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4 Ways How Addiction Affects Family and Friends

Family therapy is an integral part of many rehab and recovery programs for a reason: The entire family — and close friends — is often impacted by a substance abuse disorder or addiction. That holds whether someone is dealing with an addiction to prescription pain medication, alcohol, or something more illicit such as heroin or cocaine. You can read more about how addiction affects family and friends in a free brochure published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

But if you’re not sold on the value of including loved ones in your recovery — or you think you’re dealing with an addiction that is solely your problem — check out these four ways your addiction impacts your friends and family.


Addiction Can Mean the Loss of Relationships

Addiction is to healthy relationships what cancer is to the body. It’s something that can spread, weakening and destroying the relationship — and if it’s not caught and treated, it can kill the relationship.

Even when someone truly loves you and wants to support you, addiction can become a barrier that seems impossible to overcome. That’s true partly because of some of the behaviors a substance abuse disorder can spawn. Some things individuals caught in addiction might do to drive away others include:

  • Engaging in isolating behaviors, closing more and more of their lives off to family and friends
  • Avoiding family or friends who have commented on or confronted them about drug or alcohol use in the past
  • Lying about drug or alcohol use or hiding it from loved ones
  • Stealing from loved ones to help fund an addiction
  • Displaying moodiness, anger, or paranoia caused by the use of substances or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol when they can’t use
  • Manipulating others to ensure continued support or relationship despite substance abuse

While loved ones may understand that many behaviors are driven by the addiction and not necessarily the individual’s own feelings for family and friends, these types of behaviors can create chasms of hurt, betrayal, and loss that are difficult to overcome.

Substance Abuse Changes Family (and Friend) Dynamics

Addiction can change the entire dynamic of a relationship, putting family members or friends in the role of caregiver, even if that is an unnatural or unfair position. For example, if a parent is dealing with a substance abuse disorder, a child may step into the role of caregiver, trying to fill in when their parent is unable to care for themselves or other children in the home.

Spouses may become caregivers for their partner, siblings could take on responsibilities for a sister or brother, and close friends might step into this role for someone they care about. And while this type of dedication and love is laudable, it’s not always healthy and can put everyone in greater danger or stress or at risk for health issues — including the person caught in addiction.

Addiction Leads to Emotional Issues and Grief

Even if family dynamics remain relatively unchanged, emotional strife is unlikely to be absent from a home where addiction is at play. Substance abuse can foster various emotional issues in the person dealing with addiction — including extreme anger, despondency and depression, and paranoia and anxiety.

And when one member of a household or tightly knit social circle is dealing with such emotional extremes, everyone else tends to be impacted too. Loved ones may feel:

  • Anger that the other person has put them in this situation
  • Grief over what they see as the loss of a relationship or their “real” friend or family member
  • Depression or sorrow because they don’t feel like the situation will ever get better
  • Shame or a need to hide the addiction from those outside the family
  • Worry and fear that their loved one may hurt themselves disappear or even die
  • Uncertainty and confusion about what might happen next with a volatile loved one

The result of all these things is that an entire family can be mired in emotional turmoil — and that’s not something that goes away just because a person dealing with addiction promises to do better or agrees to seek treatment. These are wounds that can take time — and therapy — to heal.


Financial or Legal Issues Can impact the family.

Finally, a family can be impacted by the outward consequences of substance abuse and addiction.

They may have to deal with financial issues that can come from addiction. Drugs and alcohol are rarely free, and an addiction can quickly become expensive. Family members suffer when someone in the house is funding a substance abuse disorder — particularly if it’s a parent or other contributing adult, because the money that might normally go toward necessities such as food or rent may be spent on alcohol or drugs. Plus, addiction can come with numerous health consequences, which can also increase the financial obligations of the household.

Substance abuse and addiction don’t just lead to more expenses, though. It can also cause loss of income — while many employers can’t fire you simply because you admit to dealing with addiction, the behaviors associated with substance abuse can cause you to lose your job.

Family members may also be impacted by the legal consequences that come with addiction. Whether your loved ones are children, siblings or parents, they’re not going to go unscathed if you have a run-in with law enforcement or are arrested because of a substance abuse issue.

Get Help for Yourself and Your Family

Whether you have a loved one who is caught in addiction or you are the loved one dealing with a substance abuse disorder, you don’t have to continue suffering alone (or together as a family).

Taking the step toward rehab and recovery means taking a step toward a healthier family dynamic and repaired relationships.

For more information on how addiction affects family and friends and how you can get professional help to overcome it, contact our Florida rehab today. You can complete our web form to request a callback or call our hotline at 877-284-0353 to speak to an experienced, caring counselor right now.