The impact of drug addiction in families

Addiction does not stop with the addict. It impacts the entire family. Suggestions on how your family can heal after addiction here.

minute read

Does everything seem to revolve around the addict in your family? How does a family member’s drug addiction hurt your family? We will address how addiction impacts not only the addict but their entire family and give you some suggestions on how to help your family heal. Then, we invite your questions, comments, and experiences at the end.

Addiction creates a new norm

There becomes a new norm when a person in the family is grappling with addiction. Typically, when a family member has an issue, the family can get together to help that person get through the rough time. With addiction it may not be that simple. Why? Because addiction and family dysfunction often come together.

There is no one way to deal with an addict and because we love that person, sometimes what is best for them does not seem like it. The more help your family provides, it seems like the deeper the addict goes into their addiction. The more you create an environment of love and support, the more the addict lies and manipulates friends and family.

Why do addicts end up hurting their families?

At first, they may be escaping some issue or pain. The addict knows that what they are doing is not right but they cannot help their urge to get high and escape. Then by the time they realize what is happening, they are physically and psychologically addicted to the high. Now they have to choose their family or their drug.

The drug usually wins.

An addict may not intend on hurting family. But in order to keep getting high they have no choice. Their internal struggle soon gets diluted in their high and, in time, hurting their family just becomes part of the process of getting what they need; drugs.

Division: The new family norm

All of the lies, the disappointment, the irresponsibility and watching a loved one hurt themselves can become very taxing; not just on the addict but especially on the family.  The family feels genuine pain alongside the addict.

Sometimes, this can tear families apart, leaving people in separate corners. The family can become divided. Some family members become enablers and some become distant to the addict, casting them out of their lives. Family members start to argue on how to handle the addict; some frustrated by the enabling and others frustrated by what seems like cruel treatment.

Now, not only is the addict struggling, but the family is hurt, divided, fighting and possibly separating. Addiction can impact the family in such a way that it can cause members to stop talking to one another. Addiction can trigger divorce and cause families to have ill feelings towards one another. It seems unfair that the family has an addict to take care of and now has to also deal with the secondary issues occurring within the unit.

Mend the divide

Even if the addict is not in recovery, the family can be! Though the family may not agree on the best course of action…that is part of the road to recovery. Have hope that addiction and family issues can be worked out, and you CAN come to a point of agreement.

There will come a point where everyone in the family will become frustrated. In fact, it is important for there to be a divide, so mending the family can follow. If every family member does not do what they think is best and explore every avenue, they will feel they did not do everything they could do. Each person must go through their own journey and experience the addict on their own terms. Some need to learn how to love an addict without enabling them. Others need to come to a level of acceptance.

Once everyone has done their part, it is time to get together and re-evaluate the situation. Not everyone may get exactly what they want, but a balance can be achieved. This process can be a relief for families and allow them to start to trust one another again and feel like they are on the same team. Including a specialist may really help each person see their part and how they can get together and be on the same page in regards to the addict. Who can you ask for help?

  • an intervention specialist
  • a certified representative from Alcoholics Anonymous
  • or a psychotherapist…

Each of these professionals can help the family come together and do what is best for the addict. A divided family can allow an addict to play family members against one another. An addict may find it easier to get what they need when they can do this. They can tell mom that dad is mean and make mom feel sorry for them. But remember: ENABLING does not help an addict!

When an addict sees that the family stands firm, a wall is created that is harder for the addict to penetrate. Mending a family can help the family heal regardless of the state of the addict but may also help the addict in the process.

About the author
Amanda Andruzzi, MPH, AADP, CHES, is a Certified Health Coach, founder of Symptom-Free Wellness, and the author of Hope Street. Her first book, Hope Street memoir is an inspirational story of one woman's frightening journey of co-addiction that led her to uncover courage, unbelievable strength and overcome great adversity. She resides with her daughter, husband, and two sons in Florida.


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  1. Lee, that is great advice!
    Charity, I believe it is time to let go of the resentment and find the appropriate help to allow you to do that because holding on to that is not hurting them, it is hurting you. It is also a freeing feeling to just allow others to do what they are going to do without judgement and I don’t believe your father and step mother are enjoying supporting addicts. I always try to be grateful for the peace of mind I have and the life I created and not allow others to affect my well-being. The best revenge on anyone who has hurt you is…happiness!!
    Amanda Andruzzi, MHP, CHC, AADP,published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict View the video book trailer:

  2. Hello Charity. Amanda usually follows comments here, but I thought that I’d weigh in with my own personal experience…and let you know that you are not alone.

    In my family, I have experienced isolation and wanting to feel closer. Most of the time, when I have expectations of others … I am sorely disappointed.

    I’m in addiction recovery myself and I’ve found that it REALLY helps to create a “family of choice” rather than try to heal the “family of origin”.

    Do you speak with anyone – like a family counselor – about your situation? If you search the American Psychological Association’s website, you can find counselors and therapists nearby that can help guide you through the hurt and pain of “family of origin” issues…to the other side, where you’re not looking to others for support.

  3. My parents divorced when I was 8. Shortly after her divorce she remarried and my siblings stuggled with parent allination, lying, lack of unconditional lovee, and pysical and mental abuse. Once my father remarried he karried a women who had 2 boys. One son became an addict at an early age. He stole from everyone in the family, siblings were told we were not allowed to hold him accountable, If we vocalize our thoughts or concerns you are pushed away. This went on for 10 yrs. My brother during this time fathered 2 children, and had never worked a day in his life. Lost his kids to CPS and given to his step sister to care for them for 2 years. my brother was said to be clean, married a women with 2 kids and they had a baby together. Come to find out he was working but his mother continued to pay all the expenses al,owing him to buy material thibgs for himself. He then lost his job to opiod addiction. My brother is a 36 yr old man with a wife and 5 children and neither of them work. My mother just this yr. Had a house built that is over 7k sll ft, and has bought him every unneccesary tool that a unemployed man would need. My parents pay for everything including the needa and wants for his 5 children. As a family we are still stuggling with trying to combind our Two families and how to fix the resentment, the feeling of favortizim and the emotional toll all of this has taken on our parents marriage. If someone, anyone could lead me in the right diection I will be forever in your debt.

    thank you,
    Longing for a real loving family.

  4. Frederick,
    I understand your feelings exactly. Sometimes addiction is just a cover for some deep mental illness or other personality disorder and although I know you are angry it is time to let go of that for your own sake. You have every right to banish him from your life but know that you are the one who is really lucky and better off. Be grateful that you can have a life not living as an addict and have compassion for him that he has to live this way because he does not have the ability anymore to choose life and sobriety over addiction.
    Amanda Andruzzi, MHP, CHC, AADP,published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict View the video book trailer:

  5. Sadly, the best way I have found to be the best way to deal with an addict in my family
    was to banish him from my life. My brother manipulated family members against each
    other, sowed strife, lied, stole, brought dope friends around my mom and dads house
    that stole. After growing up around his stupidity and self-centered greed, I have now
    come to hate him and do not want anything to do with him. He has torn the family
    apart, yet is the victim at all times looking for a pity parade. Drugs have done his life
    so well, that at 34, he has never worked a real job and lives with my parents still. He
    says that his life sucks and no one understands, yes I do, his decision to love drugs
    more than family or life itself has made it that way.

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?