How alcoholism can ruin the lives of children

It’s very easy to say yes to another drink on a nice day, but for some people, the reality of that simple statement is a grim one.

Alcohol dependency is one of the most common health problems in the UK, with the National Health Service estimating that it affects 38% of men and 29% of women.

In Sheffield, 697 people were officially in treatment with over 400 more having recently completed rehabilitation, according to figures published in February this year by Public Health England.

However, what is important to realise about any person who suffers from these problems is that the impact their behaviour can have goes beyond them.

Lynn Lawson, from the Sheffield Alcohol Support Service (SASS), said these problems can profoundly impact their children, particularly the younger ones and it can lead to them suffering similar problems of their own.

“Children in these situations can feel really isolated. They might not feel like they can have friends over, they might not get normal Christmas presents…it can affect them in ways that make them stand out from other kids,” she said.

“In a number of cases it can lead to them experiencing alcohol problems of their own later in life.”

Research is showing these kinds of problems in parents are having a significant impact on their children and, in some cases, even forcing them out of their homes.

Statistics from the National Association for the Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) has claimed there has been almost quadruple the number of calls they received from adults worried about their parents’ drinking habits since 2013, going from 6,400 in 2013 to over 23,000 in 2018.

They also claim one in five children has at least one parent that has problems with alcohol – and it’s not just older children.

The Children’s Society found in 2017 that 700,000 teenagers are also affected by alcohol abuse among adults, with this leading to homeless children in one of four of these cases.

The Department of Health has said that it will commit £6m into improving alcohol treatments.

There is also hope in the knowledge that the number of people in treatment for alcohol abuse has reduced by over 2,000 since early 2017 and that the number of clients who complete rehabilitation and do not re-present themselves has remained consistent.

Trends in South Yorkshire have generally mirrored the national figures, with treatment numbers slowly declining in Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster.  

Michael Ng, who is an office director for SASS, said that it as important to recognise that people’s drinking habits have changed over time and put the rise in children seeking help for their parents down to the greater exposure they have had to education about the health risks associated with drinking.

“Our research has shown that younger people are drinking less and less, they’re much more aware of the effects on depression, cancer and their bodies.

“It’s the generation who are now 40, 50 or 60 where the drinking has increased over the last ten years and that’s got a lot to do with health messaging, it hasn’t quite got through.”

Anyone in Sheffield who would like to know more or wants to get help for themselves or their family can call SASS on 0114 258 7553 or the Sheffield Drugs and Alcohol Co-ordination Team on 0144 226 3000.