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Ice in Family – Effects on children and siblings

Ice effect on siblings

Children of people who experience problems with methamphetamine use are often the most affected by drug use in the family. Hidden substance use can have an impact on children, including its effect on parental physical and emotional availability, family finances and the stability of family life.

However, protective factors associated with resilience include a stable and supportive school environment, support from grandparents, and support from peers and the community. The children in these families still have a very strong sense of family and loyalty to family.

When a young person who uses methamphetamine is living with their family, other siblings can be overlooked by the family and by treatment services. When practitioners ask about how the other children are coping, the person’s parents will often insist that ‘they are fine’ and don’t need to be involved. It is important that practitioners consider the impact on siblings.

Siblings sometimes try to compensate for their family’s problems by being especially well behaved and high achieving. When an older sibling has problems associated with methamphetamine use, younger siblings are often not well integrated into the family, but keep themselves separated and withdrawn.

When one sibling uses methamphetamine, others are at higher risk. Sibling drug use is a more powerful indicator of other siblings’ use than parental use or parental attitudes.

Children of people who use ice may:

  • show attachment difficulties and problems of connection
  • experience a compromised sense of security
  • feel they can’t rely on parents for basic needs
  • subvert their own needs to look after a parent
  • experience effects of family structural problems
  • be at higher risk of developing emotional, cognitive, behavioural and social problems
  • have a higher risk of mental illness
  • experience guilt, shame and low self-esteem.

Siblings of people who use methamphetamine may:

  • experience frustration, distress and anxiety
  • minimise own needs and distress
  • try to compensate for their sibling’s problems
  • not be well integrated.

Read more here about family therapy for homes affected by ice.