Substance Abuse and Addiction in the Family Unit

It is said that addiction is a family disease, but what does that actually mean? According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, this describes the profound and stressful impact that a family member’s substance abuse can have on his or her loved ones.

How Does Substance Abuse Impact the Family?

Addiction has far-reaching effects on every member of a family. The effects vary based on an individual’s relationship with the person dealing with the addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines some of the most common effects that substance abuse can have on families:

– Interruption of normal routines, especially for young children and adolescents

– Exposure to unexpected experiences that may be frightening for children and other family members

– Loss of trust towards the family member struggling with addiction

– Distortion of reality and denial for family members who struggle with the extent of their loved one’s substance use problem

– Risk of unforeseen job loss and financial trouble due to caring for a loved one coping with addiction

What Are Some Signs that a Family Member Needs Help with Substance Use?

Family members will often suspect that their loved one is struggling with substance abuse long before the individuals themselves are aware. The Mayo Clinic outlines signs that can alert family members that an individual may be struggling with addiction:

– Problems at school or work, including decreased performance and unexplained absences

– Lack of energy or motivation, including sleep problems

– Unexplained weight gain or loss

– Secretive behavior

– Mood swings

– Unexplained requests for money or possessions that go missing

How Can I Help My Family Member?

It can be difficult to talk with a loved one about their substance use. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids offers the following tips:

– Talk with the person when neither of you is under the influence of any substance.

– Discuss the changes you’ve noticed as a result of their substance use without being judgmental.

– Choose a time when you can talk in private.

– Express your concern.

– Ask open-ended questions and listen to responses with an open ear.

– Indicate your willingness to support them should they choose to seek addiction treatment.

While it may be easy to assume that addiction only effects those suffering with it, it is essential to take the full picture into consideration. If you are impacted by the substance use of a family member, it is important to take steps to mitigate these effects and maintain your own mental health and well-being. Consider attending family support groups such as Al-Anon or individual therapy to ensure that your mental health is a part of the healing process for the whole family.