Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use contribute to the destruction of the family unit and society at large. National statistics in the U.S. show that an average of 9000 automobile fatalities every year can be traced to alcohol use, and a disproportionate number of deaths from crimes and suicides are alcohol and drug-related (Cohn et al. 110). By extension, an approximated 480,000 people succumb to cigarette smoking every year in the US, including over 40,000 deaths from second-hand smoke exposure. Nicotine, heroin, and other related drugs have also become an epidemic in American society. What is common with all these substances and their use is that they lead to addiction. In 2012, there were over 21 million people over the age of 12 with an addiction in the U.S., and therein lies the problem in the family unit (Milam et al. 20). The family unit bears enormous social and financial costs from drug use. The economic and healthcare costs are especially huge because once a family has a member who uses or abuses drugs it has to spend on routine run-ins with the justice system and hospital expenses. The indirect costs to such a family include lost production from a working-age drug user resulting from premature death and illness, and lost working efficiency.
Any form of substance use or abuse is always going to have a considerable impact on each member of the family. However, statistics have shown that the impact of drug use on children is most pronounced over time. When drugs penetrate into a family, there is a heightened risk that siblings may become involved in problem substance use starting from an early age, thus adding to family problems. Challenges such as school failure, mental illness, criminal activity, chronic poverty, and a wide array of health problems come to be associated with a family that has struggled with drug, alcohol, and substance abuse over time. As drug abusers spend more on drugs, basic needs such as education for children are ignored resulting in family conflict and disagreement. Even on this trend, a non-substance-abusing parent may opt out of the marriage and children are forced to contend with separation and divorce costs. By this time, the non-substance abusing family member may have gone through a relentless period of anger, anxiety, stress, and even depression with having to deal with an irresponsible addict.
An escalation of the above problems in a family set children on a downward spiral. According to Connor et al. (998), a parent’s alcohol or drug problem has a cognitive, psychosocial, emotional, and behavioral impact on children. Parental substance use and abuse interrupt the children’s normal development. Such children are mostly exposed to domestic violence, which increases their propensity to develop adjustment problems and substance use disorder. With time, the children engage in risky and anti-social behavior such as crime that is likely to have them incarcerated. Emerging evidence shows that the risk factors for exposing children to substance abuse are similar to behavioral effects of reduced self-esteem, loneliness, depression, and a heightened desire for social acceptance (Yohn et al. 30). These are the types of behavior that typically lead to drug use among children.
Children are one part of the society that is impacted heavily by drug family problems. From health problems to developmental challenges, children have to contend with an ever-widening array of issues as they grow. The majority of children who have experienced painful childhoods from drug problems in their families of origin are more likely to develop addictive behavior. Therefore, various forms of family disruption that are caused by drugs such as loss of custody of children and psychological abuse are more likely to lead children to antisocial behavior and crime as they develop.