4 Ways Addiction Affects The Family
By: Lakeview Health
Published: April 27, 2021

Addiction is a disease that can cause permanent damage to a person’s mental, emotional and physical health. This is a hard toll to pay for a person with an addiction, but there is more to it than that. Substance abuse hurts the friends, family, and loved ones of the person with the addiction. Substance abuse is a symptom of the disease of addiction, not unlike the flu, diabetes, or hepatitis. It has lasting effects on the people that someone who is drinking or using drugs lives with, works with, and cares most about in life. Addiction is a very different kind of disease that does lasting harm to families and communities, not the least of which is that it perpetuates this cycle over and over. Substance abuse hurts families and intervention is required to stop the cycle of addiction from continuing into another generation.

4 Harmful Ways Alcohol and Drug Addiction Affects Family

#1. Social isolation and unhealthy relationships

Addictive drinking and drug use have a negative impact on every aspect of a person’s life. One of the ways addiction harms family is the social aspect of the disease. It can change the way a family interacts with the world around them. One of the first things that you will notice is that your family will slowly withdraw from day-to-day activities. If you have children, they may not want to invite their friends over to your home anymore. Your spouse may not want to attend social events together. Even neighbors may start to avoid you. And the reason? They are uncomfortable around you when you are drunk or high. 

Isolation is not the only social impact of addiction. Substance abuse changes the type of people with whom a family will associate. The person using will slowly isolate themselves as well. Soon, the only people that will want to be around them, besides family sticking with them through love and loyalty, are people who are also struggling with addiction. These will be people with serious substance abuse problems. They might even give the family member comfort, an excuse so they can justify their behavior and that they are not using as much as their friend is. One other consequence that comes from substance abuse is that it increases the chances that children and other family members will be in trouble with the law. Children often get in trouble with the law, school, and act out in other ways that can have lasting effects on their future.  This is often a means of screaming for help or trying to get attention from the person who is using. They just want to feel like they matter to someone.

#2. Domestic violence

Many factors compound the pain of substance abuse. One of the worst ways that addiction harms a family is through domestic violence and other forms of relationship abuse. In families with drinking or drug use, there is a higher amount of physical abuse among all family members.1 It does follow a sort of logic, substances lower inhibitions and distort thinking. Alcohol and drugs make a person more impulsive and lower their ability to tolerate stress. When that happens, battery and other forms of domestic violence could occur. Drugs and alcohol change the way a person thinks and acts, and unfortunately, abuse can come from this. 

#3. Psychological and emotional damage

One of the longest-lasting ways that drinking and drug use harm a family is through the psychological harm done. People in families with addiction have to do many things to keep going and keep the family in balance. This leads them to make decisions based on protecting the individual struggling with addition and not making trouble with them. The family learns they need to leave dad alone while he is in the basement smoking or drinking, so the family routine revolves around protecting dad while he is using. These maladaptive patterns of behavior carry on throughout their lives. They may have learned how to act in a family with an addict, and struggle without that dynamic. What is often seen is that the family members keep repeating these relationships until they find someone with an addiction. Then their ways of interacting suddenly work. They feel more comfortable, even though the dynamic is not healthy. It’s what they learned growing up, and they will recreate it at all costs. This is not the only harm done to a family by addiction. The harm comes in other ways that are equally invisible. For instance, people in a family with addiction will be more likely to experience depression and other mood disorders.2 The connection may seem obvious to those on the outside, a person using drugs or alcohol changes drastically, and this hurts people, their emotions, and their ability to cope with stress. Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are closely related to family members when a person abuses substances.

#4. Spreading substance abuse

Family members and children of people with drug or alcohol problems are much more likely to develop an addiction themselves. If this occurs,  those affected will continue the cycle and keep repeating the same damage done to family members until an intervention happens. There is also evidence to suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to substance abuse.3 It is also believed that addiction can be learned to some extent. Seeing a parent cope with stress by drinking teaches a child that is the way that adults cope. When they grow up, they start drinking when they are under pressure, without even really thinking about it or even knowing why. This does not mean that this person is cursed or fated to have an addiction though. There are many ways to abstain. Education on the risks of substance abuse is one of them. Watching a family member go through the pain of addiction can be a tremendous learning experience. 

Going to an inpatient treatment facility is one of the best ways to heal and help your family as well. The opportunity to live a sober and happy life is available today, no more harm has to come to your family. Addiction is a disease as contagious as any cold, flu, or infection. It can travel from family member to family member, from generation to generation. It can hurt every aspect of family life, causing family members to ruin their own social lives and relationships as a result of another person’s addictions. Substance abuse can damage the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being of everyone around it, even people who are not using drugs or alcohol. Worst of all, it can carry on among family and children who keep this cycle of addiction going. Call Lakeview Health today 866.704.7692 and we can help you our your loved one begin their path to recovery.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725219/#R25
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2715956/