Effects Of Substance Abuse On Families

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021

Substance abuse can affect virtually all areas of a family’s life. This can include family finances, ability to pay for basic living expenses, and interpersonal relationships with loved ones.

Effects Of Substance Abuse On Families

Substance abuse affects an estimated 20 million people in the United States. And contrary to what some might think, substance abuse isn’t an issue that solely affects individuals.

Substance abuse is a severe issue that can affect marriages, families, and the broader communities in which those with a drug or alcohol use disorder reside.

The effects of this, particularly in cases of chronic substance use issues, can be significant—affecting everything from family finances, to child welfare, and intimacy.

Learn more about substance abuse in families

Substance Abuse And Relationships

Addiction to drugs and alcohol can become all-consuming and ultimately destructive to a person’s most intimate relationships—including one’s relationship with family members.

Those often affected by addiction include:

Drugs and alcohol, when abused, can affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. This can, in turn, often strain relationships with loved ones, who may feel unsure of how to help.

It can also affect the mental health, welfare, and general livelihood of the family members themselves, which can lead to stress, frustration, hopelessness, and resentment.

Over time, it can also lead some family members to cut off forms of support for their addicted loved one—be it financial or emotional—for their own sake, or fear of enabling.


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Substance Abuse And Family Finances

Drugs, alcohol, and the consequences of substance use disorders can come at a steep financial cost. This can cost hundreds, or easily thousands of dollars over time for a single person.

Addiction can affect a person’s ability to work, their employment status, and their ability to provide. This, in turn, can have serious effects on the financial welfare of families.

Common financial costs of addiction include:

  • cost of drugs or alcohol
  • healthcare costs
  • problems related to job loss or inability to work
  • legal costs (for those who land in legal trouble)
  • addiction treatment costs

For families, this can trickle down to children, parents, and spouses. For instance, an inability to pay for a child to go to college, or less money to spend on adequate shelter, food, and medicine.

Substance Abuse And Behavioral Health Of Family

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction, and feeling its effects on an emotional level, can have quantifiable effects on the mental health of family members.

One research study, for instance, found that family members of those with substance use disorders are more likely to have a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety.

Other effects on the mental and behavioral health of family might include:

  • phobias
  • fear of abandonment
  • interpersonal sensitivity
  • angry outbursts
  • becoming more withdrawn
  • problems with verbal skills
  • development of family members’ own substance use problems

Substance Abuse And Risk Of Domestic Abuse

Some studies have found an association between households containing at least one person with a substance abuse issue and a heightened risk of domestic abuse or violence in the home.

Domestic violence can be influenced by a variety of factors, including interpersonal issues, financial problems, problems outside of the home—as well as consequences of substance use behaviors.

Substance abuse can increase feelings of resentment, anger, confusion, and frustration within the home.

Heavy substance use can also cause irritability of those actively using substances, hostility, aggression, and paranoid or violent behavior.

Substance Abuse And Divorce

Addiction can have a major impact on relationships, including intimate relationships between spouses and other romantic partners. Financial issues and infidelity are common contributing factors.

Being the child of divorced parents, too, can also be a risk factor for developing substance use issues—although this can vary from person to person.

Grief And The Family

Another devastating reality that can occur as a result of substance abuse is death due to drug overdose, or other related causes such as organ failure, suicide, and vehicular accidents.

In 2020, for instance, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. died of a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Thousands die each year due to impaired driving.

Suffering the loss of a loved one due to substance-related consequences can be immensely painful for families. The effects of this can take months, or even years, both to materialize and to be meaningfully processed—a critical step in the healing process.

Family Treatment For Substance Abuse

Addiction recovery, much like life struggling with addiction, is not often a solitary act. On the contrary, families affected by addiction can play an important role in the healing process.

Family-based services for people with substance use disorders, such as family counseling, can be beneficial both for addicted individuals and their loved ones during the treatment process.

In recognition of this, many drug and alcohol rehab programs in the U.S., including residential and outpatient programs, will offer opportunities for families to play an active role in their loved one’s recovery.

Find Treatment For Yourself Or A Loved One With Addiction

If you’re looking for treatment for yourself or a loved one with a drug or alcohol addiction, one of our trained staff members may be able to help.

Our admissions specialists can help you find treatment for:

Let us help you and your family heal from addiction together. Call our free and confidential helpline today to discuss your substance abuse and addiction treatment options.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021


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