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How Addiction Affects Families: The Impacts of Substance Abuse

When a family member suffers from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it can have an impact on the entire family. Quite often, the addict feels like their addiction problem is theirs alone. They are not able to comprehend how their addiction is affecting their family.

The stress and strain the addiction places on the family can lead to arguments, trust issues, conflict, aggression, angry, a breakdown of communications, and resentment. It is not until after they start a drug and alcohol addiction treatment program at our Delray Beach alcohol and drug rehab that they realize how addiction affects families.

How Addiction Affects Young Children

Young children rely on their parents for guidance and support. When one or both parents are suffering from addiction, they do not get the attention they need. They are left to try to figure things out for themselves.

Furthermore, young children can start to develop unhealthy views of the family unit that they will carry with them long-term. For instance, they may believe that drinking excessively or using drugs is acceptable behavior since their parents do. They may even be enticed to try alcohol or drugs themselves.

Young children can also feel like they are neglected because they are not getting the emotional and physical interactions they need. Their grades can suffer in school. They may have problems forming friendships and in social settings as well.

Additionally, in some families where addiction is an issue, children can end up being the victims of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. In these households, the results of any type of abuse can leave emotional scars for the rest of their lives that could even lead to them developing an addiction to drugs and alcohol too.

How Addiction Affects Teens

Teens can be affected by addiction in various ways, some similar to that of young children. If the addiction has been present their entire life, the effects can be heightened depending on how the addiction has already impacted them.

Teens can be forced to take on the role of caregivers in homes where teens have younger siblings. They will have added responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, ensuring their younger siblings are cared for, attending school, and so on.

In essence, they are taking on the role of the parent. They could even be forced to get a job, pay the bills, and manage the household finances. Being forced to take on this role can lead to resentment toward the parents.

On the other hand, some teens may get to the point where they simply give up. Instead of taking on the added responsibilities their parents aren’t doing, they turn to drugs and alcohol themselves and turn into addicts.

Teens can also be victims of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse, just like young children. It is not uncommon for addicted parents to “pimp” their teenagers out in exchange for cash, drugs, or alcohol to support their addictions.

Since teens are in their formative years and transition to young adults, they might view any type of abuse as acceptable behavior. They may start to exhibit abusive tendencies of their own, and they often carry abusive behaviors with them into adulthood.

In addition, some teens might feel so overwhelmed by all the responsibilities being thrust upon them, they simply decide to run away. They may take younger siblings with them in hopes that, by leaving, it will force their parents to get help. Yet, sadly, this does not always happen because addicts must want to get help for any type of treatment program to have a chance of succeeding.

How Addiction Affects Young Adult Family Members

Young adult family members who are college-aged may think that getting to go away to college will solve all their problems. However, it is not uncommon for young adults to carry with them to college the impact their parents’ addictions have had on them.

They may engage in binge drinking, excessive partying, and experimenting with various drugs and other substances. It is not unheard of for young adults to develop addictions in college if they have been raised in a home where their parents are addicts, and they had not yet become addicted.

They might also be abusive to others, which could lead to problems with the law. Furthermore, both teens and young adults could be taken advantage of, exploited, and preyed on by others who are aware of their family addiction problems.

How Addiction Affect Parents of Adults

The parents of adult addicts can be placed into roles they no longer thought they would have to worry about. For example, if their children have children, they may need to seek guardianship of their grandchildren to keep them out of foster care.

They may also have to deal with their adult children losing their homes and, if they don’t want to be homeless, allowing them to move back in with them even if they are still struggling with their addiction.

How Addiction Affects the Spouse or Partner of an Addict

In cases where only one person has an addiction, it will have direct impacts on the other person in the relationship. The spouse or partner of an addict could become an enabler. They will downplay the seriousness of their loved one’s addiction.

They might make excuses for them when they are not at their children’s school and social functions. They could also continue to fuel their loved one’s addiction by supplying drugs and alcohol just to avoid having to deal with the addict when they start experiencing withdrawal.

Spouses and partners of an addict could become a scapegoat for the addict where the addict will blame them for everything wrong in their life. The addict might become abusive physically, verbally, or even sexually.

The addict could even offer up their spouse or partner for sex with others in exchange for drugs, alcohol, or cash to support their addiction. Sexual exploitation is not uncommon when the spouse or partner is too afraid to leave the relationship and feels they are responsible for their loved one’s addiction.

Some spouses and partners get to a breaking point where they cannot handle any more abuse or deal with their loved one’s addiction, so they leave. In other cases, they will not leave, hoping their loved one will eventually get better. Either way, it is not healthy for either person. The effects of addiction will have long-lasting impacts on the relationship.

Recovery Treatment and Therapy for Family Members of Addicts

Whether the addict seeks help for their addiction or not, family members of an addict need their own recovery treatment. Recovery treatment and therapy for family members of addicts are meant to help family members come to terms with their loved one’s addiction.

Depressed woman isolating herself from her psychotherapy group

Treatment can include individual and family therapy with the addict or with just the family members impacted by their loved one’s addiction. Group counseling with other families may also be used. The objective is to help the family recover from the effects of addiction caused by their loved one in a caring, supportive, and nonjudgmental environment.

As can be seen, alcohol and drug addiction affects family members of the addict too. The impacts of the addiction on family members will vary, depending on the specific factors and circumstances of the household and whether one or both parents are struggling with addiction.

Furthermore, things become more complex when children and teens of addicts develop their own substance abuse problems at an early age.

Getting Help for Yourself and Your Family

It can be scary taking that first step on the road to recovery, whether you are the addict or an affected family member. When you are ready to take that first step, RECO Intensive will be with you each step of the way.

Our Delray Beach addiction treatment center offers customized addiction treatment programs and family recovery treatment programs based on your specific circumstances and situation. If you have further questions, need someone to talk to about your loved one’s addiction, or are ready to take that first step, please feel free to call us at 561-501-2439 today!

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