West Lothian Child Protection Committee



Drug and alcohol use can lead to dependence but problems can also arise as a result of, for example, regular heavy drinking or binge drinking, or some types and levels of occasional drug use. This behaviour can result in harm to the individual or to others, including children.

Parent's abuse of drugs or alcohol can result in the family being avoided or ignored by the local community, which has the direct impact on children's lives. Often they don't have a normal childhood because the parent's desire for secrecy makes them reluctant to take children to groups or activities in case their own behaviour or some reaction from the child indicates a problem.

Children can suffer:

  • materially (inadequate clothing, lack of food, poor hygiene, poor housing)

  • emotionally (little or no parental display of affection, poor attachment)

  • socially (poor social skills due to lack of interaction)

Adult's abuse of alcohol and/or drugs can lead to:

  • problem behaviour and dependence

  • poor health (mental and physical)

  • physical and emotional neglect of children - Problem drug users may often be physically absent because they are out on the streets looking for drugs but this can also apply to problem drinkers who may spend hours at the pub. Children may feel ashamed, frightened and worried about their parents. Children may take time off school or avoid going out with their friends as they feel responsible for caring for their parent.

  • reducing parenting capacity -  Both problem alcohol and drug use reduces parenting capacity. Parents may behave unpredictably because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol; they may focus on their own need for drugs or alcohol rather than the needs of their children; parents may invite unsuitable adults into their home to share drink or use drugs; parents may be involved in criminal activity in order to fund their addiction; children may have inappropriate expectations placed on them, e.g. they may be expected to look after younger brothers and sisters because their parents aren't able to.

  • relationship and family breakdown

Both drug and alcohol abuse can have a negative impact on the health of unborn babies, leading to complications after birth.

In West Lothian, all agencies work together to protect children living in families where substance abuse is a problem. If you are aware of children affected by the substance abuse of adults you should contact Social Work Services or the Police - please see the useful contacts page.

If you require help with problem substance use you should speak to your GP or contact West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service or the council's Social Work Addictions Team - please see the useful contacts page.

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