The effects of drug addiction on family members

Referred to by many as a “family disease,” drug addiction casts a long shadow that touches every aspect of family life. Just as a storm subtly builds up in the distance before unleashing its full fury, drug addiction can quietly infiltrate families, ultimately erupting with devastating consequences. The effects of this storm are not confined to the individual struggling with addiction; they fan out, engulfing every family member and leaving a trail of shattered relationships and emotional upheaval in its wake.

In this detailed and potentially difficult exploration of the effects of addiction on family members, we will look at how relationships can be pushed to breaking point, trust and understanding lost and sufferers left isolated from those whose support and love are so crucial for recovery.

Trust – The first casualty of drug addiction

For many of us, our family provides the foundations of our lives, a safety net woven from threads of love, trust and shared experiences. However, drug addiction can slowly weave into the fabric of families with lies, manipulation and broken promises, creating an undercurrent of mistrust that chips away at the heart of familial bonds.

Recovery from drug addiction takes time, commitment and motivation, and very few people succeed the first time. 40-60% of those in recovery relapse at some point, which can cause family members who have stood by a loved one in drug rehab to feel betrayed. Family support is often the most potent tool in cocaine recovery. Family support often emerges as a powerful tool in the recovery process, but if family members feel compelled to disengage, it can leave the individual feeling forgotten and misunderstood, ultimately eroding their sense of hope.

Isolation – Drug addiction’s most powerful ally

Like all forms of addiction, drug addiction thrives when it can isolate a sufferer from their loved ones. This often comes as mutual mistrust goes with the sufferer becoming distant and their loved ones feeling helpless. Isolation can result in deep resentment on both sides and cause emotional barriers to be put up due to fears of rejection or feelings of guilt and shame. Left unchecked, these fractures may become permanent divisions, causing wounds that slowly heal and impacting the entire family’s dynamics.

Husband isolating himself due to substance abuse

Walking on eggshells – Instability and uncertainty

In the grip of drug addiction, a nurturing and safe family environment can transform into a field of eggshells. The constancy of chaos can perpetuate family members on tenterhooks, with home morphing into an unsettling space marked by unpredictability and volatility.

Drugs can bring about drastic behavioural changes, causing individuals to act erratically and out of character. Family members often adapt by growing overly cautious, stifling their needs and emotions to placate the addicted individual and avoid confrontations. This unceasing tension imprints long-lasting emotional scars, particularly on children, leaving them grappling with trust issues and a deep-seated sense of insecurity.

An estimated 478,000 children were living with a drug or alcohol-addicted parent in the UK in 2020, which exposes them to many risks. Broken promises, neglect, and, in some instances, abuse often mar these young lives. They also face the increased risk of being ensnared in the cycle of drug addiction themselves, extending the chain of devastation across generations.

An emotional whirlwind – Depression, guilt and blame

A whirlwind of emotions is a common aftermath of the drug addiction storm. Depression is a common and unwelcome companion in families dealing with drug addiction. The sheer energy required to live with a drug-addicted family member and the emotional vacuum left by their loved one’s detachment can lead to a pervading sense of sadness, often leading to depression.

Guilt is another heavy burden often carried by family members, especially children, in a household grappling with drug addiction. They may blame themselves for their loved one’s addiction, convinced they could have done something to prevent the problem or that their actions somehow caused the drug use. This misplaced guilt can become an overwhelming emotional load, casting a long shadow into adulthood.

The emotional unavailability of a family member addicted to drugs can also stir deep-seated feelings of abandonment in loved ones. Family members may feel rejected and unloved, and this abandonment can have a serious impact on self-esteem and happiness and may lead to harmful behaviours, including substance abuse, to cope.

Wife feeling depression due to substance abuse

Draining the family reservoir – The financial impact

Money forms a significant aspect of family life, providing security, stability and the means to fulfil dreams. However, the financial toll of drug addiction can be severe, leading to a drain on family resources that is often underestimated. The expenses of maintaining a drug habit can rapidly escalate, creating a gaping hole in the family’s financial reservoir.

The correlation between drug addiction and job instability often amplifies this financial burden. Drug addiction can compromise a person’s ability to maintain regular or lucrative employment, leading to frequent job losses and long periods of unemployment. This adds to the financial stress and can propel the person to seek solace in drugs, thereby strengthening the vicious cycle of drug addiction.

As a result, family funds that should be dedicated to basic needs like food, education or housing get redirected to fuel the drug habit. This financial strain exacerbates familial stress, creating a pressure cooker situation that threatens to blow the lid off family relationships, leading to further emotional distress.

A dark shadow in the home – Drug-induced domestic violence

Among the drug addiction storm’s darkest clouds is the increased risk of domestic violence, casting a long shadow over the family’s safety. The abuse of drugs can magnify underlying tensions and impair judgement, which can trigger aggressive behaviour and violent episodes.

The victims may be partners and children who can carry the physical and emotional trauma deep into their lives. The violence endangers their safety and perpetuates a cycle of abuse that can reverberate into the future. This unsettling reality underscores the urgency of addressing the root cause and seeking professional help to safeguard the welfare of every family member.

For families enmeshed in drug-induced violence, seeking immediate help from law enforcement and social service agencies that specialise in domestic violence and child protection is crucial. By bringing these issues out of the shadows and addressing the violence head-on, families can chart a course towards healing and break the cycle of abuse.

Fist through the wall

Shelter from the storm – The path to recovery

Despite the tempest brought on by drug addiction, there is a beacon of hope for families caught in this storm. Assistance in the form of detox, counselling, support groups, drug rehab programmes and community resources can offer a lifeline to those seeking refuge from the turmoil of drug addiction.

Oasis Runcorn provides comprehensive drug rehab programmes that support the individual in recovery and their families. We offer family therapy to work through the issues and emotions around a family member’s addictions and guide loved ones through rehab. This can help build bridges, heal the damage caused by drug abuse and addiction and give families the tools they need to support their loved ones in sobriety.

We also offer special conjoint sessions called conjoints, unique to Oasis Runcorn and other UKAT centres. An experienced therapist leads these and provides a safe space for everyone to voice their feelings, build understanding and facilitate forgiveness.

Final thoughts

As families emerge from the storm of drug addiction, the road to recovery can seem daunting. However, with determination, support, and the right resources, they can navigate this path successfully. The first step requires the individual battling drug addiction to recognise the need for change, a decision that cannot be made for them but must come from within.

Recovery from drug addiction demands dedication, a willingness to confront past mistakes, and a desire to mend the bridges damaged by addiction. Families can play a critical role in this process, offering emotional support and encouraging their loved ones as they step out of the shadows of addiction.

Together, families can start rebuilding their bonds, instilling stability and setting a course towards a healthier, brighter future. If you or a loved one is battling drug addiction, remember that help is available, and recovery is possible. Reach out to Oasis Runcorn today to start your journey towards healing and recovery.