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Adult Children of Alcoholics or Substance Abusers

Perhaps the first and most significant thing to tell any children of alcoholics (COA) or children of substance abusers (COSA) who may be reading this page is that on this campus, or anywhere in the country for that matter, you are not alone. Fact is you are part of a very sizeable group, albeit one that does not advertise or otherwise draw attention to itself. An article In the January 2000 issue of the American Journal of Public Health concludes that presently 25% of children are exposed to alcohol dependence or abuse in their immediate family before they reach the age of eighteen. If you add in the children of parents who abuse(d) other drugs the number of possible COAs and COSAs on this campus may be between 2,000 and 4,000 men and women. That number includes groups other than students because faculty, staff, and other supporting members of the University Community may also have grown up with alcohol or other substance abusive parents or caregivers. If you grew up in such an environment you are not alone.

You may also be faced with many of the difficulties that many in these groups encounter as they mature from children into adults. A good many difficulties such as an exaggerated drive for perfection, difficulty in trusting others, anxiety, guilt, confrontation avoidance and depression are shared by COAs and COSAs. The problems often arise when adaptations you may have developed during you earlier years no longer have a purpose and may even start to work against you. But there is little need to rewrite the book on these issues when there is already a great site to devoted to this subject. So if you want to explore this subject and the available help and support visit the Children of Alcoholics Foundation web site. The site will open in a new window so when you're ready to come back simply close the new window.

There are also many young men and women who may experience problems at home but do not recognize the source of the problems. This can occur because a parent's behavior is somehow considered normal or because one of the adaptations and symptoms that COAs and COSAs share with their using parent(s) is denial. For some information on this and links to other resources check out DontW8: Teens Only even if your teen years are behind you.

If you would like to talk about the difficulties you may be dealing with please stop in or make an appointment with a counselor. There is also the possibility for starting a support group if enough students are interested.


Updated August 18, 2008. ©Smart Choices, Binghamton University Alcohol & Other Drug Program
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Last Updated: 8/26/09