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Addiction affects not only the ones abusing the drugs, but every person around them including children of all ages. 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. Trained in child, adolescent and adult psychiatry – plus addiction – Dr. Elizabeth Weidmer-Mikhail, psychiatrist at Enterhealth, will provide a unique look at addiction through the eyes and hearts of children whose parents are living with this chronic brain disease during a free webinar on Thursday, May 3 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. The public is welcome to tune in to the session.

“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.”

To register to watch the webinar “Parental Addiction: From the Point-of-View of their Child” visit http://www.enterhealth.com/eventcalendar.

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