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How Does Addiction Affect Family and Friends?

family therapy program Texas

Addiction is not a one-way street. When a person compulsively uses drugs or alcohol, their behaviors do not exist in a vacuum. Negative behaviors carry outward in a capacity that heavily, and often tragically, affects their loved ones. It can be exceedingly hard to be in this role as a friend or family member of a person who is addicted. The unfortunate truth is that because most addicted individuals are heavily steeped in denial, people who use often do not understand the full impact of their actions on themselves, let alone the ways they affect those they love.

Our Vertava Health Texas team’s family therapy program in Texas gives families the chance to reconnect with one another and heal from old emotional wounds. If you and your family might benefit from our family therapy program in Texas, reach out to our Vertava Health team today by calling 844.311.8395 or completing our online form. Our family counseling center in Texas provides a safe space for families to rebuild their relationships, so contact us today.

Losing The Relationship

One of the hallmarks of substance use and addiction is that a person separates themselves from their family and friends and loses interest in activities that previously interested them, including things they used to do with these people. This withdrawal may be very painful, as rather suddenly, they lose their best friend, husband, or wife.

Perpetuates Emotional Turmoil and Negativity

Family and friends may encounter a host of negative mindsets and emotions as a result of their loved one’s substance use or addiction. They may begin to blame themselves in a capacity that erodes their sense of self-worth or self-love. Addiction fosters mistrust, as addicted individuals very commonly:

  • Lie to their loved ones about their habits
  • Go to great measures to be secretive
  • Steal possessions from loved ones to fund the addiction

A person’s spouse may experience a sense of loss or disappointment, as shared endeavors or hopes seem to fall apart and the addiction takes precedent over the relationship’s or family’s needs. Depression and anxiety may become prevalent in family members, and the emotional toll is often very significant on children of substance users.

Creates the Role of a Caretaker

When a person is stuck in addiction, their body and brain both suffer extensively from the toxic burden of the drugs or alcohol with which they are constantly flooding their system. Due to this, a variety of illnesses, diseases, or disorders may manifest, many of which may place family members or close friends in a role where they feel as if they need to take care of and look after the person.

Caretaking can become a great burden, often to the extent that it begins to even take a toll on that person’s health physically, especially within the realm of mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression. Often these people will shift their focus from their needs to those of the addicted person, too frequently forgetting to take care of themselves. [inline_cta_three]

Creates Negative Roles

In addition to caretaking, the presence of addiction can change a family dynamic and even friendships in a myriad of ways, the most notable and perhaps well-known being enabling. An enabler is typically a spouse or partner, though it may be a child in a single parent scenario or even a close friend. When a person enables someone, they may either knowingly or unknowingly contribute to the person’s drug or alcohol use by their actions.

Many times this person is in denial as well, to the extent that they fail to see the full truth of the addiction as well as the enabling results of their actions, many of which they may perceive as acts of love or support.

Examples of enabling include:

  • Taking care of a person when they are sick from drug or alcohol use
  • Calling in sick to work for them
  • Taking over their responsibilities when the addiction inhibits their ability to properly do so
  • Lying on their behalf to family and friends about their behavior while intoxicated

Becoming Isolated from Your Family and Friends

This is a side effect of enabling, but one that is impactful enough that it is important to mention on its own. In order to protect your spouse, parent, child, or friend, you may withdraw from other family members or your social circle to form a protective barrier between them and your loved one. In the process, you lose contact with these people as well, effectively rendering what could be a positive and beneficial support system relatively null and void.

Financial Instability

An addiction takes money, often massive amounts. As a person’s substance use becomes more frequent and compulsive, they often run out of financial resources to purchase their substance of use. When this happens, several consequences may occur.

For example, a person may lose their job due to their addiction, they may use money that is meant for other things to fuel their habit, or they may steal money to do this. Addiction may lead the user to default on various bills, including utilities, rent, or a mortgage, even to the extent that their family loses power, heat, or even the roof over their head. When a person is unable to provide or contribute financially to their family, it places undue amounts of stress on their partner and even children.

When someone suffering from addiction steals money, it is often from their family members, which only makes it more difficult for them to pay the bills and propagates many harmful emotions. This theft may come in another more obtuse form, as a person may use a shared credit card, or even their partner’s, to purchase drugs online.

Alcohol or Substance Use

This is the dark underbelly of addiction in some relationships. Alcohol and drugs change a person’s brain, which:

  • Alters the way they reason,
  • Increases the risks they’ll take
  • Decreases their inhibitions
  • Causes sexual, verbal, emotional, or physical abuse directed at any family member, spouse, or child

Within the context of a couple, this use is so prevalent that it even has a name, which is intimate partner violence (IPV), a travesty that is a significant public health concern. They continue, reporting numerous research that finds forty to sixty percent of instances of IPV occur in conjunction with substance use. They also report that on the days where the substance use was most excessive, the rate of physical violence was eleven times greater with IPV batterers. These damaging behaviors do even more to further perpetuate the cycle of substance use and addiction.

Perhaps even more frightening is that women have given accounts of being pressured into using drugs or alcohol by their partners. Alcohol and drug use are also implicated in rates of childhood use and neglect, another tragic behavior that serves towards fueling this vicious cycle. Individuals who are used as children are far more likely to suffer from substance use or addiction as adults.

UMC Health System details findings from a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Use that found that children with parents who used drugs or alcohol “were almost three times more likely to be used and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children of parents who are not substance users.” The U.S. Child Welfare Information Gateway reported that one- to two-thirds of child maltreatment cases were linked to substance use in 1999, with current numbers creating an even broader range. The World Health Organization details that in the U.S., 35 percent of parental child abuse involved alcohol or drugs.

Exposing Your Child to Damaging Influences

Children learn by example, and in these formative years, they are extensively shaped by their environment. In addition to the fact that there may already be a genetic risk factor due to the biological connection between parent and child, a child may be more apt to experiment with drugs or alcohol at some point because they consistently witness these behaviors. Foremost because their parent has not gotten residential treatment or some other type of help, they may be more inclined to think that using these substances is okay and even acceptable.

Secondly, research illustrates that many children actually procure their drugs or alcohol from a parent. The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Use XIV quantitates this impact, noting that in comparison to teens whose parents never used the following substances, teens with parents who drank alcohol thirty days prior experienced over two times the risk of claiming they could get alcohol in an hour or less. Teens whose parents used marijuana would themselves be more than two times more likely to try it than those teens whose parents had never tried it.

Risk of Disease

Certain drugs of use, like heroin and meth, among others, carry the risk of serious and potentially deadly transmissible diseases. HIV and hepatitis, primarily C, though B is of concern as well, are all too common within certain populations of drug users. The primary threat is to injection drug users due to them often sharing dirty needles. However, the risk extends to other non-injecting users as well.

This is because addiction lowers their inhibitions, increases their propensity towards risky behaviors, and creates an intense need to find, obtain and use the drug, which sometimes results in a person trading sex for their substance of choice. If a person contracts one of these diseases, their partner is at risk of contracting it as well, should they engage in sexual activities after infection occurs.

Similarly, pregnant women with drug use problems may risk their unborn child’s health in that certain diseases, such as AIDS, can be transferred in utero. Babies born to addicted mothers commonly will be born addicted to a substance and may experience withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be dangerous if not fatal.


Addiction causes extreme amounts of stress and tension in many ways, as we’ve outlined here. The sad but unfortunate truth is that in many cases, this toll is so intense that the couple cannot survive within the toxic environment the addiction created, resulting in divorce.

This is not to say that if one partner has an addiction that divorce is imminent. Statistically speaking, the risk is more significant. One study presented by the U.S. National Library of Medicine examined this correlation, finding that a consumption increase of one liter of alcohol per capita brings about an increase in the divorce rate of about 20%. An article on these findings further elaborates, extrapolating this increase, noting that these couples would then see about a fifty percent chance of divorce within these circumstances of addiction.

Discover Family Therapy for Drug Addiction at Vertava Health Texas

Fortunately, these situations don’t have to continue. Various outreach and supportive services exist to help friends and family members balance these effects, including various support groups like Al-Anon family groups and Adult Children of Alcoholics. In addition, therapy and counseling are always options, such as the family counseling program in Texas at Vertava Health.

At Vertava Health Texas, our compassionate and comprehensive treatment program offers a family support program in Texas to help you effectively alter, enhance, and heal your damaged family dynamic. If addiction and denial are advanced, you may even want to consider enlisting the aid of a professional to help you stage an intervention. If you’re experiencing any of these harmful and damaging situations due to your friend or family member’s addiction, please, don’t sit back any longer. At Vertava Health Texas, we can offer you even more information on your concerns and about our addiction treatment programs or our family therapy program in Texas today. Contact our friendly team today online or at 844.311.8395