Substance abuse does not only affect the user; it affects everyone around him as well. Family members suffer significant consequences of substance abuse in the home, whether the abuser is a child, parent, spouse or sibling. Understanding the effects of substance abuse on the family is an essential part of the recovery process – putting everyone on the right path to wellness and sobriety.
Substance Abuse Patterns
Parents that abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to have children that become substance abusers. In addition to potential genetic links to substance addiction, the simple act of living by example will have a profound impact on the kids and possibly others in the home. In addition, children of substance abusers are more likely to suffer a mental illness, which also increases the risk for substance abuse.
Parents who abuse drugs or alcohol also increase some types of health risks for their children. For example, children in homes with a substance abuser are more likely to suffer from accidents or injuries. If the parent also smokes, second-hand smoke increases a child’s risk for lung cancer and other diseases. Women who drink while pregnant may give birth to children with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Substance abuse is an expensive problem, which can lead to financial strain on the entire family. In many cases, money put aside for rent or groceries may be spent instead on drugs or alcohol. Some family members may not even be happy with the idea of spending money on addiction treatment after suffering the financial stress addiction often brings.
Abuse and Neglect
One study found that parents that abuse drugs or alcohol were three times more likely to abuse their children and four times more likely to neglect them. Behavioral problems were also more common in children of substance abusers. In some cases, children may be taken out of the home because the substance abuse led to abuse or neglect.
Substance abuse causes conflict among family members. Some members may be jealous because the addict is getting so much of the attention. Spouses of addicts may become resentful of having to shoulder additional responsibility or cover up for their spouse’s addiction. Children may assume unhealthy roles in the family to compensate for the substance abuser’s inability to provide proper care and guidance.
Substance abuse is truly a family affair, affecting everyone in the household in a variety of negative ways. Those effects are why it is important for the entire family to seek help and support for an addiction, so everyone can experience healing and wellness through the recovery process.