HOW SUBSTANCE ABUSE AFFECTS FAMILIES
Problematic drug use has far-reaching effects, transforming the life of the addict while also sowing familial discord. Yet, due to the laser-like focus on the addict’s issues and recovery efforts, too little has been said about how the fallout impacts spouses, sons, daughters and siblings, since drug policy, research and services is has been mostly about meeting the afflicted individual’s needs.
The truth is that addiction is a family disease – which attacks the stability and unity of the household, as well as mental, physical and overall familial dynamics.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMSHA) guide, “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy” points out how substance abuse may impact various family types, including:
- A client who lives alone or with a partner – In this situation both partners need help. If one is chemically dependent and the other is not, issues of codependence arise.
- Clients who live with a spouse or partner and minor children – Most available data indicate that a parent’s drinking problem often has a detrimental effect on children. The spouse of the person abusing substances is likely to protect the children and assume the parenting duties of the parent abusing substances. The effect on children is worse if both parents abuse alcohol or abuse drugs.
- A client who is part of a blended family – Stepfamilies present special challenges and substance abuse can become an impediment to a stepfamily’s integration and stability.
- An older client with grown children – Additional family resources may be needed to treat the older adult’s substance use disorder. There may be issues of elder maltreatment that must be reported to local authorities.
- An adolescent substance abuser living with his or her family of origin – Siblings in the family may find their needs and concerns ignored while their parents react to the continuous crises involving the teenagers who abuses alcohol or drugs. If there is a parent who also abuses substances, this can set in motion a combination of physical and emotional problems that can be very dangerous.
The purpose of a drug & alcohol interventionist is to direct the addict to want help and to accept accountability for the addiction by comfortably changing the family dynamic. A drug and alcohol interventionist is not there just to inspire your loved one to change; the interventionist is primarily there to put the family back on top with hope and direction. Your family’s loved one is not going to fix the problem until there is a reason to do so. An interventionist provides that reason on the family’s terms, not the addict’s or alcoholic’s.