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Key messages

Alcohol and other drugs are a part of life in Australia.

It is important to remember that not all use of alcohol and other drugs is harmful. Many of us start our day with coffee, use painkillers for a headache, or have after-work drinks with friends. But for the families that are reported to Child Safety, alcohol or drug use may have started to negatively affect their lives. They may need help so they can parent their children safely.

Different types of alcohol and other drugs impact on parenting in different ways. The type of substance, how a person uses the substance, and how often they use affects how they parent their children.

People can use alcohol and other drugs in ways that are experimental, recreational, situational, intensive (binge use) or dependent.

Alcohol and other drug use that is causing harm to an individual or others around them can involve more than the immediate effects of the substance. A parent’s day-to-day life can be consumed by getting, using, managing the effects of withdrawing from the substance.

Alcohol and other drug use during pregnancy is a key opportunity for change. Working with a mother and father during the pregnancy and motivating them to change can make a positive difference to the health of the baby.

A child needs you to know how they experience all aspects of their parent’s problematic use. Asking them about this is an essential part of safety planning and risk assessment.

Children develop ways to cope with and survive the impact of their parents’ alcohol and other drug use. Each child will respond in different ways, which may include taking on different roles in their family and trying to stop their parent/s from using.

We need to reduce the labels, shame, stigma and language associated with problematic alcohol and other drug use. They can stop children and parents from talking about what is happening and seeking help.

Problematic alcohol and other drug use often occurs in response to the trauma of domestic violence, sexual abuse, neglect, pain, oppression or mental health issues. Identifying the underlying issues will help to address the problematic use.

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