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How Substance Abuse Affects Families


Many people worry about the personal health of someone fighting substance abuse, and while this is definitely a concern, it’s also important to think about the loved ones who want to see their child, sibling, or parent recover. Substance abuse can have far-reaching effects on friends and family, but these issues often get overlooked in pursuit of a solution for the afflicted person. Nonetheless, it is extremely important to understand exactly how families are hurt by addiction and to learn what you can do to stop the terrible cycle of abuse.

In today’s guide, we’ll examine some of the specific effects that substance abuse can have on family and loved ones, and offer some useful strategies to help cope with the addiction of someone close to you.

The Effects Of Substance Abuse On A Family

Every family looks different, which is why it’s important to look at the varied ways that substance abuse can take a toll on the health of a group of loved ones. In the sections below, we’ll go into greater detail about exactly how substance abuse works to tear families apart:

Substance Abuse & Partners

Being the spouse or partner of someone with an addiction problem is never easy. You want your loved one to get better, but you don’t want to say or do the wrong thing and feel like you’ve made the situation even worse. People with substance abuse disorders often struggle to maintain healthy relationships. The stress and disorder caused by addiction can leave them feeling angry and depressed. These negative emotions can even manifest as physical and emotional abuse of their loved ones.

For this reason, many spouses prefer to stay silent. They enable their loved one’s addiction because they fear the consequences of speaking out. Even if you take action, you may not be sure what to do. You don’t want to leave the person you love, but you also don’t want to watch them destroy themselves. It’s a very painful and difficult situation, and one that can only be solved with treatment.

Substance Abuse & Young Children

Growing up with a parent or family member who struggles with substance abuse can be incredibly damaging. Many children have difficulties working through the fear, chaos, and confusion linked to substance abuse. This can lead to long-term developmental issues. It’s also more common for children of parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol to experience neglect and abuse. Naturally, these issues can have lasting effects on their psychological development, academic performance, and social skills later in life.

Substance Abuse & Teenagers

It’s important to remember that grown adults are not the only ones who can abuse drugs and impact the rest of the family. Many teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol and, depending on a wide range of genetic and environmental factors, these early experimentations may lead to full-blown substance abuse disorders. Parents who have teenagers struggling with addiction may not know what to do. Like adults, teenagers are just as capable of abusing their siblings, parents, and others in their lives as a direct result of their addictions.

Like younger children, teenagers can also be negatively affected by the substance abuse of a family member. Teenagers may see a parent or older sibling abusing drugs or alcohol and be more inclined to do the same. Being a teenager is already a complex time, and adding substance abuse to the equation can only make it harder for teens to navigate the changes in their lives.

Substance Abuse & Household Finances

Financial difficulties can create problems for many couples and families, even when substance abuse is not a factor. Sadly, substance abuse can cause new financial problems or worsen existing ones. When a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they will not think about the financial consequences of their actions. They are more likely to spend money they don’t have, steal, or otherwise put untold stress on family finances to feed their addiction.

Substance abuse can also make it difficult for someone to maintain their normal routine and lifestyle, which can certainly impact household finances. For example, someone who is on a drug or alcohol binge may completely neglect their work responsibilities, causing them to lose their job. Alternatively, substance abuse may lead to legal problems, which can put further emotional and financial strain on the entire family.

How To Cope With Substance Abuse By A Family Member

Coping with a family member’s addiction will never be easy, but there are certain actions and steps you can take to help lead your loved one toward the path to recovery. Here are some of the best strategies to help you and the rest of your family effectively cope with substance abuse:

  • Resist Becoming an Enabler – There is a fine line between supporting your loved one and allowing them to continue abusing drugs or alcohol unhindered. You should always resist the urge to become an enabler. Not only does this mean that you shouldn’t accept their substance abuse as an inevitability, but it also means that you should be careful to avoid using addictive substances in their presence.
  • Educate Yourself on the Problem – Knowledge is the best weapon in your arsenal to fight substance abuse. The more you understand about a given substance and addiction in general, the better prepared you will be to help your loved one recover.
  • Set Strict Boundaries – In addition to avoiding enabling behavior, you also need to set strict boundaries concerning what you will and won’t allow. If your family member knows that certain things won’t be tolerated, they may be less inclined to engage in risky behaviors.
  • Prioritize Your Safety & Well-Being – Trying to help a family member with an addiction problem can be exhausting. You may have to deal with abuse, neglect, and unpredictable behavior. While their recovery is vitally important, your safety and well-being are equally important. Do what you can to stay out of harm’s way and stay in a good mental space throughout the recovery process.
  • Consider Family Therapy – There can be a lot of trauma associated with substance abuse. To help mend relationships and bring your family back to a healthy place, you may want to consider family therapy so that everyone can speak openly and honestly about how they feel.
  • Be Realistic – You should always be optimistic, but you also need to be realistic about your expectations. People don’t recover from a substance use disorder overnight. Make sure you understand the timeline and avoid getting frustrated or feeling hopeless if your family member relapses.

How To Help A Family Member With Substance Abuse

Do you have a family member struggling with substance abuse? Are you concerned about your safety, their safety, or the safety of others in your family? Do you want to find an effective way to help them access treatment and start the road to recovery? If so, Prosperity Haven is the answer.

At Prosperity Haven, we offer state-of-the-art inpatient facilities and highly-trained staff to help your loved one detox and recover in a safe place. They can learn the skills they need to overcome their cravings and ultimately put addiction in the rear-view mirror. Don’t wait until it’s too late — Prosperity Haven is just a phone call away.

Located in Chardon, Ohio, Prosperity Haven offers advanced inpatient rehab and detox managed by trained professionals. Reach out today to learn more.


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