Families and Addiction: Is There a Correlation?

header curve background image

Families and Addiction: Is There a Correlation?

Is there a correlation between families and addiction?  Naturally, a person’s family should be a source of security and support through life’s trials.  But, some family environments foster negative emotions and behaviors that can lead to substance abuse.  This connection is often overlooked when someone displays an inclination to experiment with drugs.

Each family has its own ways of acting or reacting with each other and the outside world. These patterns of interaction can shape the personality styles and behaviors of each member.  Therefore, when a family member struggles with an addiction, the other members are affected in a number of ways.  On the other hand, dysfunctional family dynamics can lead a person to turn to drugs or alcohol.

How Does a Person’s Addiction Affect Their Family Members?

It is often said that “addiction is a family affair.”  So, how does a person’s addiction influence the behavior of other members of the family?  One answer to that question has to do with the behavior of the addicted individual.

Firstly, individuals struggling with drugs or alcohol behave irresponsibly and can be unreliable. Other family members adjust accordingly in their own unique ways.  However, the equilibrium of the entire family can be disrupted.  Often, these changes occur gradually and subtly, leaving everyone unaware of what has transpired.

These are some of the ways addiction affects a family:

  • Creates stress and anxiety.
  • Leads to the social isolation of the entire family.
  • Destabilizes the home environment.
  • Compromises finances.
  • Causes mental, physical, and emotional issues.
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, blame, anger, frustration, depression, betrayal, and fear can cause chaos.

Secondly, when a family member struggles with any condition, the entire family is affected.  However, addiction is one of the most difficult conditions to respond to in a compassionate and helpful manner.  Sadly, the problem of families and addiction is not uncommon in the US today.

How Big is the Problem of Families and Addiction?

In the past, our cultural stereotypes of the American family didn’t include substance abuse as part of a happy, thriving home.  Today, the image of family life is much different.  It’s not unusual for parents or children to have problems with alcohol or drugs.  In fact, it may be that the entire family has substance abuse issues.

Here are some statistics that reveal just how bad the substance abuse problem is today:


  • One out of 10 people over the age of 12 used an illicit drug in the last 30 days.
  • More than 139.7 million people over age 12 consume alcohol.
  • 16.3 of those are heavy drinkers.
  • 60.9 million are binge drinkers.
  • Over 30% of young adults age 12-20 engage in binge drinking.
  • More than 10% of that group engage in heavy drinking.

  • About 21.5 million people over the age of 12 have a substance abuse disorder.
  • Approximately 17.1 million people abuse illicit drugs.
  • Over 2.6 million people have both an alcohol use disorder and an illicit drug problem.
  • About 12% of American children live with at least one parent who abuses drugs or alcohol.
  • About two-thirds of child abuse cases involve substance abuse.
  • As many as 30% of children who are removed from their homes were removed due to parental substance abuse.

Clearly, parental substance abuse is a growing concern in the nation today.  Children from these environments often become lifelong users of alcohol or drugs themselves.

What Can Family Members Do to Help Their Addicted Loved One?

Regardless of how much a person knows about substance abuse, it always comes as a shock to learn that a loved one is addicted.  Some families try to look the other way and hope the situation resolves itself.  Others try the “tough love” approach.  Unfortunately, in most cases, none of these work.

The best way to help an addicted loved one is to understand the causes of addiction and learn about treatment options.  Also, it is easier to confront the situation with support.  For instance, you can turn to counselors, spiritual leaders, treatment providers, family therapists, school counselors, or intervention specialists for expert guidance.

It’s important to seek counseling and support for the entire family, as well.  Each person has been affected in some way by the addicted loved one’s behavior.  All in all, the emotional, physical, and psychological needs of the entire family must be considered and addressed.

Learn About the Benefits of Addiction Treatment at A Forever Recovery

If you have a loved one who is struggling with substance abuse, contact us at A Forever Recovery today.  We understand the complex nature of families and addiction and can offer a comprehensive treatment plan that adapts to each patient’s unique needs.  Our clients return to their families with the skills to cope with life without the need for addictive substances.


  • childwelfare.gov – Parental Substance Use and the Child Welfare System
  • niaaa.nih.gov – Drinking Levels Defined
  • samhsa.gov – Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables

Add Your Comment