The Impact of Drug Abuse on Families
Just about everyone understands that drug abuse impacts every aspect of life. This includes families. In fact, families generally suffer more with an abusive member than any other aspect of a person’s life. The very nature of it destroys ordinary family structure. When looking at how drug abuse impacts families it is important to know why it does as well as the problems that are unique to drug abuse and how it affects the family structure.
Why Drug Abuse Impacts Families
Many people question why drug abuse impacts family members. Although the reasons are varied, they can be cut down to a few specific issues. These issues according to the National Library of Medicine are:
- People who abuse drugs generally cannot be trusted.
- Their focus has shifted from family activities and responsibilities to using and acquiring the drug of choice.
- They steal.
- They may not be responsible enough to keep a job. If they are a provider for the family they might not be able to provide anymore.
- They might not come back when they promise to.
- Their behavior changes, some become moody and irritable while others may do things out of character particularly while on or acquiring drugs.
These are just a few of the things that abusers do that affects family life. Drug abuse also may cause serious rifts between family members. The way that they respond depends on the family dynamics and the drug they are abusing.
Unique Problems Created by Drug Abuse
Several problems that drug abuse creates are unique to families. These problems are almost unavoidable and happen in most families that have an abuser in them. These issues are:
- Health risks – addiction causes many health risks. Some of these risks are transmittable to family members. Conditions such as infectious diseases from risky behaviors and needle sharing can easily be passed to other family members. Drug use itself can be passed to a child through a pregnant mother along with any other diseases.
- Emotional issues – Family members develop emotional issues because of the drug abuse. People who abuse drugs are often abusive to their partner, children, parents, and other family members.
- Cheating – In a marriage or relationship, both parties are subject to emotional abandonment. This creates a problem that sometimes causes one or both partners to cheat. They are looking for something outside the relationship that they are no longer finding in it because of the drug abuse.
- Conflicts – People who abuse drugs are often in conflict with those that do not. There are conflicts over:
o drug use – fights will break out about the person using drugs,
o children – some drug users are not rational or make poor decisions where it comes to children. They might be in conflict with the children or with their partner over their children, and
o money – drugs cost a great deal of money and drug habits are difficult to support,
- Violence – Drug abusers are often irrational, violent, and might become abusers themselves. Children and families are affected by the violence of the drug lifestyle. It is difficult not to bring the crime home.
- Influences – A drug user’s behavior often influences those around them. Parents who use drugs often have children who use drugs. This pattern becomes ingrained in the family.
- Legal issues – Drug users are often arrested and therefore need legal representation. They might go to jail or treatment facilities for a long time. This causes both financial stress and abandonment issues within the family.
- Negativity – People who abuse drugs respond to things in a very negative manner. This creates an abusive atmosphere in the family. Negative parents generally have children that will react negatively to different situations.
- Parental inconsistencies – children need structure and rules. When a parent is behaving erratically and rules are not enforced then children become confused and this causes problems.
- Unrealistic expectations – Depending on the drug, abusers might expect things from their family members that are not possible.
These are not the only issues caused by drug abuse but they all affect family life and circumstances. Many drug users labor under the false belief that their use only affects them. It can impact the entire family in many ways.
Revising Family structure to Support Abuse
Unfortunately, family structure is often affected by substance abuse. The family changes to support the abuser and the abuse. When the family dynamic changes, there are often problems with behavior. Each person becomes something different in the family. They start to play certain roles. According to the University of British Columbia, these roles are:
- The addict – the person who is abusing.
- The hero – makes the family look better and supports the other roles.
- The mascot – this is the family jester.
- The lost child – this is the child that is so careful not to make problems, they disappear in the family structure.
- The scapegoat – this is the one that breaks the rules, is heard, and generally diverts the families attention.
- The caretaker – this is the person who enables all of the other roles including the addiction.
Not all of these roles are always present but most of them are. This is an abnormal family structure in many families that have an addict.
Drug abuse has a serious impact on a family. Most drug users do not realize this until it is too late. Some abusers tear their family apart just by using. Fortunately most treatment centers offer family counseling as well as detox and recovery programs. They recognize the importance of family in treatment and are dedicated to making the family whole again.