COA Week 2023

International COA Week 2023: supporting children affected by parental drinking

Today (12 February) marks the start of International Children of Alcoholics (COA) Awareness Week, the annual campaign to raise awareness of how children are affected by parental alcohol problems.

The international campaign, running until 18 February and in its 14th year, is led in the UK by The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa): a registered charity that offers support to people who are either growing up or have grown up in households impacted by their parents’ alcohol dependency or other addiction issues.  

The event is recognised around the world, with activities running in Ireland, Germany, Finland, the US and more.

The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘the family secret’, highlighting the ‘rules’ that develop in families affected by parental drinking.

Throughout the week, Nacoa will be providing advice, support, and information for affected families, as well as hosting online and in-person events, and raising awareness in the media of the effect that parental drinking has on families, including grown-up children.

People are also being encouraged to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #COAWeek2023.

Spotting the signs

According to research published by Nacoa, an estimated 3 million children in the UK are living with a parent with alcohol problems.

They are also twice as likely to experience difficulties at school, or to develop their own dependency on alcohol.

Nacoa has published a number of resources to help people recognise the signs of a child struggling with alcohol-dependent parents.

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Wanting time alone with adults in different settings including teachers, youth workers, leaders etc. because they are not getting this attention from a parent
  • Failing to get excited about events because promises are so often broken at home
  • Being fearful of other people having contact with their parents, in case others find out about their drinking
  • Poor academic performance and/or being inexplicably absent from school
  • Talking back to adults or becoming angry/aggressive with other children
  • Appearing to have heightened knowledge of substance misuse e.g. acting differently when the subject of drugs or alcohol is raised

However, Nacoa also points out that even though these signs can be indicative of a child affected by parental alcoholism, one or more of these features may be present in unaffected children on occasion.

Alcohol testing for solicitors and social workers

As a leading provider of alcohol testing services for family law professionals and social workers, AlphaBiolabs is all too familiar with the impact that alcohol dependency has on children and their families.

We are one of the UK’s leading providers of alcohol testing services for local authorities and organisations involved in family law and child welfare, and our Giving Back campaign has raised almost £60,000 for charities working with some of the most vulnerable children and families, including Nacoa.

Our laboratory is UKAS-accredited to the quality technical standard ISO 17025 and can test a variety of samples for the presence of alcohol and its metabolites, including hair, nails, and blood.

We also provide point-of-care breath tests, and alcohol monitoring using SCRAM CAM®.  

To discuss your alcohol testing requirements, contact our Legal team on 0333 600 1300 or email

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