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      Parents With Alcohol Addiction Contribute Negatively to Pediatric Mental Health

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      We often think of those drinking addiction as “their own worst enemy.” And true, they may be victims of their own self-destructive behavior, but they aren’t the only ones being victimized. In fact, no one pays more than the children of alcoholic parents, and the price they pay is often steep.

      Parents Put Addiction Ahead of Childhood Mental Health

      How many children are the victims of parents who suffer from alcohol use disorder? Hard to say, according to a recent review of studies in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, and that's part of the problem. But researchers leave little doubt about the profound and lasting effect that habitually inebriated parents have on the mental health of their children.

      Children of parents who suffer from alcohol abuse experience a range of poor outcomes, called “alcohol’s harms to others.” The study found that these outcomes include elevates the risk of:

      • Mental disorders during childhood and/or adolescence
      • Disease and physical injury hospitalizations
      • Infant and child mortality
      • Criminality
      • Poor employment
      • Poor educational outcomes
      • Abuse and neglect
      • Placement in residential/foster care

      The list goes on, but you get the picture.

      “Within the last 10 years, there has been an expansion of research on consequences that extend beyond the drinker,” write the researchers. “Although some studies show that harm because of strangers’ drinking may be more prevalent, harms caused by close relations, such as household family members and friends, may be more severe and distressing.”

      American Addiction Centers addresses some of the coping strategies adopted by children who have experienced trauma at the hands of alcoholic parents:

      • Children learn never to discuss their feelings, concerns, or problems with anyone inside or outside of the family
      • Fearful of unpredictable consequences to their responses, children learn to limit communication
      • Believing they’re expected to be perfect (but never good enough), children learn that achievement and trying to be good help ensure personal safety and parental approval
      • Parents teach children to “do as I say, not as I do” or else face the consequences
      • Learning that conflict leads to unpredictable responses from parents, children avoid conflict at all costs

      Predictably, the family dysfunction that prompts these socially repressive coping tactics also produces a sense of isolation, fear, anxiety, depression, confusion, low self-esteem, antisocial behavior, relationship struggles – and eventually their own alcohol or substance abuse.

      Better Data Helps Agencies Target the Problem

      The difficulty in tracking these families is that most research relies on self-reports, says Julie Brummer, MPH, lead author of the report. Consequently, surveys that rely on parents to report harms occurring to children in their own household are almost certainly based on underreported data that fails to accurately reflect the scope of the problem or to pinpoint the areas or demographics where these problems are most prevalent.

      In response to this flawed method of data collection, researchers expanded the breadth of their studies to include centralized health-system data sets that link the negative effects of parental drinking on children – and that describe the mental and physical health harms being inflicted. They also identified and included limited welfare registers, police-record studies, and family violence crime statistics.

      This additional data allowed “more serious, persistent, and rare outcomes” to be addressed, wrote Brummer and colleagues, who are based at Aarhus University in Denmark. This bolstered method of data collection wasn't perfect either, but compared with much of the previous research, the researchers were able to look at a wider range of outcomes and ages of children “from birth through adolescence and beyond.”

      The added value of comparing registry data with data from other sources is its potential for informing health, welfare, or police response agencies about where they should be looking for underserved cases and vulnerable groups.

      Moreover, tracking cases in registry data sets is commonly used to measure outcomes of treatment, whether in comparison to the general population or in terms of whether and how effective the treatment has been.

      In an accompanying review, Anne-Marie Laslett, Ph.D., of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research in Australia, agrees with the conclusion that register-based studies can be a valuable tool in protecting those most at risk from family members’ drinking.

      “The article by Brummer and associates points toward a wider scope in which register data sets can contribute to documenting, investigating, and prevention planning for harms from others’ drinking,” she writes. “Mining them will improve our understanding of how AHTO [alcohol’s harms to others] can be reduced.”

      better Outcomes for Mental Health Practices

      substance abuse ehr system informationJust as researchers always seek more accurate data to drive better outcomes, InSync Healthcare Solutions continuously upgrades its EHR software to produce better outcomes for its clients.

      That's how InSync became a leader in substance abuse EHR systems that includes everything from group scheduling and group notes to telehealth, e-Prescribing, eMAR, custom forms, and more.

      For a closer look at how our interoperable, mobile-friendly and configurable software system can increase efficiencies and workflows in your substance abuse clinic, schedule a demo now with one of our experts. We're happy to answer questions and explain how we can tailor our system to meet your needs while saving you time and money.


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