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In her May Webinar for Enterhealth, Dr. Elizabeth Weidmer-Mikhail discussed the parents’ use of alcohol and drugs as well as how addiction affects children.

Addiction affects children, too – not just those abusing the drugs. Most addictions alter the brain functions of the individual who is abusing the substances, which limits the person’s ability to take care of everyday things such as being on time to work, making dinner for the family or helping their children with homework. An impaired parent’s behavior can have a long-lasting impact on children, including affecting how they self soothe, eat, sleep, trust adults and form relationships. In most cases, the addict believes that children don’t know what is happening, but that’s not true. Children are aware of their environment, and irregularities, stress and other factors alter how safe the child feels with the parent.

“It is important for everyone to understand that children watch every action,” said Weidmer-Mikhail. “The unpredictability of a parent who abuses drugs or alcohol can cause anxiety, emotional pain, stress and a loss of trust because the person they want to count on the most isn’t there for them. The unstable household is the key factor here. The constant uncertainty in the household could lead to psychological distress, behavioral and affect dysregulation, which, if it becomes a chronic state, leads to psychiatric illness and emotional disorders. The child may accidentally try the substance, witness the parent getting arrested or imitate the behavior of the parent. The goal of this webinar is to educate the public about the impact addiction has on children. It’s not something that goes away when they turn 18 and move on. It’s something that will stick with them well into their adulthood. We want to help those suffering now so their children don’t suffer later.”

Children who grow up in a household with an addicted parent are more likely to become an addict themselves. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), genetic factors play a substantial role in a child’s development influencing a person’s abilities, personality, physical health, and vulnerability to risk factors for behavioral problems such as substance abuse. Enterhealth works to prevent children from becoming addicts by offering family therapy and resources for children.

“At Enterhealth, we feel that family therapy is very important to help a patient sustain recovery. It impacts the whole family when a loved one goes to treatment,” Weidmer-Mikhail said. “We see more adult children visit their parents in treatment and participate in group therapy. It helps them in the long run as well because they receive answers to questions they struggled with for years. They realize they are not at fault for the mistakes of their parents. For younger kids, we allow visits with their parents while they are in treatment. Family therapy is one of the most successful programs at Enterhealth. Our goal is to reboot the family in a healthy way and help them heal as quickly as possible.”

About Enterhealth:

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Enterhealth offers a holistic, evidence-based alcohol and drug addiction treatment program that revolves around each individual’s specific needs and situation. A dedicated team of addiction experts uses comprehensive psychological and psychological assessments to develop customized treatment plans for each client’s stage of recovery. Based on the latest National Institutes of Health research identifying addiction as a chronic brain disease, the highly trained clinical team approaches addiction as a complex and treatable brain disease.

Enterhealth provides a full continuum of care, including a residential treatment facility, outpatient treatment center, telehealth and continuous support for clients and their families. The 43-acre Enterhealth Ranch is just 30 minutes north of Dallas/Fort Worth. The secluded and therapeutic setting features 38 private rooms and bathrooms, chef-prepared meals, housekeeping service, fitness center, pool and 24-hour care from a dedicated team of addiction professionals. The Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence is located in the Park Cities and offers a broad range of therapeutic services for ongoing addiction management, including Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Supportive Outpatient Program (SOP).