Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elizabeth Drew, MD
Last Updated: April 17, 2021

The effects of someone’s struggle with drug addiction stretch out far beyond them. Their immediate family also feels the impact when their loved one has a drug or alcohol problem. Whether it’s a child, parent, or spouse, addiction alters the lives of anyone who loves the person.

Addiction affects the entire family in many ways. Relationships, finances, safety, and more are all at risk. The specific effects depend on which person in the family unit has the problem.

Children with a parent who has an addiction problem grow up with less support and guidance. Parents with children who abuse substances have a different set of problems. Children growing up with a sibling who has a problem have their own difficulties. Spouses of an addict also experience a unique impact.

What are some of the many ways addiction affects the entire family?

The Effects of Addiction on a Family

The Effects of Addiction on a Family

There are countless effects of drug addiction on the family. Strained relationships, financial difficulties, and increased risk of abuse are only the start. Since each family has a different dynamic, not all families feel the same effects to the same extent. Regardless, it’s impossible to deny that addiction affects the entire family.

Relationships

Addiction strains relationships no matter which person in the family has the problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parent, child, spouse, or sibling. Every member of the struggles alongside the addict to an extent. Living with someone in active addiction is a daily challenge for everyone in the home.

Family members also respond in different ways. Some step back from the family unit to avoid engaging with the addict. They don’t want to involve themselves with the chaos that comes with addiction. Some take on the opposite role and try to influence or control the addict into stopping or getting help. Others ride the middle line and try their best to blend in.

How Addiction Affects Children

An estimated 1 in 8 children lives with a parent who had an active substance use disorder in the past year. The effects of addiction a child depend on a few things:

  • Whether they come from a single-parent or two-parent household
  • Whether one or both parents struggle with addiction

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

Children live with an addicted parent grow up in an unpredictable environment. Their home is often filled with secrecy and role reversal. They receive inconsistent physical and emotional support. There is a much higher possibility of abuse or violence against these children. Children in these environments experience affected social development, self-confidence, health, and more.

How Addiction Affects Parents

Parents who have a child with an addiction problem have a unique set of difficulties. They may feel responsible for the path their child chose and wonder where they went wrong. They’re constantly plagued by worry about their safety and wellbeing.

It’s painful to be a parent and feel powerless as you watch your child suffer. Many try supporting their children financially hoping they will turn their life around. Some parents take on an overbearing and enabling role. This creates an inappropriately dependent relationship as their child grows up.

How Addiction Affects Siblings

Siblings of addicts are sometimes referred to as the “invisible victims.” Parents are so consumed by the sibling with the addiction problem. Oftentimes the other children end up taking the sidelines. Siblings feel a variety of emotions like confusion, frustration, shame, resentment, and more.

Some siblings take the path of refusing to follow the path their brother or sister took. Others turn to drugs or alcohol as well. They use them either as a way to escape the pain or to draw some of their parents’ attention back to them.

Help is Available for the Families of Addicts

Financial Hardship

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

Families tend to take on financial responsibility for an addicted family member. Parents allow children to live with them while trying to get “back on their feet.” They pay for lawyers or post bail if legal troubles start. They’re all too familiar with the balance of how to help an addict without enabling them.

Increased Risk of Abuse

As addiction progresses, people become unpredictable and difficult to deal with. They are erratic, frustrated, and angry, lashing out at those closest to them. Drugs and alcohol affect an individual’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 an addict. Whether it’s emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, the risk increases.

More Addiction in the Family

Another impact of 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.

Oftentimes substance abuse “runs” in families. 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.

Help is Available for the Families of Addicts

Having a family member with an addiction problem is painful, confusing, and overwhelming. The situation is not hopeless, though. Treatment facilities can help people with substance abuse problems and the families who love them.

If you want to know how to get someone into rehab, we can help you. Peace Valley Recovery provides well-rounded, comprehensive addiction treatment programs. If your loved one wants to stop using drugs and alcohol, we can help.

We know the pain of caring for someone who can’t stay clean and sober and we are here for you. Call us at (215) 780-1953 today to speak with an admissions counselor who can answer any questions. You don’t have to walk this path alone!

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