Impact Of Parental Substance Abuse On Children
Clinicians have speculated that what are called âattachment disordersâ may occur at elevated rates among children affected by alcohol, in part due to abuse and neglect , and in part because of alcohol-related deficits in cognitive and social-emotional functioning that lead to less resilience . Studies indicate that between one third and two thirds of child maltreatment cases involve some degree of substance use . The negative consequences of having one or both parents with a SUD ranges from covert damage that is mild and may play out when a child or adolescent is having difficulty establishing trusting relationships with people, to being overly emotionally responsible in relationships and taking on adult roles much younger than developmentally appropriate. An even more severe impact can begin in utero with maternal substance abuse that causes damage to the growing fetus resulting in birth defects, fetal alcohol syndrome, and/or fetal alcohol effects. These difficulties may cause disabilities that require early intervention and often ongoing and social and mental health services. Social workers can help by encouraging their clients who abuse substances to use precautions to prevent pregnancy and providing education about the risks of maternal drug use on the developing fetus. If a social worker is working with a pregnant client with an SUD, referral to a Perinatal Addiction Clinic and/or high-risk pregnancy OB/GYN clinic is indicated.
Supporting A Loved Ones Addiction Recovery
Theres no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming an addiction to drugs, and its rarely a process thats quick or straightforward. While you can support your loved one and encourage treatment, you cant force them to change or control their decision-making. Letting your loved one assume responsibility for their behavior and choices is an important step on their road to sobriety.
Adjust your expectations. Everyone is different. Recovery for one person may mean total abstinence from drugs. For another, it could mean cutting back or staying mostly drug-free. Being too rigid in your expectations can lead to disappointment and a sense of failure, even if your loved one finds stability in their life again.
Encourage your loved one to seek help. While some people are able to quit drugs on their own, the more help and support a person has, the better their chances of success. Offer to sit with your loved one while they call a helpline or accompany them to a doctors appointment, counseling session, or peer support group meeting.
Help plan for triggers and cravings. Your loved one will need to find ways to cope with drug cravings and triggers. You can help distract them with other activities or encourage them to learn how to ride out the urge, but ultimately, they have to be responsible for their own sobriety.
How To Help A Family Member With Drug Addiction
For people who are recovering from the effects of heavy substance abuse, it is a difficult challenge to keep on the path on a new lifestyle of sobriety. Often, there are many challenges that might seem insurmountable to them in no small part to the difficulties that they can experience from their environments and even the withdrawal symptoms that permeate their everyday existence.
While no one would want to wish the struggles of drug addiction on even their worst enemies, fate is often cruel and always out of anyones control. The truth of the matter is that anyone could be affected by drug addiction and that also includes family.
Finding out that a family member is struggling with drug addiction can often be an extremely overwhelming situation. It is a well-known fact that drugs can be very harmful to the human body as well as to the person so there will always be a struggle to understand why that family member would turn to drugs in the first place.
When caught in a situation where a family member is trying to get better from their drug addiction, one can easily turn to despair. There will often be accompanying feelings of guilt and self-blame. Thoughts such as I should have seen the signs might start becoming a common occurrence. It is important to not give in to these sorts of thoughts because showing strength and confidence can be important to supporting a family member in their recovery from addiction.
Be there for them
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Does Your Family Member Have An Addiction
But how do you know if your loved ones use of substances is an addiction? Some questions you can ask yourself regarding the behavioral and emotional signs of substance use include:3
- Do they try to cut back or stop using, but are unable to do so?
- Do they use more of a substance than they intend to?
- Do they spend a lot of time looking for the substance, using it, and recovering from using it?
- Do they use a substance in risky situations, such as driving?
- Do they continue taking the substance, despite knowing the substance causes a physical or emotional condition to get worse?
- Are they unable to manage their responsibilities at home, school, or work?
- Do they give up important activities in order to use?
- Do they continue to use a substance, even knowing that it causes problems in relationships?
- Does your loved one show physical signs of misuse, such as taking more of the drug to get high or craving it?
A Need For Honesty About The Roles Of Family Members In Addiction
There is no need to blame anyone for having adopted codependent roles to cope with the behavior of an addicted family member, but there is a need for self-examination and honesty. Family members need to first recognize the unhealthy roles they have adopted, so that everyone can work together to heal dysfunction.
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Brief Strategic Family Therapy
- BSFT is based on a family systems approach to treatment, in which one members problem behaviors are seen to stem from unhealthy family interactions. The therapist and counselor establish a relationship with each family member, observe how the members behave with one another and assist the family in changing negative interaction patterns.
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Family Help For Older People
There are many reasons older people develop alcohol or drug problems including:
- stress related to traumatic events.
If you are concerned about an older member of your family, speak with your doctor or call DirectLine on Tel. for information about treatment options.
is an alcohol and other drug service for mature adults aged 60 and over. The service is offered by Peninsula Health and can be contacted on Tel. .
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The Advantages Of Family Involvement In Addiction Treatment
Sobriety is a Family Affair You’ve watched your loved one struggle with addiction for a long time, and they have finally agreed to get help . As you breathe a sigh of relief, you quickly start to wonder how your family member can maintain his or her …
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Encourage Them To Seek Help
Trust is a key factor in this step.
In Step 7, we talked about love and support replacing intimidation and guilt. Once you have established that approach, encouragement comes next.
While some drug rehab centers and support groups utilize the tough love approach, we believe you can get just as far or further with encouragement. You may be asking yourself at this point, how can you love and encourage while at the same time setting boundaries and looking out for yourself first?
When healthy boundaries are set and you are putting you first, you are more able to freely share love and empathy. You have made the decision to not let that person harm you or take advantage of you or whatever the boundary is you have set.
Once any negative feelings and emotions about the person or situation have taken a back seat, you can begin to take a more objective approach to the problem and motivate them to start getting help.
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Resources For Families Coping With Mental And Substance Use Disorders
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for helping a family member who is drinking too much, using drugs, or dealing with a mental illness, research shows that family support can play a major role in helping a loved one with mental and substance use disorders.
When a family member is experiencing a mental or substance use disorder, it can affect more than just the person in need of recovery. Evidence has shown that some people have a genetic predisposition for developing mental and substance use disorders, and may be at greater risk based on environmental factors such as having grown up in a home affected by a family members mental health or history of substance use. Families should be open to the options of support groups or family therapy and counseling, which can improve treatment effectiveness by supporting the whole family.
It is also important to remember that the unique challenges that come from helping a loved one with a mental or substance use disorder can be taxing, so caregivers should take steps to prioritize their own health as well.
Family members may be more likely to notice when their loved ones are experiencing changes in mood or behavior. Being able to offer support, family members can connect those in need with treatment, resources, and services to begin and stay on their recovery journey.
Icipate In Your Loved Ones Recovery And Keep It Up
Addiction affects everyone it touches. You will need to heal from the devastating effects of addiction just as your loved one does. Youll want the family to be involved in supporting your family member through recovery. You can stay in contact with the treatment center, and if there is a family weekend, attend it. However, you also need to continue working on your recovery from the effects of addiction with a therapist, Nar-Anon or Al-Anon. Recovery will always be a part of your loved ones life, and yours as well. Its a small price to pay for having your family member back, and it will make your family relationships even better than before.
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How Addiction Affects The Family
Substance abuse affects a family on every level: emotional, psychological, financial, and social. A parents preoccupation with getting drunk or high can lead to neglect or abuse. The use of alcohol and drugs can lead to financial hardship, poverty, or bankruptcy. Shame and embarrassment over a family members intoxicated behavior can lead to social isolation and the avoidance of friends or relatives outside the home. These factors can create a destructive cycle in which substance abuse leads to emotional pain or mental instability, which triggers an even greater craving for alcohol or drugs.
Worst of all, addiction undermines the loving, trusting relationships that sustain a healthy family. Children may be forced into a parental role for parents who can no longer function independently. Spouses may hide their addictions from their partners, lying about their actions or expenditures. Parents of addicted children may go to great lengths to rescue a son or daughter from a destructive lifestyle, only to experience the heartbreak of seeing their child return to that lifestyle again and again. Restoring those relationships, which were often damaged long before the substance abuse began, requires time, patience, and the support of knowledgeable addiction professionals.
The Benefits Of Taking Action Early
Movies, books, and magazines often portray people who hit bottom before they can be helped. However, this representation is a myth. People do not need to bottom out to be helped. Research shows that early identification of the problem is a much more effective solution for substance use problems.
Early identification occurs at the first signs of a problem before anyone has suffered a traumatic event, dropped out of school, or lost important relationships, jobs, health, or self-respect.
Identification can be done through a health care professional screening, employee assistance professional, or family member. What happens after the screening depends on the results of the test. Some people can learn to cut back, while some need further assessment and possible treatment.
In general, all people are better equipped to work on recovery if their substance use problem is discovered and confronted early on. Treatment in the early stages of a substance use disorder is likely to be less intense, less disruptive, and cause less anxiety.
Waiting for people to ask for help is a risky strategy. Without help, family members can expect crises like arrests, medical emergencies, loss of job, public embarrassment, and even death.
Some people find that when they seek help for themselves, the person struggling with addiction gets angry. This may be perhaps because the efforts represent a loss of control. Also, getting help signals that you are serious about changing the situation.
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Help Is Available For The Families Of Addicts
Its difficult to cope when a loved one struggles with addiction. You may feel like youve tried everything to get them the help they need. When your attempts are unsuccessful, though, its painful and disheartening, to say the least. Even if your loved one chooses to continue using substances, finding help for yourself may be one of the best choices.
Help isnt only available for people who live in active addiction its also available for addicts families. If you feel the effects of your loved ones substance use, seeking help for yourself is a great way to begin your journey to healing.
The Effects Of Drug Abuse And Addiction On Family And Friends
Witnessing someone you care about battle a substance use disorder can be extremely distressing and take a heavy toll on your own mental and emotional well-being. Whether the drug abuser is a close friend, spouse, parent, child, or other family member, its easy for their addiction to take over your life. It can pile stress upon stress, test your patience, strain your bank balance, and leave you racked by feelings of guilt, shame, anger, fear, frustration, and sadness.
You may worry about where your loved one is at any given time, their risk of overdosing, or the damage theyre doing to their health, future, and home life. You may be in debt from paying their living expenses, the cost of legal troubles resulting from their drug abuse, or from failed attempts at rehab and recovery. You may also be worn down by covering for your loved one at home or work, having to shoulder the responsibilities they neglect, or being unable to devote more time to other family, friends, and interests in your life.
As despairing as you may feel, youre not alone in your struggle. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 found that nearly half of Americans have a family member or close friend whos been addicted to drugs. Across the Western world, the abuse of prescription pain relievers and tranquillizers has skyrocketed in recent years, creating a public health crisis.
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Family Involvement In Adolescent Substance Abuse
Adolescents battling an SUD are often profoundly affected by it. Since adolescents are still developing social and behavioral patterns, early substance abuse can complicate future events. For example, adolescents are more likely to struggle with a lifelong SUD if they do not get help at a young age. Adolescents may also explore many drugs, seeking strong and novel highs. They may even combine several chemicals, unknowingly increasing the risk of a fatal overdose. The role of the family is important at this stage, as they can intervene into their young loved ones life to discourage drug use.
Family members may feel frustration as the adolescent skips school, gets poor grades, or befriends other teens who abuse drugs. Parents often feel anxiety over their childs whereabouts and sudden changes in their social circles. In response, primary guardian and parental figures demonstrate a wide variety of behaviors and attitudes. Some may tune in and out, being inconsistently emotionally available for their child. Others may feel denial and misdirect their anger, sparking communication breakdowns.
It also is not unheard of for a parent to abuse drugs or alcohol in response to teens abusing harmful chemicals. In such cases, parents have to be mindful of being an example of strength for children. Strong support and connection can help encourage their teens to get clean and possibly reduce the rate of relapse.
Family Support Groups And Addiction Treatment
Both inpatient and outpatient facilities offer support groups for patients to connect with peer groups. Among the most common are the 12-Step groups. 12-Step groups offer personal accountability and spirituality to help maintain sobriety.
Al-Anon is a support group focusing on families affected by substance abuse. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and cousins discuss their challenges with a loved ones substance abuse. Like other 12-Step groups, Al-Anon members use spiritual themes to encourage acceptance and compassion.
Alateen is another support group that includes teen family members who help each other heal and discuss complications from witnessing a loved one abuse harmful substances. With both support groups, family members can feel connected to the recovery process and provide input over their experiences.
Lastly, Narc-Anon sees family members of individuals who have become dependent on Narcotics discuss and problem-solve in a group setting.
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- FairfieldBHS.org. . Roles in Addiction. Retrieved on May 1, 2019 at
- NCIB.com. Treatment Improvement Protocol Series, No. 39. Center For Substance Abuse Treatment. . Retrieved on May 1, 2019 at
Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional: November 6, 2019
Deborah Montross Nagel
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