#COAWeek2023, 12 to 18 February 2023

New research shows that a half of children of alcoholic parents are hiding ‘the family secret’

Latest analysis of call data from the children’s charity Nacoa shows that 46% of children of alcohol-dependent parents have not disclosed their problems to anyone outside the family. 25% have talked to no-one at all, not even their closest family members. They hold onto the ‘family secret’ to protect their parents, often at the expense of their childhood.

Without support, these young people are six times as likely to witness domestic violence, three times as likely to consider suicide, twice as likely to experience difficulties at school, twice as likely to be in trouble with the police and three times as likely to develop their own addiction.

The UK is in the grip of spiralling alcohol-specific deaths. The Office for National Statistics latest figures show that 2021 was yet another record year for alcohol-specific deaths, which have increased 27% since 2019.

Despite this trend, in 2021 the UK government abolished its entire strategy to support children of alcohol-dependent parents. The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed in August 2022 that no dedicated support would now be offered to children whose parents are not in treatment.  

During international COA Week (12-18 February), MPs, services, and children’s charity Nacoa UK are delivering a message to children suffering in silence that, even if your parents are keeping their addiction hidden, ‘You are not alone and you deserve support.’

Children of Alcoholics Week 2023

Children of Alcoholics Week, COA Week, is the annual calendar event to raise awareness for the 2.6 million children in the UK affected by their parent’s drinking. (See bottom of release for more statistics.)

Nacoa UK (the National Association for Children of Alcoholics) lead the week’s activities focused on furthering the wellbeing of these vulnerable children.

Campaign messages

  • The UK Government is failing the most vulnerable children of alcoholics, providing no targeted support.
  • Being a child of an alcoholic is ‘a thing’.
  • Living with parental addiction leaves lasting impacts.
  • Children of alcoholics deserve to be helped in their own right.
  • With help and support, they can go on to break the cycle of addiction.

Calls to action

  • Front line services need to be more aware of the family secret of addiction.
  • The Government should re-prioritise support for children of alcoholics.
  • We need to promote the voices of children of alcoholics in the public sphere.
  • Challenge stigma that keeps vulnerable children silenced.

Celebrity support

  • Nacoa patrons include: Tony Adams OBE, Calum Best, Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP, David Coldwell, Geraldine James OBE, Cherie Lunghi, Elle Macpherson, Vicky Pattison and Camilla Tominey.


“News of 27% increase of alcohol deaths since 2019 is devastating to hear for children’s charities like us, who witness the daily impacts of parental addiction on children. COA Week helps us to remember that alcoholism is a family problem, rarely isolated. Behind these statistics are mothers and fathers whose children will have been living with the chaos of an alcoholic household. But with greater awareness and support, we will help children to find healthy ways to cope and break the cycle of addiction.”

Hilary Henriques MBE, Chief executive of Nacoa UK

‘I felt so alone growing up with alcoholism in the family. You blame yourself and wonder what you are doing wrong. Why can’t they love you enough to stop? As an adult, I now know that there was nothing I could have done, but I wish I had known Nacoa existed and that you are never alone—there is always someone who understands. Since making my documentary, ‘Alcohol, dad, and me’, I’ve met so many amazing people through Nacoa, and am proud to be part of this work helping some of the most vulnerable children in the UK today.’

Vicky Pattison, TV star, author and podcaster

“We need systematic change to protect children and their families from alcohol harm. The government must create a new alcohol strategy to tackle alcohol harm and include specific measures to support families and protect children.”

Professor Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance

++ Ends ++



Communications lead: Piers Henriques, 0785 553 3962,

Nacoa Ambassador: Josh Connolly, 0790 517 8873, 

Nacoa Co-founder and CEO: Hilary Henriques, 07506 744 771,


0117 924 8005

Editors Notes:

  • There are an estimated 2.6 million children in the UK living with a parent who drink too much.
  • Sadly, problems often persist into adulthood. Millions of adults are still affected by their parent’s drinking
  • Children living with parental alcoholism are:
  • Six times as likely to witness domestic violence
  • Five times as likely to develop an eating problem
  • Three times as likely to consider suicide
  • Twice as likely to experience difficulties at school
  • Three times as likely to develop alcoholism or addiction
  • Twice as likely to be in trouble with the police
  • Nacoa (registered charity no. 1009143) was founded in 1990 to provide information, advice and support to everyone affected by a parent’s drinking. This is provided through a free and confidential telephone and email helpline and website. Helpline: 0800 358 3456, Email:, website:
  • Nacoa has responded to over 524,000 calls since 1990.
  • suggests ways to get involved and contains downloadable resources.

  • Calls for more funding to help children of alcoholics, as government cuts all support for the most vulnerable
  • Since 2019, there has been a 27% increase in total alcohol specific deaths.
  • Fewest under 18s on record receiving help from addiction services.
  • Number of adults drinking over 60 units in the UK has risen by two million since the pandemic.