Addiction to drugs, whether this is illegal substances or prescription medication, can obviously have devastating consequences for the individual. But what drug addiction does to a family can be heart-breaking. It can tear families apart and it can result in mental and physical health problems as well as financial struggles.
You may have heard addiction referred to as a family illness; this is because of the impact that it can have on relationships and the family unit as a whole. It is not possible for one member of a family to be struggling with a drug addiction without everyone else being affected too.
The Impact of Drug Addiction on the Family
It is easy to see how a drug addiction can affect the person abusing the drugs. As you might imagine, an addiction to drugs can lead to problems with health and finances. But it is not so easy to see the damage that it causes to others; at least not initially.
Family members are bound by blood and tend to care deeply about one another, so when one member is struggling with an addiction, it can have a profound impact on everyone else in the family. Some members will jump into action immediately and will try to ‘fix’ their addicted loved one. It can take a while to realise that this is not as easy as it may first seem.
Others will become resentful or angry towards their addicted loved one and will not understand why he or she continues to abuse drugs when it is causing problems for everyone. Confusion, distress, hurt and pain are common emotions experienced by the family members of those with a drug addiction.
How Does Drug Addiction Affect Children?
When considering what drug addiction does to a family, it is important not to forget the impact that it can have on children. Children are often referred to as ‘forgotten victims’ because most adults assume that they are either too young to understand or they simply ignore them, thinking that they will not be impacted. Unfortunately, this is not the case because even when they are too young to know what is going on, they are still going to feel the full force of this illness.
If addiction affects a parent, you can be sure that children will be deeply affected. They will suffer from embarrassment and shame if they are old enough to know what is going on. They might become withdrawn and isolated, preferring to keep themselves to themselves – particularly at school – for fear that others might discover their secret.
Some children might also feel guilty about being embarrassed by their addicted parent. They may feel as though they are betraying him or her, which can lead to stress and upset. Going forward, this can leave deep emotional scars that may affect them in later life and possibly hinder their ability to form healthy relationships with others.
Financial Implications of a Drug Addiction
Abusing drugs can cause financial problems for the individual and his or her family members. As a drug addiction progresses, the need for drugs increases. When the body gets used to the presence of the substance in question, it can lead to an increased tolerance to the effects of the chemicals. This means that you are not going to get the same feelings of pleasure that you did when you first started to take the drugs.
This, in turn, will mean taking more drugs to achieve the feelings you desire. This cycle continues and as the illness progresses you will need increasingly more drugs to feel satisfied. This will entail spending more money on drugs than before, but as the addiction is getting worse, your ability to earn an income has also been hampered.
As you become desperate for drugs, you could be forced to take desperate measures. You may have spent all your available funds and are now spending money meant for other essential items. This could mean that your family is left with financial problems.
How Relationships Suffer Because of Drug Addiction?
A drug addiction can cause various problems for the family, as highlighted above, but it can also have severe implications for relationships between members. Even relationships that were once healthy can be pushed to breaking point by addiction.
Drug addiction is like any other addiction in that it can consume your every waking thought and action. As your need for drugs overwhelms you, you might begin neglecting the important people in your life. To you, all that will matter is the substance you have been abusing. You may even get to the point where everything else takes a backseat, and that includes your family members.
Parents, sibling, spouses and children will all be relegated to second place behind your need for drugs. And they will struggle to come to terms with this.
Your illness will have a knock-on effect on other members of your family. Some might develop what is known as co-dependency. This is a condition whereby close family members develop their own dependency; only their addiction is to you and not a toxic substance.
Co-dependency can cause members of your family to become obsessed with you and your illness. Their life will revolve around you and they may even change their own behaviour in response to yours. So they might start lying or covering up for you, or they might stop socialising with others for fear that they will find out about your addiction. The result of this is that their life ends up being deeply affected and they might begin putting your needs above their own.
Co-dependent family members often enable their addicted loved ones without realising what they are doing, which means that they are making it easier for the addict to continue with his or her addictive behaviour. The co-dependent might start to take over the responsibilities of the addict because he or she is unable to due to being under the influence of drugs.
They might bury their heads in the sand and fail to hold the addict to account for his or her bad behaviour. They might hand out cash to help pay for food or bills because the addict has spent all his or her own money on drugs. Doing this might feeling like helping but it is causing more harm in the long run as the addict will never get the help he or she needs.
How Can Rehab Help Families?
Since drug addiction is known as a family illness, it is important that family members are involved in the recovery process too. In many instances, it is an underlying family issue that has led to the addiction. Family therapy can help with the resolution of such issues.
Family therapy can also help to resolve the issues that have been caused by the addiction. In a group or one-to-one setting, family members can air their grievances in a bid to overcome the addiction once and for all.
If you would like more information on what drug addiction does to a family, please contact us here at Oasis Bradford. We can assist you when it comes to finding a suitable programme that includes family therapy. Please call today for more information.