It’s not often that we hear about the hardships families go through when their loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Topics regarding drug and alcohol addiction are often centered around the user to help them decide their next step. However, it is important to discuss the impact of substance use on families.

Excessive drug and alcohol use can cause discord among family members and leave everyone upset, frustrated, and hopeless. The good news is that the negative effects of SUD on families can be reversed.

Why is Addiction Considered a Family Disease?

By family disease, we mean that every person in the addicted person’s immediate family is affected in some way by the loved one’s substance abuse. Addictions can affect a family’s finances, physical health, and overall wellbeing. If addiction is left untreated, the entire family can feel the effects until the individual either leaves the home or gets sober.

Family Roles: Adjusting to the Behaviors of a Substance User

Every person in every family has a role, or multiple roles, that they play in order to maintain stability and balance. However, when substance abuse occurs, the family roles naturally shift to adjust to the new behaviors associated with substance abuse.

Here are six roles that outline how a family behaves and functions around substance abuse:

#1. Hero:

An older member of the family who appears confident and serious usually assumes this role. The hero role takes on responsibilities in the home that can often exceed their development stage, such as parental roles.

#2. Scapegoat:

This is the family member who often misbehaves and goes against authority. This person often gets in trouble at school or at home and as they grow older, may get in trouble with the law.

#3. Addict:

Many addicted people feel shame and guilt about the pain they cause their family members due to their addiction. However, there are also many who do not want to stop using and are somewhat unaware of the effects they are causing their family.

#4. Lost Child:

This person isolates themselves from other members of the family and has trouble developing relationships. They have difficulty in social situations and often distract themselves from the negative home environment through fantasy play.

#5. Mascot:

Some individuals will take on this role and use humor as a coping mechanism. The mascot is aware that their comedy brings a momentary sense of relief to the family and continues to maintain this role in order to achieve balance.

#6. Enabler:

The enabler takes care of all the things the addict has left undone, such as taking care of finances, ensuring children get to school, making justifications for the addict, etc. This family member is often in denial about the addiction problem and will continue making excuses for their loved one.

The effects of living with a substance abuser can influence choices and decisions a child will make in the future.  This outcome is a significant impact of substance use on families.

Reverse the Impact of Substance Use on Families

Addiction creates a significant imbalance in the family unit. Also, it can create a poor environment for children, making their lives difficult and stressful.  Many of the children begin using drugs or alcohol at an earlier age than their counterparts.  Furthermore, a spouse of an addicted person may begin using drugs or alcohol to help them cope.

The best way to bring the family back together is through professional addiction treatment. If you or a loved one has substance use disorder, or your family is suffering from the impact of substance abuse, contact New Beginnings to get more information on how our program can help you and your family live a life that is free from the burden of addiction.