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) Week, the annual campaign to raise awareness of how children are affected by parental alcohol problems.

The international campaign, which is in its 14th year, was founded 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. 

This COA Awareness Week, Silent Voices, an initiative of Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), will be campaigning around the issue on social media.

The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘the family secret’, highlighting the ‘rules’ that develop in families affected by parental drinking, and people are being encouraged to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #COAWeek2023.

Spotting the signs

According to figures published by AAI in conjunction with the Silent Voices initiative, 1 in 6 young people in Ireland live with the impact of alcohol-related harms at home.

That equates to around 200,000 children, with a further 400,000 people (adults) in Ireland thought to have been affected by parental drinking during childhood.

Furthermore, a 2014 report produced by AAI for the Health Service Executive (HSE), titled Alcohol’s Harm to Others in Ireland, found that children experience a range of harms in relation to adults’ drinking including verbal and physical abuse, and being left in unsafe situations.

Nacoa, which founded COA Awareness Week, has published a variety of resources to help people recognise the signs of children affected by a parent’s drinking. 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 Ireland’s leading providers of alcohol testing services for local authorities and organisations involved in family law and child welfare.

Our laboratory is 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 01 402 9466 or email

Legal Alcohol Testing

Explore our alcohol testing services for family law professionals, social workers, and local authorities.