How Alcohol or Drug Addiction Affects the Entire Family


Alcohol or drug addiction can put the family in constant financial and emotional stress. The struggling person is often unable to live their life normally, and the family members may negatively contribute to the situation if seeking professional help is delayed.

This article will focus on how addiction affects families living with a person outside of their partner/spouse. Here’s more about how to help an alcoholic spouse.

An Overview of Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Over 8.5 million American adults suffered from substance use disorder (SUD) in 2017 alone. Almost 74% of these adults struggled specifically with alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to a report by the American Addiction Centers.

To mitigate the current epidemic of SUD in the United States, according to another report from the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, a massive $34.6 billion was allocated by the government for drug control in 2020.

Unfortunately, once the struggle begins, various financial, physical, and mental problems start to affect the family members of the person struggling with the condition.

How Addiction Affects Families

Whether the family member is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, a heavy load starts falling on the rest of their relatives. We’ll address the financial effects first.

Financial Effects of Addiction

Effects on the Struggling Person

The person struggling with addiction usually starts becoming less productive at their job. This results from the constant urge to return to using, often reflecting reduced income. Unfortunately, in many cases, this struggle also leads to losing their job.

The loss of the main source of income, paired with the costs of either drugs or alcohol, can force the struggling person to spend all their savings to satisfy the urge.

Also, medical bills due to health problems related to addiction can add an even bigger toll to the financial loss, eventually leading to the complete depletion of savings and sale of assets like cars, jewelry, or even residential homes.

If there’s parental substance abuse, the financial toll will be even worse since the children are likely to bear the brunt by losing access to future college or trust funds.

Legal expenses can be daunting as well, with 26% of all arrests in America related to drug addiction. Around 1.16 million Americans are arrested annually for the same reason. Many sexual abuse cases can also be linked to substance use disorders.

Effects on the Parents

If the struggling person is still living with their parents, or at least still depending on them financially, then their financial problems will directly affect the parents.

They’re highly likely to request financial aid from their parents, who often comply with such requests at first, if they have it and have no suspicion of where it’ll go.

This constant drainage of resources can lead elderly parents of people struggling with substance abuse to keep working beyond the age of retirement.

Effects on the Siblings

Siblings are also financially affected if they live in the same home. Whether securing their income or taking an allowance from their parents, they may sometimes resort to helping their struggling siblings when they need money.

In many cases, the struggling person gets their judgment so clouded by the urge that they resort to stealing money from their family members, which can severely damage their relationship.

Physical Effects of Addiction

Effects on the Struggling Person

Drug or alcohol addiction always negatively affects the struggling person’s body. It often leads to a loss of appetite and a poor diet, resulting in malnutrition and weight loss.

Alcohol abuse can cause brain damage and memory problems. It also affects neuromuscular functions in the long run. Chronic addiction may eventually cause liver diseases like hepatitis.

Illicit drug addiction can have various side effects depending on the type of drug used. The risk is even higher when the administered drug is done using needles, which can cause infection with blood-borne diseases.

There’s also the risk of motor accidents, often due to clouded thoughts and poor judgment when under the influence.

Effects on the Parents

The parents will be under constant stress and anxiety, which can lead to conditions like insomnia, headaches, and stomach issues. Also, since the struggling child tends to be the core of attention, parents may neglect their health, diet, and some or all medications they take.

This leads to various physical problems like weight gain/loss, high blood pressure, increased symptoms of any existing diseases, and an overall health decline.

Another facet of the issue is the physical violence the parents of an addicted adult child might face. Their disruptive behaviors may be explained away by the parent facing the abuse until a serious injury occurs.

Effects on the Siblings

The constant stress present at home can imprint on siblings, especially older ones, who have a sense of responsibility toward their younger, struggling siblings.

The stress on siblings may cause them to neglect their eating habits and physical exercises, weakening their overall physique.

Violence is also a common occurrence in homes struggling with addiction problems. It’s not uncommon for a struggling person to get in aggressive altercations with their siblings, which results in physical violence.

Mental Effects of Addiction

Effects on the Struggling Person

Most people who suffer from addiction are not happy with it. They are well aware of the existing problem, even if sometimes they choose to deny it or have the ‘I can stop whenever I want.’ mentality.

A person struggling with addiction is usually under mental pressure because of it. Not only do they blame themselves for what’s happening, but they also hate how negatively they’re affecting their family members and how they are viewed by society.

These negative emotions can sometimes make the struggling person feel that they are a lost cause and that there’s nothing that can be done to bring them back. At this point, emotional support and family therapy are a must to prevent the development of ideation of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

Addiction is the cause of over 70% of adolescent suicides, which is heartbreaking, especially since there’s always a way back from it, no matter how far the person thinks they’re gone.

If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, reach out to the Crisis Lifeline at 988. Help is available for 24 hours per day.

Effects on the Parents

Parents sometimes can’t help but feel that their child’s condition is their fault. This is often mixed with the feeling of failure and despair.

Maybe they failed to instill certain personal qualities in their child, or perhaps they were too busy with life to focus on their children’s needs.

Parents need to understand that whether they’re directly or indirectly involved in this existing struggle, they should forgive themselves and their child, then prioritize positive thinking and do their best to help solve the situation.

Effects on the Siblings

The sadness and frustration that siblings feel whenever one of them is struggling with addiction can be overbearing.

It can be difficult to process these emotions, especially if they’re close with their addicted sibling. However, providing support without judgment can be the key to improving the situation.

Here are some proposed solutions to the issue:

Handling How Addiction Affects the Family

Providing all the pointers to resolving such a lingering problem is difficult, as professional therapy remains the best approach to handling the situation, especially since every case is different.

However, there are some general steps that all families can take to help.

Staying Together

If a family has a person struggling with addiction, they should all come together to fix it. It begins with understanding what caused the issue, followed by compassion throughout the healing process.

The struggling person should never feel that they’re fighting a lone battle. In their minds, if their own family isn’t supporting them, then nobody else will, which can worsen their mental condition.

Referring to Physical and Mental Health Services

While early intervention without professional therapy can sometimes be sufficient, most chronic cases usually don’t resolve without treatment.

Both the family and the struggling person should understand that addiction is a disease. And many diseases require therapy, medications, and sometimes, hospitalization.

There’s no shame in seeking help when the family doesn’t have the right approach to handling the situation.

Therapy can include various behavioral management techniques, along with utilizing medications that are proven to help with alcohol abuse, like naltrexone.

Being Patient

Alcohol or drug addiction is a chronic condition that doesn’t resolve overnight. Many families get frustrated when relapses happen. It’s common for people struggling with addiction to relapse, even after a few months of being sober.

While that’s a setback, it’s not the end of the world. After all, the struggling person won’t be starting from scratch because they’ll have some necessary tools to get back on their journey to sobriety.

To Wrap Up

Alcohol or drug addiction can have many financial, mental, and physical effects on all family members.

A lot of compassion, understanding, patience, and therapy go into substance abuse treatment, which is why consulting professionals can help the entire family take the proper steps.

If you or a loved one need help with your recovery, book an appointment with Curednation and experience how telemedicine treatment services can put you on the right track.

Related: How alcoholism impacts the wife of an addicted husband


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