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 New Information on the Effects of Substance Abuse On Parenting


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            In a very recent article, (Schleuderer, 2005) the author notes that even minimal amounts of ingested substances (i.e. drugs or alcohol) can have a significant effect on parenting skills.  Citing Filmore (2003), Schleuderer notes that laboratory findings on the impact of substances on behavior are misleading, both because the doses of substances are “much lower than commonly self-administered in recreational use” and because the behaviors measured in laboratory studies are of necessity simple and “highly identifi­able.”  Parenting, in contrast, requires complex behaviors and judgments, requiring choices between “a wide variety of parenting behaviors, many with both short and long term consequences.  Moreover, these choices must be made in situations that are often highly complex and emotionally charged……The expectation would be that the impact of even low doses of substances of abuse would be considerably greater than the studies have found.”  Also very important to note is the fact that “the cognitive effects of substances of abuse can outlast the period of acute intoxication…..sometimes for as long as 3 weeks after last ingestion.”


            The author concludes that “Low doses of substances of abuse impair judgment. Applying the impaired judgment that comes from even low doses of substances of abuse to the complex array of subtle judgments that are necessary for good parenting yields impaired parenting…… Furthermore, the negative effects outlast the period of acute intoxication and are surprisingly long lasting. Many courts write orders that parents who may have substance abuse issues should not ingest substances for 24 hours prior to having access to their children. This may not be enough time to clear the effects of the substances on judgment.”




Fillmore, M. T., & Vogel-Sprott, M. (2000). Response inhibition under alcohol: Effects of cognitive and motivational conflict. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 239-246.

Schleuderer, 2005. Small Amounts of Substance Use, Human Judgment and Parenting Family Law Psychology Briefs  Volume 5, Number 3












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