Addiction: A Family Disease

Addiction: A Family Disease

Because the family is usually the primary source of attachment, nurturing, and socialisation, experts see addiction as a family disease. When one member of the family develops an addiction, it negatively impacts the other members of the family as well as the emotional, physical, and financial aspects of family life.

Researchers have created several theories to explain how addiction affects family members. One such theory is the stress-strain-coping-support (SSCS) framework, which describes how addiction causes stress for family members and increases their chance of developing a variety of disorders. Furthermore, researchers have found that the effects of addiction on families may be explained by two different theories: attachment theory and family systems theory.

The foundation of attachment theory is that family security and safety come from caregivers. Due to their distraction from substance use, emotional swings brought on by substance abuse, and the numerous long-term effects of substance abuse, people with addictions are unable to meet these basic requirements for others.2. Addiction to a caregiver robs children of the chance to develop a stable attachment to their parents, which is the foundation for building lifelong healthy relationships.


According to family systems theory, a family is a dynamic and complex interaction in which the needs of each member can affect the needs of others. The family is viewed as a single, interdependent unit. Three fundamental ideas in family systems theory are as follows:

    • The necessity for the family to preserve balance or homeostasis.
    • Feedback is the process of communication and the effects that each person's actions have on other people.
    • Boundaries are the restrictions and guidelines that individual establish for themselves.

    Even when sick and unintentionally prolonging the addiction, family members may engage in maladaptive behaviours to try to keep the peace and keep the family functioning. The idea of family systems can explain these actions.

    The Impact of Addiction on Family Members

    Family members may have an addiction in a variety of ways. A loved one's addiction can have the following effects on family members:

    • A wide range of private or shared emotions, including rage, guilt, grief, annoyance, anxiety, or shame, may be experienced by family members.
    • An individual's spending may impact the financial security of the entire family on drugs or alcohol addiction , their loss of income due to their addiction, or the money that family members provide them.
    • Empirical evidence suggests that a loved one's addiction may exacerbate physical health issues for families.4 According to one study, the prevalence of diseases like hepatitis, diabetes, asthma, lower back pain, ischemic heart disease, and congestive heart failure was higher among the spouses and kids of people with an addiction.
    • Relationship problems can take many forms, including increased dysfunction, conflict, tension, or isolation.
    • People with an addiction frequently have increased legal issues, including DWIs, reports of domestic violence, child abuse, and removal of children from the house, all of which can have a detrimental effect on the family as a whole.

    To cope with their loved one's addiction and preserve homeostasis within the family, family members may use various coping strategies. This may consist of:

    Codependency refers to obsessive, selfless, nurturing acts that support an addiction—encouraging behaviours or actions that shield the person with an addiction from bearing the total weight of the consequences of their drug usage. This can involve a spouse paying his wife's rent, phoning in sick on her behalf, or releasing an adult child from jail.

    The psychological and physical toll that comes with caring for a loved one who is addicted is known as caregiver stress.

    The Effects of a Parent's Addiction on Kids

    Addiction in a parent can have long-term adverse effects on children.

    A parent's addiction can cause a family to face a wide range of negative emotions and traumatic events, such as fear, role reversals (e.g., parentified children), conflict, violence, emotional disorder, and secrecy.2. In addition to other problems; children may experience anxiety, sadness, disturbed attachment, and underdevelopment.

    Substance abuse by a woman can have harmful health effects on her unborn child even before she gives birth. These effects can include birth abnormalities and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can cause physical difficulties as well as problems with learning and behaviour.


    Children and teenagers in school may experience difficulties with attachment, behaviour, abuse, neglect, and mental health conditions, including anxiety or depression. They may also experience physical challenges, poor impulse control, difficulty regulating their emotions, conduct or oppositional disorders, and subpar academic results.

    A wide range of problems with interpersonal connections can affect adult children, including disagreement, the incapacity to build suitable attachments to other adults, problems with independence, or severing ties with their parents and not wanting to let their kids interact with them.

    It's also critical to recognize that there may be a higher chance of addiction development for kids whose parents are addicted.

    Although it can be challenging to know how to support your parent who is addicted, it is never too late to begin the healing process. In addition to aiding in your parent's addiction recovery, family counselling as part of treatment can initiate mending and reestablishing family ties from.

    The Effects of Addiction in Children on Parents

    The effects of an adolescent or adult child's addiction on parents and households might vary. Addiction that starts in adolescence can persist into adulthood and have a variety of detrimental effects.

    Because their brains are still developing, teenagers who take drugs early in life may be more susceptible to addiction. Substance abuse can also induce significant, long-lasting brain alterations that might affect a person's lifelong effects.


    Addicted teenagers are also more likely to participate in dangerous, violent, or criminal activities, which may have legal repercussions. Emotional and psychological problems that parents may experience include heightened anxiety, guilt, helplessness or fear, wrath, or melancholy. The financial burden of a child's addiction may also rise on parents because of the associated expenditures of treatment or other related charges.

    Learn more about how to support your child who is struggling with addiction so they can receive the support they require to break the pattern of substance abuse, develop better-coping mechanisms, take care of family matters, and handle other co-occurring difficulties.

    How Addiction Affects Partners and Spouses

    An intimate partner's drug abuse or addiction frequently has a detrimental impact on the relationship. Increased marital unhappiness, arguments, domestic violence, rage, poor communication, general psychological discomfort, and behavioural and health issues can all result from addiction.

    An addiction of a spouse or partner can also hurt the finances of the relationship, for example, if the addicted individual spends more money on drugs and alcohol or if the partner has to pay bail or legal fees.

    Studies have indicated that drinking before marriage strongly predicts a wife's drinking a year into marriage, that drinking by a female partner influences the drinking by a male partner in the following year, and that there is a strong correlation between relationship distress and alcohol use disorder (the diagnosis for alcohol addiction). It is possible for spouses to abuse substances and become addicted to them as well.

    Codependency, providing an enabling environment, neglecting oneself, and caregiver stress can all have an impact on an addict's spouse or partner. Despite their best efforts, the spouse or partner may contribute to the addiction by taking care of others or sacrificing themselves in an unhealthy attempt to maintain homeostasis or establish intimacy (e.g., covering for their spouse or partner in social situations or calling in sick).

    Do Families Often Have Addictions?

    There is no single cause for the development of addiction; instead, addictions are the result of the intricate interactions of many different elements. Genetics is one risk factor that affects addiction, but families can also raise the likelihood of addiction by the atmosphere they foster.


    A few of the elements that contribute to the emergence of addiction are as follows:

      • Possessing a mental illness.
      • An unsteady atmosphere at home.
      • Having parents or other family members who abuse drugs or commit crimes.
      • Hanging around with friends who abuse drugs.
      • Challenges at school.
      • Genetics
      • inadequate social abilities.
      • Early usage of drugs.
      • Misuse.

      It's critical to recognize and treat addiction as soon as possible since those who witness addiction as children may be more likely to experience it in the future. There are always things you can do, including reading up on addiction for family members, to support your loved one in entering rehab, even if they don't want assistance.

      How Can Samarpan Help?

      Samarpan acknowledges addiction as a complicated problem that impacts all parties involved and offers comprehensive support to families affected by addiction. Samarpan provides a variety of therapeutic interventions to help family members deal with their emotional, physical, and financial challenges. These interventions include cognitive-behavioural therapy, family counselling, and support groups. 

      Families are involved in the treatment process at Samarpan, and are also able to access the family program that is run out of our Mumbai out-patient centre. 

      Samarpan provides a secure and encouraging setting for people and families to address issues related to addiction. Samarpan offers a healing environment with cosy living quarters and all the amenities families need to get the help and support they need to walk the healing path together. Samarpan uses evidence-based treatments customised to meet the individual requirements of every member of the family. Cognitive-behavioural therapy assists people in recognizing and altering negative thought patterns and behaviours, while family counselling encourages honest dialogue and sound boundaries within the family unit. 

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