When someone is locked in a battle with a substance use disorder, it can feel like he or she is dealing with addiction alone. Moreover, we often forget the other people affected by the individual’s addiction. Because while we know that it certainly harms the user, addiction also affects spouses, children, parents, and other friends and family members.
The consequences can be financial, emotional, or even physical. In this piece we’ll focus on addiction’s effects on members of the household and immediate family, but anyone close to someone dealing with addiction can struggle.
It’s hard to watch a partner suffer under the weight of addiction. In severe cases, it can feel like the person you married has become someone else entirely.
Many addicts’ spouses and partners know this feeling of despair too well. Unconditional love and support puts a heavy burden on the people providing it, especially since these individuals can develop mood disorders or substance abuse struggles of their own as they do their best to support their partner.
Unfortunately, the crippling emotional strain that comes from watching someone you love suffer is, sadly, only the beginning of the impact that addiction has on married life.
Substance addiction disorder, including alcohol and tobacco, costs people in the United States trillions in direct costs related to:
- Traffic accidents
- Criminal proceedings
In addition to healthcare costs, overdoses are also on the rise. Moreover, the financial strain of alcohol or drug dependency can cause additional marital strain and is the second-leading cause of divorce after infidelity. When combined with the erosion of trust from repeated relapses, financial strain undermines the already-eroded foundational trust in a relationship.
Finally, addicts’ partners might suffer from abuse (either verbal or violent) brought on by the emotional outbursts that can occur when an individual is in the throes of intoxication.
Parents and Children
Children suffer just as much as their other parent does when they suffer from a SUD. However, while the emotions are similar, the effects can be more severe: Witnessing parental substance abuse increases the chances that children will mimic their parents’ behavior and fall into substance abuse themselves. The children of addicts also face a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and similar emotional disorders later in life.
Additionally, addiction in the family unit increases the likelihood of physical abuse. In fact, both children and parents are also more likely to suffer abuse due to their proximity to a family member who’s suffering from a substance use disorder and the accompanying emotional volatility.
The likelihood that a child develops an addiction at some point in his or her life is rising. Because children and adolescents are impressionable, making them more likely to succumb to peer pressure or to learn the behavior from parents. Similarly, adolescents could find themselves turning to alcohol and/or drugs to cope with distress in their homes.
That distress might come from
- Parental substance abuse
- Conflict from child substance abuse
- Financial strain
- Any other factor
There are other ways for distress to harm parent-child relationships in homes with addiction. Notably, parental guilt and the fraught pressure to quit using alcohol or drugs can actually lead to situations in which parent and child are driven further apart.
Alcohol and drug use among children can cause a number of negative effects, including:
- Declining academic performance with consequences for future prospects
- Reckless and risk-taking behavior with a greater likelihood of physical injury
- Stealing money, which can lead to criminal charges
- Running away
These conflicts strain the relationship between child and parent, and such strained relationships during a formative part of life can leave a scar that’s difficult to heal.
Silicon Beach Sober Living Is Here to Help Your Family Heal
If you or a member of your family is struggling with substance abuse, Silicon Beach Behavioral Health can help.
Finding the right place to go for mental health support is hard, especially when you’re experiencing symptoms of an untreated (or inadequately treated) diagnosis. At Silicon Beach Behavioral Health, our mission is to provide individuals with the knowledge, resources, and support needed to achieve lasting mental health.
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