Substance abuse is a problem that affects millions of Americans throughout the country and around the world, but these individuals are not the only ones suffering from the effects of substance abuse. Family members are also heavily impacted by the addiction of a loved one.
Substance abuse undoubtedly influences families of all structures, but there are treatments and family therapy to help recover and move forward with healthy relationships. The mental, physical, and economic burdens of addiction can have ripple effects throughout an individual’s family. Let’s take a look at how substance abuse affects the family in five different ways.
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1. Damaging to Family Relationships
The symptoms of substance abuse and addiction can have severe effects on an individual’s relationships. If a person is dealing with substance abuse, they may be manipulative, deceitful, abusive, and exhibit other unhealthy traits. Individuals with addiction are dealing with a complex chronic disorder that isn’t necessarily cured once they progress through treatment. Recovering addicts need a strong support system and individuals who relapse cause their family more pain and frustration, but relapse can be a part of the disorder.
All stages of an addiction, including relapse, can have an impact on family relationships, but the effects may vary depending on the family structure. If an individual is dealing with substance abuse, their parents will most likely give them more attention in an attempt to help or even hide the substance abuse. In these cases, siblings can become victims of feelings of neglect, loneliness, resentment, and anger. Siblings of substance abusers are sometimes referred to as “invisible victims” due to the challenges they face, often silently.
The damage done to family relationships through substance abuse certainly does not exclude parental relationships. As expected, parental relationships undergo extreme stress, tension, and potentially abuse with a child being affected by substance abuse. Parents may feel a multitude of emotions and thoughts toward their child dealing with an addiction. This can cause enabling their loved one’s actions in some cases, but remaining open and supportive is an incredibly high priority.
Addiction is a chronic disease and if a parent is embarrassed, negative, and unsupportive then relapse is all the more probable. So, although parents are heavily affected, sometimes even manipulated, they can also have an incredibly positive effect in return. Intrepid Detox has more information about how to get help for a loved one suffering from addiction and other resources.
2. Abuse Within the Family
Unfortunately, abuse within families of individuals suffering from addiction is not uncommon. Like previously mentioned, addicts may become manipulative, deceitful, and abusive in order to facilitate their addiction. This can result in an entire family living in a confrontational environment and eventually lead to violence. Abuse within a family is obviously damaging to relationships but depending on the family structure there can be different long-lasting effects for family members. A child of an addict may try to enable, or shift blame from their parent, which could cause them to act out. Additionally, a child may develop social issues that follow them into adulthood.
Abuse does not only come from the individual dealing with addiction because sometimes the addict can be the victim of abuse. The effects of substance abuse on family can be stressful and painful. Oftentimes family members become frustrated and may physically or emotionally abuse the individual who needs help. Being supportive while also feeling manipulated can be incredibly frustrating, but one of the best things for a loved one suffering from substance abuse is to be there for them.
3. Effects on Children
As previously mentioned, children are heavily affected by having to witness and be around substance abuse in a family. The effects can be long-lasting and according to a study, 1 in 5 children grow up in a home where a parent abuses drugs and or alcohol. Children who have to witness a parent suffering the effects and symptoms of addiction are also more likely to develop substance abuse problems later in their lives. These same children are also more likely to be neglected, along with being physically and sexually abused. Growing up and maturing in an environment affected by substance abuse can hinder a child’s learning and development, but also foster long-term mental and emotional disorders.
A family environment being affected by substance abuse could be violent, neglectful, emotionally abusive, and exhibit more unhealthy characteristics. A child growing up in this kind of environment is likely to be exposed to aggressive behavior, so they may become troubled and even unstable. The emotional and mental toll of being raised in a dysfunctional environment can cause children to feel extreme guilt, unsafe, unworthiness, and loneliness. In extreme cases, children can be taken from their families and placed in foster care. Children are a great example of why getting treatment for substance abuse is important to more people than just the individual directly receiving care.
4. Financial Troubles
Substance abuse and addiction come with a number of serious problems and financial troubles are one of the most serious. An addict is responsible for their substance abuse, but they may hurt more than themselves trying to fund their addiction. Not only do most substance abusers lose their job at one point or another, due to issues with performance or attendance, but they typically turn to savings and other valuables to provide for their addiction. If this is the case, a family may have trouble paying for basic needs like rent, food, and utilities.
In addition to potentially losing a job, individuals dealing with an addiction usually find themselves in trouble with the law. For example, if an individual is arrested for driving under the influence and caught with drugs, they could lose their license. They could also lose their job and the associated cost will cause another series of financial problems. Sometimes an enabler in the family may even supply money or drugs to the individual suffering from addiction, which will only increase the financial problems and prolong the addiction symptoms.
5. High Stress
Family members living or dealing with a loved one who suffers from addiction know how it can be incredibly stressful. A spouse may try to protect and hide the addiction from their children, family, and friends, which could enable the substance abuser. This level of responsibility and stress, while also assuming parenting duties can strain relationships and lead to abuse, neglect, and an unhealthy family environment. The added responsibility of caretaking can also induce a lot of stress, as individuals suffering from addiction are usually taken care of by family or another loved one.
Bills, major decisions, personal hygiene, daily chores, parenting, and more are all things that an individual dealing with substance abuse likely pushes onto their partner. The effects of substance abuse on family members can be stressful and demanding. Parents, siblings, children, and a partner will all be more prone to elevated stress. High levels of stress can result in symptoms such as:
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain and more
How Substance Abuse Affects the Family
Different family structures react to substance abuse differently, but all families are affected. There can be common emotions running throughout the family such as blame, loneliness, fear, and plenty more. Despite all these emotions, actions, and hardships, families still need to communicate and remain open and sympathetic with each other. When considering how substance abuse affects the family, it can be important for the entire family to undergo therapy. This will help them all work through their problems and learn to build trust again. These are some common side effects of substance abuse that can directly influence a family:
- Financial troubles
- Exposure to drugs
- Poor school performance
- Reckless or irrational behavior inside the home
- Stealing money from a parent(s) and or sibling(s) to support an addiction
- Running away from the home
The relationship between family and drug addiction can be deep and the chronic disease never truly goes away. Due to the hardships that come with treating and recovering from substance abuse, individuals need a strong support group. This is vital to helping them avoid relapse and returning to their addiction later. An individual is still responsible for their own actions, whether the substance abuser is a parent or their child. However, it’s never too late to get help and move forward with a fulfilling and healthy life.
Intrepid Detox Can Help You and Your Family
Substance abuse and addiction are problems that affect more than just the user. Family, friends, and other loved ones will all be affected in one way or another. These effects are symptoms of treatable and fixable issues. Addiction can ruin an individual’s life, but through substance abuse treatment and family therapy, recovery is possible.
Social and economic troubles as a result of addiction should never be taken lightly, but mental and physical problems are just as dangerous. As this list shows, the effects of substance abuse on family members can be intense. Don’t wait. Contact Intrepid Detox for more information on how to find recovery for yourself or a loved one today.