Adult Children of Alcoholics: The Effects of Addiction

Growing up with an alcoholic parent can leave lasting scars that shape any child’s life. The struggles that the now-adult children of alcoholics face are multifaceted, often leading to their own battles with addiction. It may not be common to wonder why children of addicts may become addicts themselves.

Understanding these effects is crucial not only for those who grew up in such environments but also for society as a whole. Knowing the challenges faced by children of addicts can help foster empathy and drive the development of effective support systems. If you or someone you know is struggling with the legacy of a parent’s addiction, professional help is available. At 12 South Recovery Center, we provide comprehensive addiction treatment for parents and their children, helping families heal and thrive.

The Inherited Legacy of Addiction

Genetic Predisposition

Children of addicts often face a genetic predisposition to addiction. Studies have shown that genetics can account for up to 50% of a person’s susceptibility to addiction. This means that the children of alcoholics are at a higher risk of developing substance use disorders themselves in their lifetime.

Environmental Influences

The home environment plays an important role in shaping every child’s future. Growing up in a household where alcohol misuse is prevalent will naturally normalize substance abuse. Children learn behaviors and coping mechanisms from their parents, which can include turning to substances to handle stress or emotional pain rather than tackling the problem head-on.

Psychological Impact

Living with an alcoholic parent can cause long-lasting psychological damage. Adult children of alcoholics often suffer from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues. These psychological scars can drive you towards substance abuse as a form of self-medication.

Coping Mechanisms and Behavioral Patterns


Many children of alcoholics develop co-dependent behaviors. They often take on excessive responsibility, strive to control situations, and neglect their own needs in favor of caring for others. This co-dependency can lead to unhealthy relationships and further emotional distress.


To cope with the chaos at home, children of addicts may adopt perfectionism as a defense mechanism. This relentless pursuit of perfection can result in chronic stress, burnout, and a persistent sense of inadequacy, making them vulnerable to substance abuse as a means of escape.

Difficulty with Emotional Regulation

Growing up in an unpredictable environment can harm the development of healthy emotional regulation skills. Adult children of alcoholics may struggle to express or manage their emotions effectively, leading to increased reliance on substances to numb or control their feelings.

Breaking the Cycle: Get Help Today By Contacting Our Team

The journey from the shadows of a parent’s addiction to a place of healing and resilience is hard however it is possible. The first important step towards breaking the cycle is to fully understand the effects of addiction on the adult children of alcoholics. If you or a loved one are grappling with these issues, professional help at 12 South Recovery Center can make all the difference.

We invite you to share this post to raise awareness about the challenges faced by children of addicts and encourage those in need to seek help. For more information or to begin your journey to recovery, please contact our team at 12 South Recovery Center.


At 12 South Recovery, we aim to help restore balance to every area of life – treating the mind, body and spirit so our clients are able to find lasting recovery from addiction and other co-occurring disorders. Our unique Treatment Programs aim to address both addiction and the underlying causes.

Contact 12 South Recovery at 866-839-6876 today.

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