Addiction and the Family: Supporting Loved Ones in Recovery

Addiction and the Family Supporting Loved Ones in Recovery-1

Table of Contents

Addiction not only affects one person, it takes a toll on their loved ones. Family members experience various emotions as they watch someone they love struggle daily. Often, individuals with addiction are blind to the suffering they are causing.


Substance addiction affects everyone, whether it is the parent, siblings, spouse, or children. Conflicts and tensions become standard in an addict’s household. Without proper medication and treatment, addiction can destroy your home, work, and family life.



Before understanding how families can help their loved ones recover, the cause should be understood first. Addiction is like a strong desire or necessity for a person to continually use substances, for example, drugs or alcohol, despite the personal difficulties it’s causing. They get elevated dopamine and feel good while getting their brain caught in a loop, where they are unable to stop thinking about the substances and cannot stop craving.


That can create many problems between them and their friends and loved ones, affecting their work and studies. This condition alters how the brain works, making it hard for a person to stop using it without help. Viewing addiction as a disease helps us to see it as something that requires careful and considerate intervention in exactly the same way we approach other health conditions. Hence, it needs professional interventions, like therapy, medication, and friends and family support. And even then, the path is usually long and difficult.


Addiction and Family Relationships

It does not matter which family member has an addiction struggle—a parent, a child, a spouse, brother, or sister, everybody is affected by it. Sharing life with a drug addict means you must cope with problems on a day-to-day basis. Drug addiction has a huge impact on family life. It may result in difficulties in relationships and financial problems and also increase the rate of abuse within the family.


Every family member reacts to it in a different way. Some may decide to stay away from the person who is addicted to drugs in order to avoid the mess, while others may try to either control or influence them to get help. Some will seek to find a balance between helping the person with a substance use disorder and trying to keep the family as normal as possible.


How Drug Addiction Affects Children

Children living with a single parent or a family, if they are going through substance abuse, are vulnerable and don’t have anyone for physical and emotional support. Children growing up in such environments receive inconsistent support from adults. There is a higher possibility that they are prone to physical abuse and will grow up with a lack of social development, self-confidence, and health issues.


Relationship between Drug Addicts and Parents

Primary caregivers who have children dealing with substance abuse are constantly concerned about it and feel responsible for the situation. Being a parent and watching their own kids suffer is painful. It creates an inappropriately dependent relationship and tries to provide financial aid, hoping that they will change their habits.


Relationship Between Addicts and Siblings

Siblings are the invisible victims in this family dynamics, and they feel confused, angry, and frustrated. Because one child is a victim of substance abuse, the parents tend to neglect the other child. Due to this, they either distance themselves by not following the pathway or indulge in substance abuse to escape reality and/ or to seek the attention of their parents.

Addiction and the Family Supporting Loved Ones in Recovery
Effects of Drug Addiction on a Family

Not all families experience the same effect, but often they have similar experiences. Just like how people go through severe substance use disorder, it has an impact on the family. This can be in the form of financial struggles, neglect, marriage problems, or even physical abuse; the consequences of addiction in families are witnessed far and wide. Nobody is immune. From small children, who are vulnerable, to busy partners, everyone is likely to have one or more of their basic needs left unmet.


Neglect and Attachment disorders

If parents are drug addicts, their children will be in fear and confusion about how to act. They may internalize their parents’ problems and feel that they are the only ones who can resolve them. This can mean that social skills and self-esteem will be poorly developed in the future.


In this case, children may also be left taking care of themselves because the parents are too consumed by drugs or alcohol. Due to this environmental factor, they might skip meals or baths, not go to school or play with their friends, and cannot have a normal and happy childhood.


Physical and Emotional Abuse

A person who abuses drugs shows unpredictable behavior, often creating conflicts with family members. They devote themselves to alcohol or drugs, which causes emotional abuse or manipulation. Drugs and alcohol use mess with the brain, which results in the risk of verbal and physical aggression towards spouses or loved ones.


The constant exposure to stressful occasions that include things like problematic communication and discussions creates a permanent “flight or fight” state that, in turn, damages both physical and psychological well-being.


Financial Difficulties

The financial consequences of drug use and addiction may involve debt, late mortgage payments, and theft from close ones. This financial burden adversely affects the family’s capacity to pay for necessities like food and clothing. When supporting substance abuse by providing financial support will lead to financial strain.


Increase Risk of Abuse

People who are addicted become unpredictable and angry and may lose control when they are under the influence and are violent with their children or spouses. Addiction influences the whole family, and they are effective in domestic violence, abuse, and sexual violence.


Influence on Other Members

Children who grew up with a family member with substance abuse tend to follow in their footsteps or escape the chaos in the house. Due to this, the cycle of addiction continues, affecting more people.


Family Support during Recovery from Drug Misuse and Addiction

Addicts must seek help from a healthcare provider or an addiction specialist. An appropriate addiction treatment plan that will help in managing the withdrawal symptoms, therapy, and support from your friends and family are among the treatments available for drug addiction. Specialists in addiction medicine and drug counselors may help patients quit the substances by providing treatment programs, including medication-assisted therapies and behavioral therapy.


Family-based preventive programs and individual treatments are crucial. Including families in the healing process increases treatment’s overall efficacy and provides the best opportunity for success for those battling drug addiction.


Individual Therapy

Individual therapy happens to be the first step for someone in the family of an addict who is seeking help. The case is simple if none of the other family members want to avail of the therapy. Individual counseling, which is usually short-term, tries to help you understand your issues, define your goals, and achieve them.


This therapy helps you understand which roles you adopted to cope and how to avoid those ways of operating in the world that harm you.


Family Counseling

Family therapy is a good option when several family members are seeking help. By having them together, clinicians can learn how their relationships with each other play out.


Family counseling can be helpful, even when the addict does not wish to cooperate. Your family can heal without the involvement of the loved one using substances. Concentrating on your healing and bringing the focus back on yourself inward makes you and your loved ones understand that you still have control over many things in your life.


A person who is addicted to a substance may have a lot of mood changes in a short period. The person may have difficulty dealing with stress.

Addiction can lead to violent outbursts and destructive behavior because drugs and alcohol impair the brain's ability to reason and inhibit impulses. An addict can be overwhelmed with strong cravings or be irritated if they don’t get their high.

Behavioral addiction refers to specific actions such as gambling or overusing technology, such as internet and phone addiction.

Contributing Editor

Troy Wakelin – Co-Founder and Contributing Editor

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