How Addiction Can Affect Families

January 27, 2021
Better Tomorrow Treatment Center

We may tend to think of the effects of addiction in a physical sense (picture the negative and unhealthy consequences for the body that are well-known), but perhaps the most devastating effects addiction has is on relationships.


English poet John Donne once famously wrote that “no man is an island”. You may have heard the phrase; it means that no one is completely solitary, however alone they may feel at times. Everyone is interconnected. Everyone has relationships of some kind. What we do as individuals does have an impact on the people around us, and on society as a whole. Addiction, then, like any other struggle, is not merely a personal disease and problem.


Poetry is not the only evidence we have for this truth. Research has shown just how devastating the impacts of addiction can be on families, and if you have experienced addiction firsthand (like many of the professionals at the Better Tomorrow Treatment Center), you don’t need it to convince you how peaceful homes can become full of conflict over substance abuse; how trust can erode quickly between parents and children, married couples, and siblings; how communication ends or becomes strained; how aggression or abuse resulting from addiction can ruin relationships; how often families can become estranged or marriages can end because of the pressure addiction puts on a family unit. However, the research is compelling, and telling, particularly around children and spouses of people with addiction.


About 1 in 8 children (8.7 million) lived in households where at least one parent had a substance use disorder between 2009 - 2014. Children who grow up in families where one or both of their parents is addicted to drugs or alcohol are more likely to develop substance use disorders themselves in adolescence or adulthood. They are three times more likely to be neglected or physically or sexually abused than children who have not grown up in homes where addiction was present. They are more likely to have a lower socioeconomic status and increased social difficulty. Children who witness addiction and the effects of addiction on their family may have delayed learning and development and mental and emotional disorders. Social Services may remove children from homes where addiction is present, and they will either be placed with relatives or in the foster care system. According to U.S. census data, the number of children living with their grandparents increased from 2.4 million to 4.9 million (more than doubled) between 2000 and 2010 (addiction and mental disorders were the primary reasons for this shift).


Marriages also suffer when addiction is present. Divorce rates are significantly higher among people with substance use disorders. In one study of divorced couples, addiction was blamed for 34.6% of divorces, and other studies reveal it to be the third leading cause of divorce (behind money problems and infidelity). It is the third most cited reason for women seeking a divorce, and the eighth most common for men. There are many reasons why addiction can lead to unhappy marriages, some obvious and some that may surprise you. It may be logical that addiction can cause financial problems and problems at work that can lead to money stress, which can cause conflict… and addiction itself can be a source of conflict, mistrust, and broken communication. But did you also know that substance abuse can negatively impact sex drive and cause infertility? Couples in a sexless relationship are less happy and more likely to consider divorce, and infertile couples are three times more likely to divorce. Addiction can also lead to domestic violence, another leading cause of divorce. If the substance abuse causes aggression or anger, it can lead to physical or verbal abuse, which can end the marriage. (It should be noted that divorce also has negative impacts on child development).


The evidence is clear that addiction destroys families if left unchecked, but treatment is available, and healing and freedom are possible. Unhealthy families can become healthy again with counseling and treatment. Many families or individuals struggling with addiction avoid seeking treatment because they are not sure if they can afford it, but federal law requires insurance to cover addiction rehabilitation, and there are many resources available to you. Don’t let addiction become the story of your family! Better Tomorrow is different from other addiction recovery centers because we realize that addiction is a family issue, and when appropriate and wanted, involve the whole family in the recovery process, every step of the way. We want to give you the tools you need to lead a healthy life - physically, and relationally.


Call Better Tomorrow Treatment Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, today for a free conversation about your situation. We can determine if you are a candidate for our program (and if not, do our best to direct you to one that may be a good fit for you). Our program offers safe and supportive housing, personalized plans for each individual, and a lifelong relationship with our addiction professionals.