How Does Addiction Affect Families?

understanding childhood trauma and how it impacts adulthood

How Does Addiction Affect Families?

September 12, 2022

Substance abuse issues often are perceived as a private, personal battle, but the truth is that addiction is a family disease. As the user’s struggles begin to impede their ability to live and function normally, partners, children, parents, and other loved ones quickly find their lives altered. Watching family grapple with substance use causes emotional turmoil, and medical, financial, or legal consequences can mount as the effects of the disorder ripple into other parts of life. Regardless of who is struggling, all relationships in a family react and respond to the toll of substance abuse.


Spouses and romantic partners often bear the brunt of substance abuse disorders in a family. Behavioral changes that can arise as a result of addiction such as irritability, sudden mood swings, or emotional withdrawal can strain a relationship. In instances where substance use has begun to affect relationships with children, parents, or in the workplace, the spouse may find themselves making excuses or covering for their partner more and more. This shift risks them developing into an enabler, or the relationship lapsing into a codependent one.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 25% of American children grow up in homes where substance abuse is present. Children who grow up in such environments are more likely to get addicted to drugs or alcohol themselves, and use substances earlier than peers who do witness substance abuse in the home. They are also 69% more likely to be depressed as adults than children with non-addicted parents, and are also more prone to anxiety as adults. Children exposed to substance use can be neglected or placed in unsafe situations which, if escalated to extremes, can lead to removal from the home and living with other family members or placement in foster care.


Like partners of users, parents may fall into a codependent relationship with their children who struggle from substance abuse as they try to protect them from the consequences of their disorder. They may also feel a responsibility or sense of shame when it comes to their child’s issues. For parents of adult users with children, this can cause an added emotional, mental, and financial strain as they worry for the wellbeing of their grandchildren or become their primary caregivers.

Addiction can harm a family, but luckily, there is help available. Individual treatment options and family therapy can rescue a user from the throes of addiction and set a family on the path to healing. If you or a loved one are in need of help, New Era Rehabilitation Center provides a comprehensive, community-focused recovery plan. We know that recovery takes a village and are glad to be of service. Reach out today to start the journey.

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