Parents and drugs

It can be really tough when a parent or carer uses drugs and it impacts you, but you don’t have to cope alone, there's always help available. 

What is drug misuse?

Drug misuse is when someone’s drug use becomes harmful or they become dependent on it. It’s harmful when it causes danger to themselves or to other people. It’s dependent when they crave drugs even when it causes them social, health or financial problems.

When a parent or carer misuses drugs it can make it hard for them to provide you with a safe home and the basic things you need, causing you to experience neglect.



It's not your fault

Your parent or carer’s drug misuse can change their behaviour which could cause you to experience physical and emotional abuse. They may even blame you for their drug misuse.

None of this is your fault. You could be feeling really alone and like you have to keep their drug use a secret. You may also worry about getting your parent or carer in trouble. You could also be scared of what may happen if you do tell someone.

There is always help available. Childline has supported lots of young people with their parent’s substance misuse. You are not alone.



If your parent/carer is misusing drugs, they might struggle to:

  • provide you with consistent care and support
  • keep your home clean and pay for food and bills
  • respond to your needs
  • look after themselves


If you live with a parent/carer misusing drugs, you might find yourself:

  • caring for them or your siblings
  • missing school and not being able to focus on your schoolwork
  • being exposed to drugs and criminal activity
  • it impacts on your relationship with them


How to cope

It can be really hard to deal with a parent or carer who misuses drugs. You could be having some really difficult feelings. You may be feeling shame or embarrassment. You could be feeling really let down if your parent or carer has promised you that they will change, but haven’t. You may be feeling angry and frightened.

Difficult feelings

It’s natural to have these feelings and you could be cutting yourself off from them, because they are hard to deal with. This can leave you feeling numb, lost and confused. It’s important to find a way to cope with these feelings.  For example if you are feeling angry and let down it’s good to find a way to let this out before it turns in to rage. You could try screaming in to a pillow, writing your feelings down or talking to a Childline counsellor.

Talk about it

You can also talk to other young people on our message boards who may be going through something similar. You can also use our Calm Zone, it has loads of things you can try such as breathing exercises which can help if you’re feeling angry or upset.

What to do in an emergency

If your parent or carer needs medical help, call for an ambulance on 999. Tell the paramedics everything you know about the drugs they have taken, it could save their life. If there any drugs left give them to the paramedics as this could also help. You can find more information on the Frank website.

Your parent or carer’s substance misuse can change their behaviour and make them abusive and violent. It could also mean that you come in to contact with people who are dangerous. You have the right to be safe, if you ever feel in danger the call the police on 999.

More support

Action on Addiction  provide support to families who are affected by addiction. You can call them on 0300 330 0659, they have supported many young people whose parents or carers are misusing drugs. They will be able to advise you on what's going on and  support you and your family.

AdFam – You can use their website to search for local support services for parent or carer drug misuse.

Drug Fam– They offer support to families affected by addiction. You can call their helpline on 0300 888 3853 from 9am – 9pm, 7 days a week.

Families Anonymous – They run online and face to face support groups for families affecting by drugs.

Frank – Get confidential advice on drugs by calling 0300 123 6600, texting 82111 or chatting online.

NHS – You can search for your local drug addiction support service.

Worried about someone else

You could be worried about one of your friends or someone at school if their parent or carer is misusing drugs. They might have told you themselves or you might have noticed some of these things:

  • unexplained absences from school
  • their school work is suffering
  • they seem withdrawn
  • a change in their personality or behaviour

If you're worried about them, try encouraging them to talk to Childline or Action on Addiction.