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Addressing the impact of nondependent parental substance misuse upon children

A rapid review of the evidence of prevalence, impact and effective interventions

Authors: McGovern, R., Gilvarry, E., Addison, M., Alderson, H., Carr, L., Geijer-Simpson, E., Hrisos, N. Lingam, R., Minos, D. Smart, D. and Kaner, E.

Statement of purpose

This review examines the evidence of the impact of non-dependent parental substance misuse upon children and effective interventions for dependent and non-dependent substance misusing parents. It is intended that the evidence synthesised will be of benefit to practitioners and decision-makers within Local Authorities and their health and third sector partners in responding to the needs of substance misusing parents and their children, particularly those affected by high risky levels of misuse. The term parental substance misuse is used throughout to denote non-dependent levels of alcohol and/or drug misuse. When the source studies examine only alcohol or only drug misuse the terms parental alcohol or parental drug misuse will be used.


Alcohol and drug misuse is a major public health concern with risks for individual users, and other people who are adversely affected by their behaviour. Children in particular are vulnerable to the effects of parental substance misuse. Estimates suggest that in England around 162,000 children live with a dependent opiate user and around 200,000 children live with an alcohol dependent parent. There is an established evidence-base regarding the risk of dependent parental substance misuse on children. Less is known about the prevalence of non-dependent parental substance misuse and the impact upon children. Further, there is a need to know how best to respond to parental substance misuse (both dependent and non-dependent) in order to address the possible negative impact on children. This rapid evidence assessment (REA) aims to: estimate the prevalence and assess the impact of non-dependent parental substance misuse upon children; identify effective and cost-effective interventions to reduce parental substance misuse and share examples of practice from English Local Authorities in order to assist Local Authorities to respond to local need.