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Retraining Parents To Bond With Kids To Break Addiction Cycle

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Researchers are looking at ways to get addicted parents clean.

A University of Central Florida psychologist and Nemours doctor say more research is needed into ways to help parents who are addicts get clean. Federal studies show more than 70 million children live with parents who are addicted. It’s the top reason for child services to step in.

Researchers at Nemours Children’s Hospital and UCF started reviewing studies. What they found? There are two main interventions for addicted parents. One teaches them specific parenting skills.

And Dr. Neil Boris said while that’s important, it looks like the other therapy – which promotes bonding with children – may be more effective.

“Trading out that sense of pleasure they get from the drug for the sense of pleasure that a lot of parents get from their children,” Boris said. “Not 24-7 because parenting is hard, but there are very important moments for parents.”

UCF’s Kimberly Renk said interventions seem to mimic the release of dopamine users get from a high.

“We’re thinking because of the neural pathways active with substance abuse, that particular type of intervention may be more worth our while in the long-term of promoting better bonding between parents and their young children,” Renk said.

The review paper was published in Nature’s Pediatric Research journal.

-- Reporter Abe Aboraya is part of WMFE in Orlando. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.