Drug Addiction and the Family

What are the effects of addiction on the family? 

The unfortunate form of corrupting nature of drug addiction is -that it has the ability to penetrate in to the individual’s personal life and family, even before the addict is able to understand that he needs help with his addiction abuse problem.  The addict family is often the first place that gets subverted from its normal life cycle. The loved ones get to see the first hand, how the drug addiction can deteriorate a person from a respectable human being to reduced individual who desperately needs help in the fight with his drug addiction.

The most difficult aspect of drug addiction recovery is to be able to separate your love and unconditional support, from what may be for their benefit or advantage. The similar analogy is how you treat a child sometimes; if they do something wrong, you have to be able to not only recognize inappropriate behavior, but also be able to reprimand a child , thus teaching him a lesson, so he doesn’t repeat the same mistake. At times it’s hard to stand up to your principals, because you might feel bad or feel sorry for a child or a person, however you have to recognize the fact that if you do not act on it properly, you will become an enabler of bad behavior or any type of addiction.  By using a “tough love method” you will be able to inhibit and discourage a person from his addiction, and help them in their journey to full recovery.
In many cases the loved ones just “look the other way”, so that they can avoid the confrontation and fights, that can turn in to a domestic abuse.  If both partners are weak and in denial about one’s addiction problem,  it will lead to self destruction  and serious consequences.

Being by one’s side to  help them with their addiction problem is one thing, however it is not enough to help the addict to stop  using the drugs or completely  recover from them.  There are different intervention programs available, where a certified professional will coach you and other loved ones to bring the addict to the point of surrender.

There is nothing wrong with welcoming a third party assistance in to your personal life; it will allow you to step back and watch the professional take the appropriate measures and steps to bring the addict to his complete recovery. Your job is to be by the addict side as his moral and emotional support. If the addict is placed in to the rehab center, he will undergo substance abuse treatment as well as counseling therapy.

In many cases the intervention might create uncomfortable scenarios for you, where you might feel you are not able to perform or be involved, as a part of “tough love” method, However, you have to be strong and are able to accept directions from a rehab specialists, and make an effort to cooperate with all of the, unpleasant at times, treads of intervention.

Keep in mind that you might receive a lot of resistance from the addict, and at times he might even refuse the treatment at some point. However, you need to accept the fact that you have gone above and beyond to help him, and you stood by him every step of the way. You need to know you’ve done your best!

In many cases the families choose “financial tough love” as the approach for drug addictions. As an example provided by ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, in the article by By JOHN QUINONES and CHRISTINE BROZYNA on  Feb. 15, 2010, it discusses a family crises taken place in the American figures skater Nancy Kerrigan’s home:

” A private family crisis played out for the world to see. The brother of American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is now accused of killing his own father in an alcohol induced rage. Mark Kerrigan’s problems with addiction have been ongoing for years. His parents even sued their son for more than $100,000, reportedly to push him toward recovery.

It’s a dramatic show of financial tough love, but is it always the right approach?”

Another example is an unfortunate situation of the famed environmental crusader’s daughter, Erin Brockovich:

” Two years ago, Erin Brockovich, the famed environmental crusader played by Julia Roberts in a 2000 movie, faced a similar situation with her own daughter. Elizabeth, then 16-years-old, was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Her $500 a week drug habit was funded by money stolen from the family.

“As a parent, you want to believe your kid, yet you know something’s wrong,” Brockovich said. “I’ve cried myself to sleep. And I’ve honestly sat and shook in a corner.”

When to Step In

Sack advises that the time to use tough love approach is when the person is ignoring you. “Then you have to say, ‘We love you very much, but we’re not going to spend money so you can go buy drugs and end up in a worst predicament. We’re not going to support your habit,’” Sack said. “So it means no money, no car, no food, no shelter because ultimately those are the things that can be converted to drugs.”


According to the Chicago Tribune article, “Effects of Substance Abuse on Families”, Family Therapy is considered a valuable resource for recovery for family members with drug and alcohol addictions:

“Family Therapy

According to the “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy” guide, family therapy is a good resource for recovery for family members with drug and alcohol addictions.

How can family therapy help me?

  • Your family’s strengths and resources can help you find ways to live without alcohol and drug addiction.
  • You and your family will be better able to deal with the impact of detoxification, the process of cleansing your body from an addiction.
  • Your family will become more aware of their own needs and feel that they can express their needs safely.
  • The next generation in your family will be less likely to carry on your addiction.
  • If you have lost custody of your children, you will be better able to overcome your addiction and reconnect with your family.

What should I know about family therapy?

  • Make sure you find the right therapist or counselor and that you’re upfront about why your family is going to therapy. Family therapists often don’t screen for substance abuse, while substance abuse counselors need proper training and licensing to practice family therapy.
  • If there is any physical or emotional abuse in the family, family counseling techniques are not an option, because family members must be protected.”