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Alcohol or Drug Addiction Affects The Entire Family

Familial Relationships and Addiction. How Addiction Affects Children. Parents Affected By Addiction. How Addiction Affects Siblings. Family Therapy For Addiction.

Familial Relationships and Addiction

You may have heard that addiction is a family disease. What this means, in its most basic sense, is that while the family member receives much of the attention for their condition, their family also plays a significant role in the development and continuation of the addiction. Long-term addiction recovery is, therefore, more achievable when family members are actively involved in the process. Family support is crucial for addiction recovery. Family programs and support for addiction and mental health are most often used to help treat the person’s addiction problem that is affecting the entire family.

No family is ever ready to deal with a loved one’s addiction. When a family is confused, troubled, and desperate, they may inadvertently hinder the addict’s rehab and even unintentionally support that family member’s addiction. As part of this process, family members will often assume different roles. Definitely, a central role is that of the person struggling with addiction. Substance use disorder severely impairs their capacity for reasoning. Cravings for their drug of choice cause the person to lie, steal and do things they would never do when sober.

Unfortunately, family members tend to excuse this behavior because they genuinely love the person and do not want to see their loved one on the street or in jail. Once the person with addiction recognizes certain family members as enablers of their condition, they will take advantage of this enabler as long as their addiction continues.

Alcohol or Drug Addiction Affects The Entire Family
Addiction is not a solitary disease. Alcohol or drug addiction affects the entire family.
Ryan Zofay forming a circle and hugging friends.

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Statistics on the Prevalence of Substance Use, Abuse, and Addiction on the Entire Family

Addiction affects the entire family in many ways. Relationships, safety, finances, and more are all at risk. The exact effects depend on which person in the family unit has the problem. Research studies show that substance use disorders and mental health conditions, also known as dual diagnosis, evolve from the complex interaction of family dynamics, environmental factors, and genetics.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) [1] estimates that 25 percent of children grow up in a home where substance abuse is present. Studies from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) [2] have found a connection between youth who use alcohol and those who use illicit drugs. Of the youth who reported heavy drinking (defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days in the past 30 days), 69.9 percent also reported they had used an illicit drug.

In comparison, illicit drug use for those who were not current alcohol users (used alcohol within the past month) was reported at 5.2 percent. Other studies have shown that this often predicts whether a child eventually starts using drugs as a teenager and becomes an adult addict.

Alcohol Or Drug Addiction Affects The Entire FamilyHow Addiction Affects Children

Children living with a single parent who abuses alcohol or drugs don’t have anyone else to turn to. It’s the same for children living in a two-parent household with both parents struggling with alcohol or drugs. When only one parent has a problem, though, there’s another parent to step in. They still feel the effects of alcohol or drug addiction, but still, have some support.

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alcohol or drug addiction affects the entire family
Addiction strains relationships, no matter which person in the family has the problem. Alcohol or drug addiction affects the entire family.

Children who live with an addicted parent grow up in an unpredictable environment. Their home is often filled with secrecy and role reversal. They receive inconsistent emotional and physical support. There is a much higher possibility of violence and abuse against these children. Children in these environments experience affected self-confidence, social development, health, and more. No matter what the situation, the effects of addiction on children are vast. It is crucial that those in that situation get the help they need.

Children with alcoholic parents are four times as likely to engage in excessive drinking at some point in their life. This can be attributed to genetic factors related to addiction or the normalization of unhealthy drinking habits in their family. As a result, they can experience depression, loneliness, anxiety, anger issues, guilt, and an inability to trust. Exploring typical environments and associated trauma can help adult children of addiction heal the wounds caused by their parent’s alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol Or Drug Addiction Affects The Entire FamilyParents Affected By Addiction

Parents of adult children struggling with a substance use disorder may feel quite powerless at times to help their child due to limitations on their ability to step in and get their child help. Adult children with an alcohol or drug problem legally have the autonomy to seek help for their condition, or to not seek help, provided they don’t pose an imminent threat to their own safety or that of others.

Parents affected by addiction can encourage their adult child to seek treatment, they can offer support, or refuse to enable alcohol or drug use, but their options for getting an adult child into addiction treatment are limited. Enablers may be fathers, mothers, siblings, grandparents, and other family members who may be well-intentioned but ultimately help their loved ones continue in their addiction. Enablers are people who give their loved ones money to buy drugs, drive them places to get drugs, bail them out of jail, give them a roof over their head, and defend them when they steal from other family members.

When you’re a parent affected by addiction, it’s important to recognize how this can also affect your own mental and emotional health.

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For example, it’s common for parents affected by addiction to feel:

  • Scared
  • Depressed
  • Lonely
  • Lost
  • Confused
  • Angry
  • Paranoid
  • Hopeless
  • Ashamed
  • Embarrassed
  • Guilty

There is no wrong or right way to feel about a loved one’s condition. While some parents may withdraw, others may be more willing to speak up or externalize their feelings. How parents cope with their adult child’s addiction problem or respond to it, can vary from person to person based on a variety of factors, including the level of support they have from others around them.

Alcohol Or Drug Addiction Affects The Entire Family -How Addiction Affects Siblings

While relationships between parents and children are important, it is also vital to learn how addiction affects sibling relationships. Understanding that you are not alone in your experience can help to break the feeling of isolation that often comes from having a sibling struggling with drugs or alcohol abuse.

The sibling relationship is unique on its own, and when one sibling is struggling with addiction, it often brings with its violations of trust, secrets, alliances, hurt, sadness, fear, or resentments. Siblings have been hurt, ignored, manipulated, or used by their addicted siblings. They have been stolen from by their addicted sibling or kept secret about their addiction or even been a go-between for their parents. Whatever the case, no relationship is left unaffected, especially not the sibling relationship.

Blaming yourself for aspects of their struggle with drugs or alcohol or mistakes you think you’ve made is a common issue among family members. It is important to not pass the blame on yourself or anyone else. You must realize that you did not cause their addiction, you cannot control their addiction, and most of all, you cannot “fix” or cure their addiction. The best you can do is offer loving support with firm boundaries and encourage them to seek help.

alcohol or drug addiction affects the entire family
Having a sibling in active addiction can feel like a loss. Learn how alcohol or drug addiction affects the entire family and find support and treatment.

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A Spouse or Partner of Addict May Become Codependent 

Codependency happens when another person, perhaps the addict’s spouse or partner, is controlled by the addict’s addictive behavior. Codependents become codependent because they have learned to believe that acceptance, security, approval, and love are necessary for taking care of the person struggling with addiction in the way the person wishes. In their decision-making process, they allow the addict to define reality. Unfortunately, this excessive caregiving behavior tends to foster even more dependency on the part of the addict.

Enabling behavior happens when another individual, often a codependent, encourages or helps the person with addiction problems to continue using alcohol or drugs, either indirectly or directly. Examples of people involved in enabling behavior are a spouse or partner hiding the addict’s disease from their adult children or other family members by lying about the addict and a so-called “friend” giving the addict money to buy alcohol or drugs.

Enabling also happens because loved ones generously provide money to the person in the naive hope that no lies are being told and in the hope that it will help them recover. It is sad how spouses and partners blind themselves to the facts about what is really happening.

By providing money to the addict, the person is unable to learn where the addiction can take him/her. The addict has not had to face life on the streets or the loss of family. It is not only that spouse cannot withdraw their love for the addict but fear the loss of the addict’s love for them. Therefore, they nurture and protect the addict as well as the person’s drug addiction. This is codependence.

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The Effects of Addiction on a Family 

Just like addiction causes damaging effects on the individual using substances, it leads to another set of damaging effects on the entire family. The exact outcomes depend on things like which family member struggles with substance abuse, the age of the children, or whether children live with their parents. Not all families experience the same damaging effects, but oftentimes they are at least somewhat the same.

Financial Hardship

It isn’t cheap to support active alcohol or drug habit. Many people with alcohol or drug addiction problems funnel all their money toward getting the substances they need. They may have a hard time keeping a job, so they ask for money, shelter, food, or other forms of support. Some might seek help paying for a treatment facility or other program.

Families often tend to take on financial responsibility for an addicted family member. Parents allow their adult children to live with them while trying to get “back on their feet.” They post bail or pay for lawyers if legal troubles occur. 

Increased Risk of Abuse

As addiction develops, people become difficult to deal with and unpredictable. They are frustrated, erratic, and angry, lashing out at those closest to them. Alcohol and drugs affect a person’s inhibitions. People are more likely to act out while under the influence.

One of the most serious ways addiction affects the entire family is the higher risk of abuse. There is a higher likelihood that family members may experience violence at the hands of the person struggling with addiction. Whether it’s physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, the risk increases.

More Addiction in the Family

Another impact of alcohol or drug addiction on the family unit is the chance that another family member will also turn to substances. Children who grow up with a family member that abuses drugs are more likely to turn to substances. They follow the example set for them. Siblings might use substances as a way to escape the chaos in their house. The chances of having more than one person in a family with a problem are high. This creates another pattern of addiction and the cycle starts all over again.

Broken Families

The effects of addiction tear families apart. A person who struggles with addiction usually pushes their family members to their limits. Some people can only take so much before they decide to cut their loved one from their life, so long as they’re in active addiction. This leads to severed ties and broken families.

Some parents also use to the point that their spouse or the state declare them incapable of caring for their children. Children who lose a parent or parents to drugs are left with feelings of abandonment and betrayal that may cause them to write their parents off for months, years, or even decades.

alcohol or drug addiction affects the entire family
Family therapy for addiction is employed in substance abuse treatment settings, and it is effective for adults.

Family Therapy for Addiction

Treatment programs aimed at those who have drug and alcohol addiction problems can have better results if the abuser’s close associates or family are also involved in the process. Family therapy for addiction is a set of therapeutic methods that attempt to use their strengths and resources to help them live without drugs or alcohol. It also seeks to reduce the harm of addiction to both the substance abuser and their family.

Family therapy for addiction interventions may include:

  • Discussing family roles
  • Identifying steps to improve communication and rebuild trust
  • Learning what is harmful and what helps
  • Identifying steps to interact that respect the needs of everyone involved

Most family counselors and therapists have adopted the view of substance abuse as a symptom of dysfunction. Family therapy for addiction is based on the view that a family is a different system, and each member affects how it functions.

The entire family system suffers when one member(in this case, a person receiving substance abuse treatment) is functioning at an impaired level. In addition, those who are not addicted to substances may discover that their behavior is dysfunctional because of the efforts needed to support a flawed system.

Benefits Of Family Therapy For Addiction

Some benefits gained by people in treatment and their families are:

Sharing Of Feelings: During active addiction, bridges can be burned. Family members may be angry but unable to express it, and they may fear relapse or be excited at the possibility of reconciliation. It takes time to learn how to recognize, balance, and express these feelings.

Improving Communication: In a system where there may have been no communication or limited emotional involvement, improved communication is essential and will require an investment by those interested in the most successful recovery outcomes.

Becoming Aware Of Family Dynamics: Maladaptive family patterns will contribute to continued substance use. Everyone in the system should be treated to obtain the most positive outcome.

Learning Self-Care: In treatment, the focus is on the person with the addiction. During family therapy for addiction, a parent or spouse may learn that they need help, too. They may be directed to try Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or other mutual help groups in addition to finding an individual therapist.

Regaining Trust: Dishonesty and substance abuse sometimes go hand in hand. Family members may not want to open their hearts (or their wallets) to help a loved one who has betrayed their trust. Improved communication, honest interaction, and witnessing positive changes can help mend this breach.

Setting Boundaries: This applies to everyone involved. Clarifying boundaries is not easy. But it is a necessary step toward healthy recovery for the family. This may include detaching from any family member who is in active addiction.

Alcohol or Drug Addiction Affects The Entire Family
The goal of family therapy for addiction is to bring clarity to all relationships and to foster repair and closeness if family members choose.

Help Your Loved One – Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Addiction Problems

Now that learned how alcohol or drug addiction affects the entire family. It is never too late to seek help for a loved one. To determine the most effective ways to treat alcohol or drug addiction, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment.

Medically-Assisted Detox

Medical detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient rehab treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.


Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

 Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction.

Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily. If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term drug abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up can provide information on dual diagnosis and medical detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

Alcohol or Drug Addiction Affects The Entire Family
 Family therapy for addiction recovery program will involve group sessions with your loved one and other members of the family

Experience Transformative Recovery at the We Level Up Treatment Center.

See our authentic success stories. Get inspired. Get the help you deserve.

We Level Up Treatment Centers for Drug Alcohol Rehab Detox Behavioral Mental Health Dual Diagnosis TherapyWe Level Up Treatment Centers for Drug Alcohol Rehab Detox Behavioral Mental Health Dual Diagnosis TherapyWe Level Up Treatment Centers for Drug Alcohol Rehab Detox Behavioral Mental Health Dual Diagnosis Therapy

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Begin with a free call to an addiction & behavioral health treatment advisor. Learn more about our dual-diagnosis programs. The We Level Up treatment center network delivers recovery programs that vary by each treatment facility. Call to learn more.

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[1] NIDA –
[2] SAMHSA –
[3] Group Therapy For Family Members Of Addicts To Start Healing – We Level Up NJ

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