Trouble Coping With Parental Addiction

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Depression rates higher in adults raised by parents with a substance addiction

May 14, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) Just being around parents with a substance addiction might leave a mark into adulthood. Even if the addiction cycle doesn’t repeat itself, depression may still be likely.

Results of a recent study showed that adults who had been raised by parents addicted to drugs or alcohol were more than twice as likely to have depression compared to adults raised by parents without any substance addictions.

"Reach out to a therapist for help with depression."

Esme Fuller-Thomson, PhD, professor in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto in Canada, led an investigation into depression in adults that had been raised by parents who were addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. 

“Alcohol and drug addiction have a direct impact on the health and well-being of both the individuals who use these substances and their children. Previous research has shown that 7.3 million children under the age of 18 live with a parent who misuses alcohol and 2.1 million children live with a parent who abuses illicit drugs,” the study authors wrote.

The researchers used data from the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) for this study. While the CCHS collected information on roughly 98 percent of Canadians 12 years of age and older, the researchers only used data on adults aged 18 and older in the Saskatchewan province.

The researchers included 6,268 adults in the study because they found data on the parental addictions and depression rates for each of the participants.

The results of the study showed that 15 percent of the group had been exposed to parental addiction to alcohol or drug use during childhood. And 5 percent of the group had symptoms of depression.

Among adults who had parents with addictions, 9 percent had depression, compared to 4 percent of adults who had parents with no addictions.

When it came to smoking, 76 percent of people with parents who had addictions smoked, compared to 67 percent of people with parents who did not have addictions.

“This study found that exposure to parents using drugs and alcohol during childhood is associated with 69 percent higher odds of depression,” said the study authors.

Even after controlling for a variety of factors, such as stress, abuse, socioeconomic status and health, the researchers still found depression rates to be more than double in adults that were exposed to parental addiction as children, compared to other adults who were not exposed to parental addiction.

The authors noted a limitation to the study in the self-reports of the adults, which could be vulnerable to the bias of personal memory.

The researchers recommended greater efforts towards interventions that support healthy childhood development in order to reduce the risk of depression.

This study was published in May in Psychiatry Research.

No outside funding sources were listed by the authors. No conflicts of interest were declared.

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Review Date: 
May 13, 2013
Last Updated:
September 19, 2013