Menu Close

How Addiction Affects the Family Unit

addiction affects the family

Whether it is a parent, a child, a spouse, or an extended family member who struggles with addiction, there is no question that addiction directly affects the family unit. Anyone who has struggled with addiction themselves or had a loved one with an addiction problem would likely agree that addiction does not exist in a vacuum; instead, it directly impacts the entire family. This is why Ashwood Recovery offers a comprehensive family therapy program.

How a Substance Use Disorder Impacts Families

When addiction to alcohol or drugs is a factor in family life, it introduces a new level of stress and disunity.

  • A parent with an addiction affects the entire family
  • A spouse or partner struggling with addiction affects the other partner
  • A parent with an addiction issue directly affects their children
  • A child with an addiction problem introduces a new level of stress to both parents and siblings

This is not to say that addiction creates a hopeless situation within the family. With the right coping skills, supportive strategies, and interpersonal tools, the family can serve as a great source of support for the individual struggling with addiction. To begin with, you can take a short quiz if you are unsure whether or not your family member or loved one is struggling with addiction. To take on this role, it is important to understand the effects of addiction on the family in the first place. With this in mind, we outline some of the major effects of addiction on the family unit before turning to what can be done to minimize these effects.

The Effects of Addiction on the Family

It is not enough to say that addiction affects the family unit – the reality is much more complicated than that. Addiction affects every family differently, depending on how persistent the addiction is, which family member struggles with addiction, and whether or not these families have external social support. However, regardless of these factors, addiction tends to introduce increased amounts of stress, which affects many different areas of family life and many different family members.

More specifically, the social, psychological, and emotional issues caused by addiction can often give way to some of the following elements in family life:

  • Increased Stress
  • Reversed roles (a child acting as caretaker of their parent)
  • Disjointed conversations and relationships
  • Inappropriate dependency
  • Denial (from both the parent and the child)
  • Verbal or emotional abuse
  • Fear or anger
  • Guilt
  • Self-medication
  • Inconsistency in parenting
  • Negativity

The primary way that addiction affects the family unit is through negativity. When a family member struggles with addiction, any form of communication is more likely to be negative – complaints, criticism, blame, and anger or guilt become the most common sentiments expressed by family members. Over time, this only works to undermine the trust, love, and respect that all relationships should be built upon. This often extends in many different directions – from a parent to a child, from a child to a parent, and from a spouse to another spouse.

Addiction within the family can affect a cycle of unhealthy relationships, a lack of trust, and a lack of modeling for what constitutes normal and healthy behavior. With this in mind, it is crucial to understand what can be done to minimize these detrimental effects of addiction on the family unit.

Learn More About Healing Your Family at Ashwood Recovery

Addiction certainly affects the family. But that does not mean that hope is out of reach – neither for yourself nor for the one you love. Support from the family can make a difference in the life of someone needing addiction treatment. Thankfully, you do not have to develop these supportive skills alone.

At Ashwood Recovery, our programs help families develop the relational and communication skills that they need to overcome the effects of addiction and to help each other thrive overall. Most intensive outpatient programs and even inpatient drug rehab programs include family nights to give families the chance to heal together. In addition to these specific programs, support groups are available for individuals who have family members or loved ones who struggle with addiction or alcoholism. You can find the resources and support you need by participating in the following groups:

  •  Al-Anon ~ support groups for family members and loved ones of alcoholics
  •  Nar-anon ~ support groups for family members and loved ones of addicts
  •  Adult Children – designed to support the adult children of both addicts and alcoholics

If you have experience with the effects of addiction on the family unit or have further questions about what can be done about these detrimental effects, feel free to call Ashwood Recovery at 888.341.3607.