behavioral phenomenon often characterizing the development of addiction” (Stolerman, 2010, p. 25). Gradually increasing, drug dependence destroys abusers’ personal characteristics, their motivational system, causes a rupture in relationships, and triggers readiness for illegal deeds. Affecting abusers, their family members, and communities, drug abuse leads to such pernicious consequences as worsened intellectual, mental, and psychological abilities of young people, their high-risk sexual behaviour, violence, academic problems, social issues, and drug related traumas, injuries, accidents, and crimes. However, a child’s development cannot occur independently of his/her environment; thus, it is influenced by social institutions involving his/her family, friends, educational establishments, etc.
Drug abuse influences human abilities to assess and judge a situation; it results in antisocial or harmful actions, such as unprotected sex. Participating in unsafe sexual activity, a drug user is at constant risk of contracting HIV (Kreske, 2008; Brook et al., 2010). One of the most widespread sexually transmitted diseases is the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) resulting in AIDS. According to data published by the World Health Organization, AIDS is the leading killer in sub-Saharan Africa and the fourth disease characterized by the highest mortality rates. According to the WHO study, 38.6 million adults have HIV acquired in the youth. Recent research studies have also proved a strong correlation between drug abuse and unprotected sex intercourse (Brook et al., 2010; Stolerman, 2010).
Drug abuse destroys moral principles, values, and beliefs. Being influenced by
behavioural patterns of drug abusing parents, a child cannot make a right choice; he/she cannot
distinguish between generally accepted views and those of his affected parents. Sexual risk behaviour of drug-abusing or drug-dependent parents is frequently interconnected with adolescent sexual risk behaviour (Brook et al., 2010). The research conducted by Brook et al. (2010) testifies to “substance use factors as longitudinal predictors of sexual risk behavior in children whose fathers abuse or are dependent upon drugs” (p. 224). These factors are aggravated by family and social relationships, as well as children’s perception of “environmental hostility”. Moreover, being too intoxicated, young drug abusers do not realise if they consent to sexual intercourse. Drugs are a frequently cited situational contributing factor to sexual violence. Sexual assaults among adolescents often involve drug use. Although perpetrators may consider drugs to be an excuse to engage in sexually violent behaviour, any toxic substance cannot justify or excuse assault.
Today, pubic attitude to drug abuse and use is unequivocally negative. Such a perception is connected with general ignorance and a serious misunderstanding of the phenomenon exaggerated by criminal statistics, sociocultural stereotypes, mutual dissatisfaction, fears of drug-dealers, etc. Nevertheless, drug use and abuse is frequently accompanied by aggression and violent behaviour (Hickey, 2010; Stolerman, 2010; Eiden et al., 2011). Statistical and numerical exponents of drug abusers’ violence provided by relevant surveys, reports of victimization, judicial databases, the mass media, and police reports, testify to their severe assaults against strangers, intimate partners, acquaintances, and family members (NIDA, 2010; WHO, 2010).
Aggressive behavior, violence, and offenses could be initiated by any drug-abusing family member. Drug intake triggers both male and female violence, which is aggravated by losses of ethical norms and beliefs. Therefore, children often suffer from domestic violence, physical attacks, and enormous aggression of their drug-abusing parents. Spontaneous displays of aggression are mainly caused by humans’ destructive potential, which emerges and increases due to specific predisposing conditions and circumstances such as drug use and abuse. Anxiety-producing infantile experiences and adopted behavioral patterns of violent family relationships are two of the major factors contributing to humans’ physical aggression and crimes. Moreover, fears of humiliation, disgrace, possible injuries, pain, potential threats, as well as desire for revenge, can induce and exaggerate adolescent retaliatory actions and, thus, lead to severe crimes. Fear and pain are extremely unpleasant feelings; a child tries to get rid of them at any cost. Observing pertaining studies of homicidal behavior, Hickey (2010) states that men who assault women, “victimize and murder others do so in an effort to neutralize early childhood traumatization” (p. 69). In order to prevent domestic violence caused by drug abuse, consistent preventive programs should be developed involving effective mandatory laws, protective orders, properly designed programs of victim advocacy groups and organisations, obligatory participation of psychologists, specially trained professionals, and certified counselors.
A child often perceives his/her drug-abusing family members as a source of alarm, anxiety, and internal pressure. Discrepancies between ideal and real parents induce a child’s internal mismatch, feelings of devastation and painful alienation. He/she cannot share these painful emotions with parents, but they can be reflected in his/her attitude to them in the form of aggression and disobedience.
Children of drug-abusing or drug-dependent parents have significantly lower educational possibilities than their peers due to insufficient development, lack of knowledge and relevant skills, limited opportunities, as well as inappropriate attitude and low incomes of their parents. Such children often experience difficulties in meeting educational responsibilities and performing intellectual operations; memory loss, development of multiple cognitive deficiencies, degenerative behavioral and mental changes, and emotional disorders are the basic displays of adolescent drug use. Children miss classes, earn low grades, do unwell on exams and papers, and fall behind. Slow progress, academic failures, absence of desire to learn, and poor social skills strengthen risks of drug use and abuse in children and adolescents (NIDA, 2010; Stolerman, 2010). Memory and cognitive processes are interconnected. Thus, it is essential to design and develop programs and techniques to train memory of children.
However, insufficient knowledge, diminished skills, and undeveloped abilities could be improved by pertinent interventions of psychologists, medical professionals, social workers, and teachers. A close collaboration between educational settings, their surrounding communities, social workers, psychological services, and empowered officials can reduce drug related problems. Educational interventions should be more comprehensive, individualized and include problem solving and behavioral management strategies. Science-validated prevention programs were deliberately developed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in order to reduce “early use of illicit drugs” (NIDA, 2010).
Drugs interfere with most aspects of humans’ well-being, affect the way people think, function, and behave; they can disable an individual and impair health. Hence, the most appropriate assessment tools, educational toolkit, and deliberate interventions should be selected to provide drug-abusing or drug-dependent individuals with efficient support and relevant help.
To conclude, prosperity, growth, and development of each nation is connected with its future generation. Thus, increasing public awareness of existing interrelations between paternal drug abuse and adolescent substance use can help to focus attention on providing deliberate treatment for affected parents and support for their children in order to prevent or reduce adolescent drug use.