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Commentary: How to break the cycle of drug abuse

Editor's note: The following commentary was submitted by an area high school student. Because of the legally sensitive allegations raised in the letter, we are not including her name.

When I was younger, I loved to go to my mom's house for the week, because I knew that my mother would be there for me when I scraped my knee or had problems with a bully at school. Maybe it is just the way that I chose to remember her, and not the way things actually went. However, what I do remember is the day I realized that my mother chose drugs over me and my sisters.\

Most kids are in some way affected by the use of drugs, whether it is in their home, music, media, or from their peers. Though some children are forced to live with the burden of it in their homes, most of these children are either too young to know that there is something wrong and they don't have any other options other than to stick with what they know.

That may mean that they have to live in abusive situations, and it's sad to say that children who live with an addicted parent, generally also live with an abusive one. Although I was lucky in this area, and never had to live in a situation like this, there is a multitude of children who have to live with mental, physical, and/or sexual abuse. In addition, children in drug infested homes are also suffering neglect, because their parents aren't able to teach them how to do some basic things. Children with addicts for parents to school dirty and unfeed. Tragically, the trauma that these children live through does not make them stop loving their parents it makes them stop loving themselves.

In 2011, there was a study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health, where people were asked if anyone had experienced one of the nine types of "adverse childhood experiences" or "ACE" which included physical, sexual, and emotional abuse use along with mental illness of a household member, someone with addiction living or close with them, separation or divorce, domestic violence, and/or a family member who is incarcerated. The research collected used a test that revealed an ACE score. This score would show many adverse childhood experiences a child has lived through before the age of 18. The higher the ACE score, the more physical and mental problems the person will face through life.

Although these children are put into some terrible situations, not all are able to overcome their past and live normal healthy lives. A shocking number of these children grow up and repeat the mistakes of their parents. These children often grow up and end up in prison or rehab, having not been able to overcome the neglect or abuse that tainted their childhood.

Of course, not all children that grew up with an ACE end up in this type of negative cycle, though studies have shown that these cycles do exist. For the majority of children who grow up with parents who have a positive attitude toward drugs tend to follow in their parent's footsteps. Children live what they know, and drinking, smoking, or doing drugs is what they grew up with and what they tend to play out in their own lives.

While some children with addicted parents follow in their parent's footsteps, it is not the case for all children. Some watch their parents and their struggles and choose a different path. You also have to consider that there is no single factor when it comes down to continuing in your parent's footsteps. There is no gene that makes you an addict and it is a cycle one can break before starting a life of addiction.

ACEs are great when it comes to understanding children in these cases, or understanding ourselves, but there are plenty more things to learn about what these children have had to live through. They will have to live with their past for the rest of their life.

So what can we do to change the cycle? We need to support addicts, instead of judging those who are addicted to drugs and help them get clean and into a safe environment where they can stay clean. At least, this is what I wish could be done for my mom.