Addicted parents put children at risk
We tend to think of alcoholics as people sitting at the side of the street clutching an empty wine bottle and begging for money. That is one image of the problem, but there is another even more depressing picture, as the NSPCC reminds us this week with its campaign around Children of Alcoholics.
In the past three years the charity has received around 450 calls alerting it to instances where children were in homes where adults were abusing drugs and/or alcohol. While it is a concern that children may be raised in a family where one or both parents are abusing substances, it is also positive that friends or neighbours are sufficiently motivated to raise the alarm and nip the problem in the bud.
In spite of its widespread occurrence, drug abuse is still regarded as beyond the pale by most people, especially if the substances are taken in the presence of children or while in control of children.
But the messages are not so clear cut when it comes to alcohol. Indeed, many people make a point of drinking in front of their children to educate them that drink is not necessarily an evil and can be enjoyed if taken responsibly.
However, the subtlety of the message can be lost on children who may also see parents over-imbibing on occasion. Is that just good fun - or a concern? That is an impossible judgment for a child to make.
We also on occasion almost venerate alcoholics such as George Best or his modern equivalent, Paul Gascoigne. Both men fell prey to drink - it killed George and there are serious concerns about the health of Paul.
Alcohol can be as addictive and as deadly as any narcotic and certainly any parent in its grip cannot be expected to act responsibly.
We have often heard the plaintive stories of relatives of alcoholics who tried everything to help them kick their addiction without any success. They found themselves at a loss on what to do next, how to stop someone they loved killing themselves.
We have also heard how the addiction was so powerful that the addicts threw all the love of their relatives and friends back in their face when craving that next drink.
How confusing it must be for children to see parents go from normality to drunkenness or drugged stupor where their children's welfare is of little importance.
Hopefully, there will be someone to make that call for help when children find themselves in that position.