Effects of Addiction on Family

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SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) recently published data from NSDUH 2021 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) that shows addiction continues to rise in the United States. 46 million U.S. adults were diagnosed with substance use disorder involving drugs or alcohol in the previous year.

Regrettably, the effects of addiction on families can be just as impactful as the effects on the individual abusing substances. Children, spouses, and parents can all be affected by the consequences of a family member with an addiction.

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Alcohol and drug abuse effects on family members can be short-term and long-term, and may include:

  • Erosion of trust within the family.
  • Conflict becoming normalized.
  • Communication can become challenging.
  • Family members may become secretive or isolated.
  • Physical changes and issues like overdose in those with addictions can trigger trauma in family members.
  • Codependent behaviors developing.

Today’s guide explores how addiction affects families and shows you how to connect with the help you need to overcome addiction and become stronger as a family unit.

How Addiction Affects the Family

These are some of the main ways in which addiction impacts the whole family, not just the person abusing drugs:

  • Ripple Effects
  • Financial Problems
  • Neglect and Abuse
  • Effect on Children
An image of a family walking the pier, as the parents consider the effects of addiction on the family

Ripple Effects

Drug addiction, clinically termed substance use disorder, often triggers a ripple effect of unintended and ongoing consequences.

Most people who start using addictive substances have no desire to develop an addiction. Substance use disorder is a progressive and chronic brain condition that comes about incrementally. Some people feel they can control their use of substances, but when addiction develops, a central component is the compulsive use of substances. When the negative consequences of chronic drug abuse are not apparent, some people deepen the ripple of substance abuse a little more before discovering that they are unable to moderate or discontinue use.

These ripples move outward, though. The first outward effects of a person abusing drugs are felt by their closest friends and family members.

Often, individuals battling substance use disorder are supported in various ways by family members. Family dynamics shift and dysfunctional roles emerge. The two core roles are the addict and the enabler.

  • Addict: The person with a substance use disorder assumes the central role in the family. Drug use is the driving force of their life. Resultantly, they often end up deceiving, hurting, and manipulating other family members.
  • Enabler: Typically, the partner or spouse of the person with an addiction, enablers engage in codependent behaviors and enable the person’s substance abuse by making excuses for them, assuming extra responsibilities, and providing them with money for drugs. These behaviors often mask inner feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal.

Financial Problems

Maintaining any kind of drug habit is expensive. In many cases, active drug addiction eats up the entirety of someone’s income.

Beyond this, severe substance use disorders can make it challenging for someone to hold down employment, potentially leading to job loss and financial stress for the household.

Oftentimes, legal complications like DUI charges or drug possession charges can introduce tension into the family dynamic. The associated costs can further inflame financial stress.

When the time comes for the addicted individual to engage with treatment, family members often bear some of these costs, too.

In the most extreme cases, the financial implications of drug addiction can lead to:

  • Problems paying for food and utilities
  • Inability to pay rent
  • Homelessness
  • Incarceration

Neglect and Abuse

When conflict is recurrent and becomes normalized, physical abuse may start occurring alongside building emotional abuse.

In some cases, the addicted individual perpetrates this abuse, and in other instances, it is their vulnerability that exposes them to abuse at the hands of other family members.

Abuse and addiction can turn into a vicious cycle that is best broken with treatment that includes family therapy.

Effect on Children

Research shows that one in five children grows up in a household where one or both parents abuse alcohol or drugs. If a child witnesses the trauma of a parent grappling with an addiction, this can trigger long-term effects and increase the likelihood that the child develops a substance use disorder.

The same data show that children with parents who abuse substances are three times more likely to be physically abused, sexually abused, or neglected.

Children who witness their parents abusing drugs or alcohol are at risk of repeating these behaviors.

Early exposure to substance abuse at home can make a child feel physically and emotionally and neglected, potentially even unsafe. Resultantly, they may become more emotionally and mentally unstable. Children can develop guilt or self-blame when their parents abuse drugs or alcohol.

In the most extreme cases, children might be placed in foster care. If you have a child who is struggling with addiction, learn more about how you can help here. 

Why You Should Get Help

Substance abuse can impact families on all levels: social, financial, emotional, and psychological. While addiction is incurable, most substance use disorders respond positively to evidence-based treatment. Untreated, addictions typically get worse due to the progressive nature of the condition.

Rather than allowing the ripple effects of addiction to undermine and ultimately destroy loving trusting family relationships, engage with treatment at California Detox where you can involve all family members in your treatment plan. Also explore resources like Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) if you were affected by a close family member who struggles with addiction.

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Drug Rehab at California Detox

If you need help addressing drug addiction, we can help you and your family members with our evidence-based treatment programs at California Detox.

Before you engage with treatment, you might benefit from our supervised medical detox program. Medications combined with emotional and clinical care around the clock will streamline drug withdrawal over a week or so. You can then transition into one of the following treatment programs:

All California Detox drug addiction treatment programs will personalize treatment that includes MAT (medication assisted treatment), counseling, and psychotherapy. Additionally, you and your loved ones can participate in family therapy here at our affordable luxury rehab center in Southern California.

When you are ready to unchain yourself and your family from drug addiction, call 949.390.5377 for immediate assistance.


If you have asked yourself, “how does substance abuse affect families”, there are many adverse outcomes, including: Financial pressures; Job loss; Marital problems; Neglect; Physical abuse; Emotional abuse; Mental health issues. The effects of addiction ripple far beyond the person abusing substances, serving to destabilize the family unit.
Addiction can adversely impact your relationships by increasing conflict, widening emotional distance, leading to neglect or abuse, and creating financial problems. Trust issues can seep into all relationships when one individual is abusing drugs or alcohol.


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