"reducing alcohol and drug related harm in our communities"
Key Information


Taking the Lid Off - A Self Help Guide
Taking the Lid Off - A Self Help Guide
A booklet for someone living with another persons substance use.
Help for Adults and Family Members
Help for Adults and Family Members
See what supports are available for adults and other family members
Help for Young People and Families
Help for Young People and Families
See what help is available for young people and their family
Help us to support more people!
Parental Substance Use

Parental Substance Use

Parental Substance Use

The term “hidden harm” is often used to describe the impact of a parent or carers alcohol or other substance use on children and young people. We call it “hidden” because the impacts and issues that problematic substance use can have on children and young people often remains hidden from view.

It is estimated that approximately 1 in 11 young people in Northern Ireland have a parent who misuses substances, which equates to about 40,000 young people across Northern Ireland who are affected by a parents substance use.

Not all family members are affected in the same way, and no two family experiences are the same. However what is clear is that most family members could benefit from support.

How substance use impacts on parents

  • Parents who misuse alcohol can become increasingly focused on their drinking and as a result may be less loving, caring, nurturing, consistent or predictable
  • Parents may become unable to care adequately for their children and less able to carry out parenting responsibilities.
  • Alcohol is present in about 1/3 of domestic violence incidents
  • Marriages with alcohol problems are twice as likely to end in divorce
  • The partner without the drinking problem can become more and more focused on the substance using partner, and less focused on the child.

How parental substance use can impact children

Problem drug or alcohol use can affect children in a wide range of ways, however below are some of the most common impacts:

  • Harmful physical effects of unborn and new born babies
  • Impaired patterns of parental care and routines which may lead to behavioural and emotional problems in children.
  • Higher risk of emotional and physical neglect or abuse
  • Lack of adequate supervision
  • Poverty and material deprivation
  • Repeated separation from parents/multiple care arrangements
  • Children taking on caring responsibilities for siblings and parents
  • Social isolation
  • Disruption to schooling and school life
  • Poor physical and mental health in adulthood.
  • Many children and young people feel shame and guilt, and believe that their parent’s substance use is their fault.

Getting Support

The most important things to remember are that you are not alone and you are not to blame.

Right now you may feel angry, embarrassed, guilty, or a number of different emotions. These feelings are completely normal. But you did not cause your loved one to use substances, and you are not alone in feeling like this.

It is ok to love the person who is using alcohol or drugs, and still not like what they are doing. You can’t stop them, but you can take care of yourself. It is Ok to ask for support and help, and there are lots of ways that you can find support regardless of if your loved one is ready to get help or not.

You can download iself-help resources or see a list of our helping services by clicking the links on the left here. Alternatively, call us on 08002545123 or email info@ascert.biz and we will link you to the most appropriate local service to you.

23 Bridge Street,
Co. Antrim
BT28 1XZ

Tel: 0800 2545 123
Fax: 028 9260 3874
Email: info@ascert.biz
Charity Number: NIC101239