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How Families Are Affected By Drug Addiction

How Families Are Affected By Drug Addiction

Addiction is an isolating illness by nature. Because it typically grows and grows until it occupies the addict’s entire life, it can often shunt friends, family, loved ones, and professional aspirations to the side. If left unchecked, the addiction will continue to grow in severity and scope until it controls the entire life of the addict. Depending on the drug in question, the risks of long-term addiction include financial ruin, time spent in prison, and eventual death or serious, lasting injury.

As well as the fact that it can ruin the addict’s own life, however, there’s another serious casualty that often arises as a result of an addiction problem: the addict’s family. On top of potentially isolating the addict from their family and seriously damaging relationships within the family unit, the family themselves will often spend huge amount of their time, money, and emotional energy worrying about the addict and their addiction. There is more than one way families can be affected by addiction — it can adopt a number of different shapes and guises, and unfortunately, many of these can happen at the same time, compounding the amount of distress for the family involved. In the following article we’ll be looking at some of the major ways addiction can affect families, and why it’s so important to seek out drug addiction treatment if possible, be that for opioids, alcohol, or any other substance.

A family gathered, looking concerned for their daughter.

The Emotional Effect

This is probably the most difficult and long-lasting issue that comes about as having a user trapped in active addiction in the family. Because the addict themselves are loved by the family, the family can often wind up taking a lot of the burden onto their own shoulders. Worry, exacerbated by uncertainty about the future and well-founded concerns about how the addict will be able to continue living their life, is a colossal issue, and one that can have wide-ranging effects.

It’s not uncommon for family members of an addict to have trouble focusing at work, which can lead to significant professional implications. More often than not, they’ll try to keep the fact of their family member’s addiction secret, even if the user is seeking out drug addiction treatment. They do this because there’s still a significant amount of stigma surrounding drug addiction, and they can often feel embarrassed, ashamed, or inadequate for being unable to prevent their loved one from sinking into addiction. The fact that they don’t feel able to talk about it makes the burden all the more problematic to bear; in this respect, it’s a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break out of without professional help.

The Financial Impact

As well as having to worry about being emotionally strained and damaged from loving for and caring about somebody who is in active addiction, families often have to deal with significant financial fallouts that come about as a result of the grip the drug has over the mind and behaviour of the user. From small things — like asking for a short-term loan to help out with rent or car payments — right the way up to massive issues like identity fraud, there are a distressing number of ways addiction can have a negative impact on the financial health of the addict’s family members.

In the worst-case scenario, the addict will go so far as to actually steal from their own family. While this can sound heinous from the outside, it’s important to remember that when you’re deep into active addiction, you’re no longer in control of your own life. There’s not a single addict on earth who doesn’t feel bad about stealing from their family; but even though they can’t stand the idea of doing it, the chemical need their body is screaming at them to fill can prove too strong an influence to resist.

Whether it’s small-scale enabling behaviours like giving loans without checking up on them or handing out money without asking where it’s going — or whether it’s massive issues like having fraudulent lines of credit opened in your name, or having your car and jewellery stolen — many families of active addicts will suffer some degree of financial trouble as a result of the illness. Combined with the stress of the emotional struggle, this can quickly spiral into a completely overwhelming situation, especially if drug addiction treatment isn’t sought.

A mother and daughter mad at each other.

Negative Health Effects

With such serious, long-term issues being raised by a user in active addiction, it’s no surprise to learn that family members of addicts can themselves develop their own health problems. Chronic stress is one of the single biggest contributing factors to a shorter-than-average lifespan. If other diseases like diabetes, chronic pain, or mental health issues are being dealt with on top of trying to take care of the addict in the family, things can get out of control; and with financial problems lurking around the edges, it may not be possible to take advantage of all of the drug addiction treatment methods there are out there.

It’s important not to underestimate the seriousness of the health issues that can come about as a result of trying to care for a user in active addiction. By putting their own problems on the back burner, family members with the best of intentions can wind up making the whole situation even worse by increasing the strain upon themselves and their loved ones.

What To Do?

Being a family member of an active addict is incredibly tough, and it can often feel like there’s nowhere to turn. Fortunately, however, there are more and more drug addiction treatment centres popping up all over the world; Canada, in particular, has been leading the charge when it comes to a more compassion-focused attitude with regards to help victims (and their families) recover from the fallout of addiction.

12-Step support groups exist, like Al – Anon or Nar Anon, which are targeted at helping family members cope with their loved one’s addiction issues. Alternatively, there are a number of different drug addiction treatments that involve helping to fix the family’s issues as well. If you’re interested in helping to get your family and your loved ones free from addiction’s clutches, check out the areas Freedom From Addiction services here.


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