Addiction & Recovery
Help For The Family

Ways That Addiction Can Affect the Family

Individuals struggling with a substance abuse disorder (i.e., addiction)  is often perceived as a personal problem; but is that accurate? Does addiction only effect the drug user? While research has proven that harmful substances have a devastating effect on the user; we also know that  substance abuse affects spouses, children, parents and other relatives who witness a family member battling addiction.

Addiction Never Just Impacts One Person

Families impacted by the consequences of addiction often experience emotional pain, stress and anxiety; as well as financial , legal, medical, and other serious issues resulting from a loved ones addiction. Family members may witness their relative fly into rages when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Others may see their relatives lose weight rapidly - becoming unrecognizable and unkept. Some may not hear from a loved one for long periods of time, only to discover they are homeless and living on the streets, or in a hospital due to a near fatal overdose, or worse. Such shock can cause a relative to endure severe mental trauma, depression or develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to try to deal with what they are experiencing.

How Addiction Impacts Young Children

According to Psychology Today, 1 in 5 children grow up in a home where a parent abuses drugs or alcohol. Witnessing the trauma of a parent suffering addiction at a young age has long-term effects on the child. Children growing up seeing a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol are more likely to develop substance use disorders in their adulthood. They are also 3 times more likely to be neglected physically and sexually abused. Seeing a parent on drugs often creates distressing emotions which not only create delays in learning and development, but prolonged mental and emotional disorders.

Teenage Addiction 

The CDC reports underaged drinkers have more drinks per drinking occasion than their adult counterparts. At least 19% of individuals between 12 to 20 years old drink alcohol regularly, but due to underreporting the figure is most likely much higher. Marijuana use is more common in teens than cigarette smoking or other drug use. Teenagers deal with peer pressure in school and are also constantly bombarded with temptation for trying new or dangerous drugs. Additionally, teens who have experienced parental substance abuse are more likely to abuse substances and have a higher risk of becoming addicts themselves in their teens and adulthood. Teenage addiction is often linked to external factors such as - peer pressure in schools and college - as well as internal factors, such as genetics, family-life dynamics, and self-medication.

Help For The Family

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Teen Addiction

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SAMHSA - Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders

Every family is unique, but all families share a bond that can be used to support one another during trying times. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for helping a family member who is drinking too much, using drugs, or dealing with a mental illness, research shows that family support can play a major role in helping a loved one with mental and substance use disorders.

Resources To Help Children Impacted By Addiction

Sesame Street has created a series of videos that includes 6-year-old Karli, talking to her friends about her mom's struggle with drug addiction.

● The Eluna Network runs Camp Mariposas in more than a dozen states. They offer a range of online resources for adults who want to help children whose families struggle with addiction. Customized help is also available.

● The Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program provides support, education and care to kids who grow up in a family with alcohol or drug addiction.

● National Association for Children of Addiction or NACoA offers a range of resources about the impact of alcohol and drug abuse on children and families. They also offer resources to help build resilience in children.

● Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Helpline [1-800-662-HELP (4357)] is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Here is their Opioid Treatment Program Directory.

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