Effects of Drug Abuse on the Family Unit: Fighting Together

Good description of addiction being a family disease – T Brown

Effects of Drug AbuseAnyone who has ever been exposed to the complex world of drug addiction will know, with heartbreaking familiarity, how insidious the disease can be.

Not only does it rob the addict of their physical, emotional and psychological well-being, but the effects of drug abuse on the family unit can also be equally destructive and devastating.

Effects of Drug Abuse – It’s More than Just an Addict’s Problem

Here at Midwest Recovery Centers, we know how utterly devastating it is to see a loved one in the grips of a drug addiction. And, we understand that compulsive behavior of all kinds destroys lives.

But, drug abuse does not happen in a vacuum.

While the effects of drug abuse on the addict are well-documented, when we focus entirely on the addict, we lose sight of the bigger picture.

The family picture.

Yes, the actions of a drug addict are the actions of an individual, but drug abuse hurts more than just the person with the addiction. Their actions have enormous consequences on the family unit as a whole.

Family dynamics can be disturbed, relationships can become strained, and for some family members, emotional turmoil can be the order of the day.

Often, in addiction treatment, while the addict receives the help they need, the people left behind in the family can find themselves in a quagmire of confusion, loneliness, and despair.

If this sounds familiar to you, we want you to know that you are not alone.

Do you love an addict? Does a member of your family suffer from drug or alcohol addiction?

If so, read on.

This article is for you.

Effects of Drug Abuse on The Family Unit

Drug Abuse and You

The effects of drug abuse can put an immeasurable strain on family members. Depending on who is abusing drugs, individual family members will experience a range of different feelings throughout the progression of the drug abuse.

Watching your mother, father, brother, sister or anyone who is part of your family, become caught up in drug addiction can be as exhausting as it is traumatic.

When your family member is abusing drugs, you are faced with some very harsh realities.

Some of these realities include the following:

  • The family member is unreliable and you simply cannot count on them
  • What they say and what they do are often poles apart
  • They lie and steal to feed their habit
  • Their drug habit becomes the most important thing in their life
  • They may become a stranger to you – emotionally, as well as spiritually
  • They may get into trouble with the law
  • They may not see that they have a problem and so they reject treatment of any kind

You may experience regular feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, abandonment, embarrassment, or even guilt.

Some people may wish to cut all ties with the addict, while others may want to take a more prominent role in the addict’s recovery.

A Family Disease

Addiction is often called a family disease, and for good reason too.

If recovery is not sought, the effects of drug abuse can become intergenerational.

Drug abuse has the potential to have very negative effects on a whole myriad of family dynamics, the most important of which are role modeling, trust, and the concepts of what normal and acceptable behavior look like.

If left untreated, the effects on families may continue for generations.

Effects of Drug Abuse on the Family

Though no two families are exactly alike, there are some common ways that drug abuse affects the family unit.

Here they are:


The overall mood of the household often becomes progressively downbeat. Negativity begins to take over and communication between family members (including the addict or not) may take the form of complaints, criticism, and condemnation.

This kind of negative communication can become the norm.

Living on Edge

Major conflict can arise in families that are caught up in addiction because the addict cannot be relied upon and all family members will have opinions and feelings about that.

Because the addict’s behavior can be erratic and unpredictable, family members may live in a constant state of fear, conflict and overwhelming stress.

Resentment Can Build Up

Once addiction has taken hold, it can be very difficult not to judge the addict for everything he or she has become.

Family members can easily find themselves caught between two extremes: They may resent the past and fear the future.

In these circumstances, it can be very difficult not to resent the drug addict who has brought such turmoil into your life.

Feelings of Shame

It is difficult not to want to hide away from the world when a family member is abusing drugs.

Even though the addiction is not your fault, you may feel the need to deny the drug abuse is taking place at all – both to yourself and to the outside world.

You may even help the addict to deceive others. This is because deep feelings of shame can come to the surface.

Shame is a truly destructive emotion for anyone to carry.

Financial Problems

The effects of drug abuse on families are often seen in the form of extreme financial burden.

In some cases, drug addiction can mean that families don’t have their basic needs met, such as food or clothing. Drug addiction has also been responsible for families losing their home.


Despite all of the difficulties that families encounter with drug abuse, the chances are high that you love the addict.

Out of that love, you may find yourself engaging in behaviors that reinforce the addict’s behavior.

Here are some of those well-meaning but dysfunctional behaviors:

  • You may make excuses for the drug abuse
  • You might accept unacceptable behavior
  • You may take on responsibilities that are not yours
  • You might put the drug addict’s needs ahead of your own. This can turn into a habit

Of course, all of these are the acts of someone who loves deeply and is desperate to help.

But, these behaviors only serve to protect the drug addict from the consequences of their addiction and, unfortunately, they may end up making the problem even worse.

The Effects of Drug Abuse: Families Fighting Together

As a person who loves a drug addict, you have probably been living a life on the edge for some time now. But, there is a way for families to fight the effects of drug abuse together.

At Midwest Recovery Centers, we believe that family is an essential part of recovery for anyone. Because of this, we don’t just treat the drug addict, we provide education, counseling, and much-needed support for families.

You’re in this with the addict, right?

We’re in this with you.

In fact, recovery often works best when we’re all in this together.


Reviewed and Assessed by
Taylor Brown, B.A.Com., MAADC II
Tim Coleman, M. of Ed.

Staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Click or Call Today! 844-990-1578

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