Drug Dependence

Substance Abuse in Families

substance abuseWhen a person gets addicted to substance abuse, it doesn’t only affect them but their family and perhaps their community. Addiction to drugs and alcohol touches every element of one’s life; your career, children, spouse and friends. Although you still have affection for your loved ones, the substance beats them all. The drug becomes your focus in daily life.

An addicted person becomes unreliable and one trusts them at their own peril. They are moody, difficult to deal with, and unpredictable. One is physically present but emotionally they are far. Probably thinking about where to get the substance or where his or her friends whom they consume the substance are.

Due to addiction behaviours, one may be left by their spouses or lose custody of their children. Most addicted people convince themselves that their substance use behaviour only affects them. However, it hurts the ones close to you emotionally and sometimes physically.

One puts the family’s wellbeing at risk, including kids whom might drop out of school or get into drugs use due to exposure. Drugs use, or abuse creates a major family and marital problems in the society we are living today, and it should be addressed medically.

Effects of Addiction on Family Life

When one of the family members has got into substance use, the family is no longer the same again. The joy and fun of all being one emotionally and physically reduce drastically. Substance use has got a strong power to hurt the entire family unit. Addiction causes tension, stress, anxiety, miscommunication, and frequent quarrels in homes.

An addicted individual causes a lot of pain to the family because of their unpredictability. You can’t count on them to deliver what they promised hence loss of trust and confidence.  Substance use disorder leads to job instability, awkward behaviour, and late nights which damage the family greatly. Addicts are forgetful, easily distracted, and unfocused; their mind is wholly on substance use.

Because of the irresponsibility of addicted persons in the family, the surrounding family members may be forced to take on more responsibilities. It causes straining, negative feelings such as anger, blame, resentment, fear, or hate. As addiction becomes severe, trust is lost drastically which destroys family ties.

Family Roles in Relation to Addiction

substance abuseIn a family setting, every person has a specific role for the family to function normally and have stability and balance. When one of the members gets into drugs, the roles in the unit change to adjust to the behaviours of the addicted person. The following are six roles that have been developed to comprehend how the family operates in situations of one of them abusing substances.

  • Enabler

Enabler role is usually played by the spouse of the addicted person or older kid in cases of single-parent’s families. They take care of the family in different ways such as finances and getting the siblings to school. Often, the enabler denies and covers up on the addict’s behaviour.

  • Hero

The role is normally taken by the older kid in the family who is courageous and focussed enough. They take the roles of the parent which ideally, is above their developmental stage. The role can be challenging as they always want perfection, which can be hard to achieve due to addiction progress.

  • Scapegoat

This is the child who has been negatively affected by the chaotic home environment.  Scapegoat misbehaves and portrays rebellious behaviours even in the face of authorities or in school. Mostly they get into problems at school or with other people. As they grow, most of them get into puzzles with the law.

  • The mascot

Due to constant quarrels, fights, and other negative reactions from the addicted parent, some kids will use humour as a way of dealing with the situation. They know that their comedy might be helping other family members to cope with the home environment and hence they continue with it to help bring balance in the family.

  • Lost kid

The lost child is the one who is isolated from the family and is finding it difficult to grow in such an environment. They are usually in the world of fantasy to try to distract themselves from the reality which is affecting them emotionally and physically.

  • The addicted person

Some addicted individuals are extremely ashamed and regret the damage they have meant the family to go through. Besides, they may want to quit but it is a challenge, which causes anger and resentment in the family.

Consequences of Substance Use in the Family

No family is the same as the other, and hence the impacts of substance use are experienced in different ways. Ranging from single-parent families, foster families, and multigenerational families, effects of substance addiction is dissimilar. The following are ways in which substance use impacts on the family;

  1. Financial problems

Substance and alcohol abuse can cause issues at work such as failing to go to work, lateness, decreased productivity, and job loss. Addiction to a substance causes a financial burden which can even cost the family their house. Also, they may have problems catering for their daily basic needs like clothing, food, and medical care. If the addict uses all the money that the family has on drugs, they extend to relatives and friends which strains the relations.

Additionally, an addicted person can do anything to get money to purchase the substance. Stealing adds the family another financial responsibility of clearing the family’s name. A family member must protect the family’s properties from the addicted person. Most crimes are attributed to substance abuse. When a means for obtaining money fails, addicted people become violent and hence are arrested.

  1. Isolation

Substance and alcohol use affect the functioning of the central nervous system hence, a person’s judgment and cognitive power are impacted. Also, substance use affects how a person decides and their reaction time.  The addicted person will behave in ways which will embarrass the family which may cause the family members to isolate themselves from family gatherings.

Moreover, it can be difficult dealing with an addicted person due to their behaviours. Some are violent and rebellious which might make their loved ones and family members to distance themselves from them. Besides, some drugs may make the abusers to withdraw themselves from family and friends.  An addicted individual will always want to stay alone in a room, office or even sometimes spend lots of time in a bathroom.

  1. Co-dependency

Addiction affects family members in different ways, often one or both the affected exhibiting co-dependency.  It is a pattern in relations where an individual prioritizes the needs of the other above theirs. Symptoms of co-dependency and effects of substance addiction to close family members include;

  • Controlling behaviour – the co-dependent contemplate that the other person is not able to take care of himself or herself. It makes them want to manage every aspect of the other person’s life.
  • Excessively thinking about the other people – they obsessively think about other peoples needs to an extent of forgetting about themselves. They believe that by doing that, they are selfless in their desire to take care of the addicted individual. But, they are an enabler and are causing detrimental effect to the relationship.
  • Low self-esteem– they don’t believe in themselves because of the shame and guilt caused by the addict’s behaviour. Spouses of an addicted person always do everything to please them and be perfect. Most blame themselves, which is wrong, and believe that if they were there for them, they couldn’t have been addicted to the substance. The truth is, drug abuse is a choice, and everybody should face consequences of their decisions.
  • Reliant on other people’s approvals – co-dependent individuals fear shame, rejection, and anger. Hence, they will ask for the approval of others and forfeit their values and principles to please the addicted.
  1. Family loss

Coping with an addicted person especially in cases where you don’t have knowledge on substance addiction can be challenging.  The behaviour of the addicted individual such as lying, stealing, carelessness, unhygienic, and many others can be unbearable after some time. This can cause divorce or loss of custody of the kids.

Many families are breaking up due to substance abuse and we are having more and more numbers of homeless children.  children and women are mostly more vulnerable and run away due to violence and emotional abuses. Also, money issues break the families as there might be no finances to support the family. In most countries, children under such circumstances are removed and taken care of by the state.

  1. Violence

addictionDrug addicts are often violent, which impacts on the family emotionally and physically. While under influence, an addicted person can harm themselves or his or her loved ones including children. substance use affects your brain and decision making. One might not be thinking when doing such hence they pose great harm to the family.

Moreover, an addict’s violent reactions may affect the community too. Their violence is unpredictable and hence it can cause fatal injuries to those involved. Sadly, children and kids are largely affected as they cannot defend themselves.

  1. Lack of trust and lying

Addicted people may be difficult to trust due to their constant lying behaviour. They lie to cover up their behaviours and to keep their drug addiction habit. Mistrust in the family causes resentment and turmoil within relations in the family.

  1. Conflict in Families

Substance use disorder can lead to negativism in the family. Communication in the family is always negative when you have an addicted family member. Anger and resentment fill the communication. People will always criticize, pull-down, and complain about each other when talking. It leaves everyone concerned traumatized.

  1. Rejection and shame

Addiction doesn’t affect one person, but the entire family suffer because of shame and denial.  Relatives may work tirelessly to cover up the impacts of drug addiction in their family and later develop a system of denial. They deny that they have a problem of substance use in the family.  Sadly, the shame caused by the behaviour of the addicted may make some family members get into drugs to cope with the situation or avoid reality.

Consequences of Parental Abuse of Drugs to Kids

Substance use affects everybody in the family, but in most cases, children and teenagers are impacted largely by drug addiction of the parent or guardian.  The following are some detrimental effects.

  • Neglection and abuse

For instance, in the US 40-80 percent of child abuse cases are due to alcohol and drug abuse in the family. Often, addicted parents prioritize their substance than anything else including the needs of their children. The children are left struggling to cater for their basic requirements such as food. Addicts sometimes are moody and might physically or emotionally abuse the kids.

  • Adult Roles

Addicted parents are always thinking about substance use, and thus their children will have to fit into their shoes as parents. Older siblings must get food, cook, and clean for the family. Also, since they may be stressed about their parent’s addiction behaviour, they will also offer emotional support to the younger ones and the parent too.

  • Parental Inconsistency

Addicted people are sometimes forgetful which affects their parental responsibility. They set erratic rules with inconsistent consequences for the children. Children get confused between the right and the wrong thing. Parents give them different signals on behaviour. Due to this, the kids might have bad manners assuming they will trigger the parents to set precisely defined boundaries. With no clear limits, teenagers and children can’t figure out parental responses and behave accordingly.

  • Emotional instability and behaviour problems in children

Growing up in a family where drugs are abused creates an instable surrounding due to mood swings, chaos, misunderstandings, violence, and many other negative behaviours. In most cases, the whole family of an addicted person may feel ashamed, scared, and insecure, but children are largely affected.

They haven’t developed fully emotionally, and in such situations, it isn’t a priority. Also, the kids suffer from miscarried emotions such as anger from the addicted parents.

  • Unrealistic parental anticipations

In most cases, addicted people do not make right decisions and hence they may have unachievable expectations to the kids. It may make the children to overwork or become rebellious.

Dealing with An Addicted Parent

Dealing with an addicted person in the family despite the age can be tricky, more also if they are your parent. The most important thing to put in your mind is that substance addiction is a disease and they need your assistance. Although drug abuse is a choice, once a person is addicted they got no control over the substance use. All their life revolves around the drug.

You should ask for help immediately you suspect your parents of substance use disorder. One can talk to the school counsellor or a trusted adult friend about the issue. Do not blame yourself for their actions. Everybody makes choices that are accompanied by consequences later, including the parents and older people.

Your parent must pay for their choice which is recovery, though you should assist them. Remember there is still hope for your loved daddy, mommy, or guardian. Do not struggle alone since they can become violent and rebellious. Learn to take care of yourself; their behaviour may strain you emotionally and physically. Do not make excuses for their addiction behaviour or cover them up. It might seem like a good thing at that moment, but it is more damaging to them and to your family at large.

Signs that Your Parent is Addicted

substance abuseAddicted people hide their behaviour and it can be difficult to tell if your parent is abusing substances. Their moods are usually elevated, sometimes they may very talkative, a lot of energy and fewer inhibitions. As the substance gets out of the system, anger, irritability, depression, fatigue, dizziness, violence, etc. may show up.

It can be difficult as a child to know what to anticipate from an addicted parent. Their behaviour might be unpredictable and erratic. Though promises may be many, most of them are broken and home life is no longer joyous and stable like life before they were addicted. The listed below are some symptoms of an addicted parent;

  • Most of their time is spent on drugs. Either they have gone to buy, abuse, or are recovering from the impacts of the use such as hangovers.
  • Promise to quit the substance use but they always fail. They may have the desire to stop but drug addiction is so powerful.
  • Consuming the substance for a longer period or they take large quantities than they were consuming before.
  • They are constantly having cravings.
  • Tolerance to the substance – they require more substance to achieve their desired feeling than they used to before.

Tips for Dealing with Addicted Parent or Guardian

Once you feel uncomfortable around them, call a close friend, a family member, or your neighbour and request for assistance. If your parents become aggressive leave the scene instantly. You can dial 911 if you are in great danger. The following are some tips for dealing with an addicted parent;

Ask for assistance – keeping addiction behaviour of a parent secretly is dangerous to you and your family. Reach out to close relatives, school counsellor, or older friends. It is the most powerful and initial step of dealing with the issue.

Build support – get close to people who are trustworthy, who are ready to listen and help without judging or criticizing your parent’s actions. Get rid of friends and family members who are always discouraging you or are tempting your parent to consume drugs. Identify people who are caring, they don’t have to be many.

Accepting the problem – acknowledge that your parent has a problem with drugs. If you try hiding or denying, it will only worsen the situation. By accepting the problem, it gives your mind power to control the situation.

Be informed about drug addiction – research and learn about drug addiction and the effects of it on the family and health of the addict.  Be aware of how their drinking or abuse of drugs has affected you and the family. Having facts which are tangible gives you a clear perspective why getting assistance for them is essential. Also, you will gain the strength you require to face the addiction problem.

Learn your emotions – dealing with an addicted person, especially a loved one can be traumatizing and trigger negative emotions. Be sure that you might experience anger, hate, resentment, fear, or discouragement. Note that these emotions are strong. Use them positively to give you the energy to face the problem. If you take them negatively, you will be discouraged, and you might give up.

Healthy coping strategies – learn healthy strategies to keep you motivated. Living with addicted people can be an unhealthy example of how to face life challenges. Get some healthy things to do like jogging, playing soccer, watching movies, and many others to break the trend of substance addiction in you and the family.

Leading a healthy lifestyle will help you in stopping the cycle of drug addiction in your family. Most children who grow in families with people who abuse drugs are in great danger of getting into substance use as they grow. Accepting that addiction runs in the family will help you in keeping off from drugs and ensuring that they will not be part of your life.


Nearly every individual who is connected to the addicted person is affected by their behaviour in a way. Rarely are the consequences felt by the addicted person alone. In fact, in most cases, the family suffers most. Spouses are forced to assume both roles in the family, which can be challenging and confusing. They cover up and make excuses for their partner’s behaviour and may incur sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.

The extended family chips in and help the addict’s family financially and in other roles to try to fill in the space of the addict. Children are affected emotionally and are at great risk of abusing drugs. Since every person close to the addict is affected, during recovery and treatment of addiction, close family members and friends play a big role.