More than 100 youngsters a week call ChildLine to talk about their parents' drinking or drug-taking. Terrified kids as young as five are pouring out their hearts on the NSPCC's free 24-hour helpline, the charity revealed yesterday.
Many tell of horrendous cruelty, abuse and neglect - but above all they are desperate to keep their families together.
One tormented 10-year-old revealed: "I feel scared and lonely. I look after mum when she drinks and put her to bed. She shouts and hits me.
"I don't want to feel pain. I want to die."
The NSPCC said children of mothers and fathers who drink or take drugs often end up caring for their siblings - and even the parents.
They are also three times more likely to suffer beatings or sexual abuse.
Sue Minto, head of Child-Line said: "This is a ticking timebomb in many children's lives. We need to find ways to help them sooner."