Parental alcohol and drug use: understanding the problem

Guidance for local areas to identify problematic parental substance use to help commission services to reduce and prevent harm to children and families.


Problem parental drug and alcohol use: a toolkit for local authorities

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format.

If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.


This toolkit has been developed for commissioners of alcohol and drug services and will also be useful to commissioners of children and family services. It helps commissioners to understand the extent of problem parental alcohol and drug use in their area and how this can impact on children aged between 0 and 18 in the same household.

It has been developed to support local authorities to:

  • identify problematic parental alcohol and drug use as early as possible
  • ensure that the services they commission have sufficient capacity and resources to support parents and children affected by problem parental alcohol and drug use
  • identify and commission interventions to reduce harm and promote recovery for parents who misuse alcohol and drugs and also to reduce and prevent harm to their children
  • address the effects of adverse childhood experiences and to safeguard children

The tool used the findings from a rapid evidence review carried out by Newcastle University which assessed the prevalence of parents’ non-dependent alcohol and drug use and the impact on their children, and evaluated interventions for parents and children in these circumstances. More information, and a copy of the evidence review, is available on this Newcastle University blog.

Published 22 May 2018