Over 21 million Americans aged 12 years and above have had a substance abuse problem, which includes alcohol and drug addictions.
Addiction is a disease that affects not only an individual’s physiological well-being but also their psychological and emotional state. A lot has been written about the impact of addiction on an individual.
A subject which has not received as much attention, however, is effects of drug addiction on family members.
This article will discuss the impact of substance abuse on families.
Effects of Drug Addiction on Family Members
When a family is trying to cope with a loved one who is struggling with an addiction, they tend to experience intense and conflicting emotions that can take a significant toll on the strongest of relationships.
The addict’s family understands that their loved one isn’t trying to cause problems or hurt them intentionally. This empathy makes them want to provide him or her with support, love, and encouragement.
On the other hand, the manipulation, deceit, and other forms of emotional abuse that the addict throws their way daily is a cause of pain and frustration in the family.
Consequently, these negative emotions manifest themselves in unhealthy ways and may cause a strain in family ties.
The following are some of the ways in which addiction affects families.
1. Impact on Children
If a parent is battling an addiction or substance abuse problem, the effects of that disorder are more than likely going to play a role in the child’s development.
This is especially serious in single-parent households where the children have no one else to turn to.
When a parent has an addiction, they will be too busy looking for and using their substance of choice thereby distracting them from their responsibilities. As a result, they will not meet the needs of their child.
This irresponsibility ranges from not taking care of basic needs such as providing meals and keeping the child clean to secondary needs such as ensuring their child is getting an education and social life.
Moreover, there is a correlation between addiction and an increased risk of child abuse. Research has revealed that abused children have a higher chance of getting into substance use and addiction later on.
And even if the child does not get into substance use, growing up in such an environment will compromise their emotional and mental health. This will impact their self-confidence, health, and social development.
2. Loss of Trust
Addicts are not likely to follow through on their agreements or promises, and this causes further strain in their relationships.
It is worth noting, however, that most addicts usually mean to honor their commitments but the effects of the substances make them unable to.
Thus, if they are in a relationship, their significant other is going to be frustrated due to the addict’s inability to meet their obligations.
They are also likely to forget about the promises they make to their children. If this becomes a trend, the child will have a hard time forming bonds with other people since they do not know how to trust.
This loss of trust often results in broken marriages and dysfunctional children.
3. Increased Stress
In the throes of their addiction, the addict is likely going to leave all the responsibilities to their partner. The partner, therefore, becomes an enabler.
Taking care of bills, making decisions, raising the kids, and cleaning up after the addict is quickly going to take a toll on the other parent.
This exposes them to an elevated risk of contracting stress-induced conditions such as high blood pressure.
4. Financial Problems
Financing an addiction isn’t cheap.
Additionally, the substance abuse problem is likely going to cause the individual to lose their job due to poor performance or absenteeism. After that happens, they will turn to their savings to quench their addiction.
Consequently, the family will begin having problems paying for basic things such as food, clothing, utilities, and rent or mortgage.
There may also be legal problems such as driving under the influence or being caught with drugs. The associated costs create an even bigger financial problem.
In addition to making the addict irrational, their addiction is also likely to put everyone around them on edge. This means that simple disagreements can result in big fights as everyone feels misunderstood.
And with everyone acting out of character, physical abuse may start occurring on top of the pre-existing emotional abuse. Addicts can be the perpetrators of abuse, but their vulnerability also makes them at risk of becoming victims of it too.
6. Fear and Confusion
Drug abuse usually makes an individual very unpredictable. You never know how they will react to a situation. In a bid to avoid physical or emotional abuse, family members might begin walking on eggshells.
Children will become more reserved so as not to risk upsetting the individual. A culture of fear and confusion ensures that the household rarely has joy.
Dealing with Addiction in the Family
The first thing you should do upon realizing that your loved one has a substance abuse problem is to encourage them to seek treatment. Approach them while they are calm and sober and talk to them compassionately.
Explain to them – using facts – how their addiction has damaging effects not only on them but also on the rest of the family as well.
If they do not want to listen, consider staging an intervention where you get other key members of the family and a therapist involved.
It is important that the whole family gets counseling or therapy. This is beneficial towards helping everyone recover and move on from the effects of the addiction.
A therapist will create an environment where everyone can share their thoughts and feelings. They can also help you work through the present challenges while implementing strategies that will build trust.
The effects of drug addiction on family members can be dire. However, by seeking treatment for the addict and counseling for the entire family, affected families will have a better chance of rebuilding their lives and relationships.