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RECO Intensive
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How Drug Abuse Affects Families

Understanding How Drug Addiction Affects Family Members

Substance use disorders, which may also be known colloquially as drug addiction, are a serious form of mental illness characterized by an inability to control one’s drug abuse despite serious negative consequences. Unfortunately, many of these negative consequences can affect the entire family of someone who abuses drugs as opposed to only the person with substance abuse problems.

The ways addiction affects the family will be substantially different depending on the type of family members affected. For instance, the child of an addicted parent will be influenced much differently than the extended family members, or parents struggling with a child’s substance abuse.

However, the impact of substance abuse on children living with a parent that addiction affects is so detrimental that some experts refer to them as the “invisible victims” of substance use disorder. Obviously, a parent who is abusing drugs is in no condition to provide proper care to a child, which can have a significant impact on that child’s development.

Along with being too preoccupied with the effects of drug addiction to offer adequate parental guidance and emotional support to their child, substance-abusing parents tend to be more likely to engage in child abuse. Both physical abuse and emotional abuse may be involved, and it may be necessary for other family members or even outside adults like school counselors to contact child protective services to ensure the child’s safety.

It’s also worth noting that addiction affects children living in single-parent households or with two parents battling addiction more severely than children who have one healthy parent to act as a buffer for the one with a substance abuse problem.

Still, all victims of parental substance abuse are at an increased risk of emotional disorders, with abused children at risk for conditions as severe as post-traumatic stress disorder. Children of addicted family members may also be more likely to fall victim to drug dependence themselves once they become young adults because of the negative example set by their parents’ harmful behaviors.

One way of assessing the way substance abuse affects children of those with drug addiction often used in family therapy is called family systems theory, which suggests five common outcomes for the children of those who abuse substances. If they are older, they may become an “enabler,” and may help the parent to function in day-to-day life despite the effects of drug addiction.

They may also become a “hero,” who becomes an overachiever to compensate for their own feelings or guilt and inadequacy and for their parent’s substance abuse. Or, they may become a misbehaving “scapegoat,” a withdrawn “lost child,” or a “mascot,” who uses humor to distract from the problems caused by a family member’s substance use.

Parents of a child whom substance abuse affects also may be among the family members most affected by a family addiction. Often, parents blame themselves for the drug use of one of their children, and may find themselves unable to set healthy boundaries with their child, which, in the extreme, could lead to counterproductive enabling.

Parents may also end up enmeshed in any legal problems resulting from a family member’s drug addiction, or may bear many of the financial costs of seeking treatment. Because substance use disorder is a chronic disease that may not be easily eliminated after one or even multiple rounds of addiction treatment, these financial effects of drug addiction may be significant ones.

How Addiction Treatment And Family Therapy Can Help

The first priority of families affected by a loved one’s addiction needs to be getting the affected family member into the appropriate addiction treatment. Because illicit drug or alcohol abuse can cause irreversible damage to a person’s physical health and even threaten a person’s life, time is of the essence in the decision to seek treatment for a family member.

Generally, individual or group therapy will make up most of your family members’ substance abuse treatment. But many American addiction centers also offer family therapy, which can help address the effects of drug addiction on the whole family rather than only the member that addiction affects directly. The goal of family counseling is to restore a healthy family dynamic, or to establish one if the family dysfunction predated one family members’ addictive behaviors.

This may involve an identification of dysfunctional family roles family members may have fallen into, such as the role of the lost child or of the enabler. Family counseling can help family members to recognize these roles and to establish healthier patterns of relating to one another, which can be incredibly important since family involvement in one family members’ recovery is actually one of the strongest predictors of that recovery’s success.

A family member of someone whom addiction affects may also benefit from seeking out their own individual therapy, in which they can work through their own issues relating to the person’s substance use without involving the entire family. Some family members of people with addiction also choose to seek support in specialized support groups focused on how drug use affects the family, where they can convene with others who have had similar experiences and share coping strategies.

Learn More About Substance Abuse Treatment At Reco Intensive

Located in scenic Delray Beach and recognized as one of the best American addiction centers, Reco Intensive is a comprehensive addiction treatment program dedicated to providing the best treatment possible for individuals and families affected by the disease of addiction.

Along with providing a variety of individual therapy programming, our treatment facilities address how addiction affects the family by incorporating family therapy into our treatment program. To learn more about how Reco Intensive can help your family today, feel free to call us anytime at 844.955.3042 or to contact us online anytime here. There’s no time like the present to get back on the road to a brighter future.

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