How Drug Abuse Affects the Family

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, addiction to alcohol and drugs is the leading health problem in the U.S. This further emphasizes that fact that when a person is addicted to drugs, he/she is not the only one who suffers. All the addict’s loved ones suffer as well. Here are some of the major ways that a family is negatively affected when an individual is addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Drug Abuse Affects the Family

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Financial Strain

When a member of the family has a drug or alcohol addiction, the individual will likely spend all his/her money to support the destructive habit. This means that the money that would usually be used to pay household bills or fund children’s education is spent on alcohol or drugs.

Individuals who are struggling with substance abuse may also start performing poorly at work, which can result in job loss. And, of course, when the family has to deal with a significant reduction in income, there may not be enough money for groceries, car repairs or medical bills.

Getting treatment for a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can also be very costly. Placing a family member in rehab can be very expensive, and the cost is not usually covered by an insurance company. Counseling and interventions are also pricey, as well as the medicine or supplements that the addict needs to fully recover.

Family Conflicts

Drugs and alcohol have the tendency to make a person disagreeable and hard to get along with. If your relative is struggling with addiction, chances are you are constantly arguing with him/her, especially when you lovingly suggest that the addict seek help. This causes distance in relationships and can cause family members who were once close to stop communicating with one another altogether.

Unfortunately, some addicts become violent when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This results in the addict having to be separated from the rest of the family, which causes both physical and emotional separation.

Health Risks

When a person abuses drugs and alcohol, the individual is at risk for a number of health problems. For instance, smoking heroin or marijuana can make the tendency for lung cancer greater. Smoking methamphetamine can result in seizures, homicidal or suicidal thoughts and hallucinations. Drug and alcohol addiction slows down the function of the organs and puts the body at risk for infections that could be fatal.

The addict’s health condition becomes the family’s problem when hospital stays become too expensive and the addict needs to be cared for at the home of a family member. Of course, health care itself can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year, which cuts into the family budget significantly. Not to mention, caring for a relative who is addicted to harmful substances takes an emotional toll on the family, as everyone in the home will likely have to adjust their schedules and lifestyles in some way.

Emotional Distress

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America asserts that about 20 percent of Americans who have a mood disorder or issue with anxiety are also addicted to a harmful substance. Just as addicts experience severe mood swings, anxiety and depression during addiction, and even sometimes during recovery, the people caring for the addict could experience these emotional disturbances as well. For instance, a woman who has been caring for her alcoholic husband for years may develop signs of depression or anxiety when her husband does not recover after several stints in rehab or a host of counseling sessions. Parents who are working to help their teenager overcome drug addiction will likely undergo extreme stress when the teen exhibits negative behavior like stealing money or responding in hostility to treatment.

When family members become burnt out with helping a relative who is addicted to drugs, there is little emotional strength left for other aspects of life, such as maintaining a job or pursuing healthy relationships. Some family members even reach the point where they become emotionally numb and aren’t able to connect with other loved ones due to the extreme stress of trying to rehabilitate a drug-addicted relative.

Feelings of Abandonment

Finally, when a person is addicted to drugs, the drug becomes that individuals a first priority. So, if the addict has children, they are second place to the substance. If the addict is married, the drug becomes more important than the addict’s spouse. This causes loved ones to feel abandoned and neglected, even if the addict is still physically living in the home. A spouse with a husband or wife who struggles with substance abuse may suffer a decline in self-esteem. Children may grow up searching for love and acceptance in dangerous places. Unfortunately, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics states that children of alcoholic parents are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves. This potentially continues the cycle of substance abuse, causing more psychological and emotional tension in the family.

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