Effects Of Addiction On Siblings, Friends, And Extended Family

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

Substance abuse can affect all areas of a person’s life, including their relationships with siblings, friends, and extended family members. Learn more about the effects of addiction on these relationships and how to get help for a loved one with an addiction.

How Does Addiction Affects Friends, Siblings, And Extended Family

Drug addiction often isn’t an issue that solely affects individuals. It also affects the people around you: siblings, friends, and even family members outside of the immediate family.

Over 20 million people in the U.S. alone struggle with some form of substance use disorder, including alcohol addiction, opioid addiction, and prescription drug addiction.

The effects of substance abuse on loved ones, including close friends, are often overlooked. Here you’ll find more information about how this can affect loved ones.

Learn more about how substance abuse can affect families

How Substance Abuse Can Affect Siblings

Addiction is commonly referred to as a “family disease.” That is, it can often affect the entire family unit in significant ways, particularly within a household.

Watching a sibling struggle with drug or alcohol misuse can be frustrating, and may leave siblings feeling confused, angry, disheartened, and unsure of what they can do to help.

Other effects of substance abuse on siblings might include:

  • difficulty trusting their sibling
  • development of enabling behaviors
  • struggles with mental health
  • reduced attention from parents
  • feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment
  • loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • strained relationship with the sibling and other family members
  • feeling the need to lie for or cover up your sibling’s substance use
  • difficulty opening up about your own problems
  • neglecting your own needs in order to take care of your sibling
  • cutting off ties with family or the sibling with substance use disorder

Addiction can cause emotional pain for siblings. For children, this can be particularly upsetting. In adulthood, it can be difficult to create and maintain healthy boundaries.

A sibling’s addiction can also have effects on a sibling’s social life, their own relationship to drugs and alcohol, and their interactions with others both within and outside the family.

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How Does Substance Abuse Affect Friendships?

Other people close to the person with addiction, such as friends and roommates, may also be affected by the individual’s drug or alcohol use.

Because there still exists a stigma around addiction, it can be difficult to bring the subject up or to know what to do in order to help or even identify when someone is struggling.

Effects of drug addiction on friendships may include:

  • isolative or withdrawn behavior
  • feelings of distrust or uncertainty
  • peer pressure to use drugs or drink
  • changes in your friend circle
  • pressure to cover up for your friend
  • financial pressure (e.g. friend asking for money for drugs)
  • dysfunctional living situation (i.e. when you’re roommates)
  • getting caught up in legal troubles

It’s common to feel confused, angry, and hurt by the harmful substance use behaviors of someone you care about. If you weren’t close, it wouldn’t hurt as much.

Understanding this may not help the immediate situation, but it can put things into perspective.

Effects Of Substance Abuse On Extended Family

Extended family, like immediate family, can be impacted by a loved one’s drinking or drug abuse, particularly if you live together or are very close.

This can extend to:

  • cousins
  • aunts
  • uncles
  • grandparents
  • in-laws

Effects of substance abuse can impact extended family members through the pain of the person’s immediate family, or other ways in which extended family members are connected to the person with SUD.

Extended family members may feel disconnected from their loved one, and may struggle to understand their loved one’s substance abuse.

This can also cause feelings of:

  • shame
  • fear
  • confusion
  • guilt
  • uncertainty
  • depression
  • anger

Who Else Can Be Affected By Substance Abuse?

Family and friends aren’t the only ones who can feel the impact of a person’s self-destructive behaviors.

Others who can feel the impact of a person’s addiction:

  • teachers
  • neighbors
  • church members
  • coworkers
  • business partners
  • students

The effects of substance abuse can be far-reaching. Regardless of how close you are to a person, there are a number of ways drug or alcohol addiction can affect the lives of people around you.

That’s not to say there should be guilt or shame placed on the person struggling. But it can help to put into perspective just how many lives your presence and actions can touch.

Tips For Coping With A Loved One’s Substance Abuse

Taking care of yourself can be a critical tool for meeting your own needs and having the capacity to help others, including loved ones with substance use disorders.

Utilizing supportive coping skills, such as self-care or going to a support group, can help people affected by substance abuse manage their well-being in healthy ways.

Tips for coping with a loved one’s substance abuse include:

  • create clear boundaries with your addicted loved one
  • consider reaching out to a substance abuse or mental health professional
  • find an in-person or online support group (e.g. Al-Anon)
  • take time to participate in activities you enjoy
  • talk to other family members or friends of the addicted loved one
  • make sure you’re getting enough sleep
  • stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet
  • consider journaling or using another form of expression to keep track of your thoughts and feelings about the situation
  • show yourself, and those around you, compassion

Call Today To Find Substance Abuse Treatment Options

If you’re ready to help yourself or a loved one find treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, we may be able to help.

Chat with us online or call us at our helpline number to find the best drug or alcohol treatment program to meet your loved one’s needs today.

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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