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  • 6/24/2009

Drug abuse and the family

drug addiction

Sadly, drug abuse and addiction doesn’t only affect the person abusing drugs. It affects friends, family and the entire society. Child abuse and neglect is much more common when there is drug abuse in the family. The abuser may neglect a child’s basic needs in the quest for more drugs, or lack of impulse control can lead to increased physical and emotional abuse. Drug abuse by a pregnant woman affects the developing baby’s health. Domestic violence also happens more frequently. Abusing drugs leads to higher risk of injuries and death to self and others in car accidents.

Family stress

If you have someone you love abusing drugs, it is an enormous emotional strain. You might feel obligated to cover for the abuser, cutting back from work to deal with the abuser’s problems— or working more to make financial ends meet. 

 You might not be able to see friends and engage in hobbies, as coping with the abuse takes more and more time.  The shame of drug abuse in the family stops many family members from asking for help, instead pretending nothing is wrong. The emotional toll can be overwhelming.  Children are especially sensitive.

When someone you love has a drug abuse or addiction problem

You may not immediately realize that someone you love has a drug problem. It may have started slowly, and your loved one might also have tried to hide the extent of the drug use from you. You might have gotten so used to the drug abuse that coping with it seems almost normal. Or the realization that there is something seriously wrong is almost too painful to admit. Don’t be ashamed, and you are not alone. Drug abuse affects millions of families, from every socioeconomic status, race and culture. There is help and support available.

What the person abusing drugs might say if you confront them about their usage

“I can get sober any time I want to. I’ve done it lots of times”. The key to recovery is staying sober, not constantly cycling through the process.  Even if the person abusing drugs is able to resist for a little while, usually the cravings are too strong to resist during times of stress.

“Why do you exaggerate so much? I’m hardly using at all!” Remember denial is a key part of drug addiction. The person using drugs might actually believe they are not using as much as they are.

It’s your fault. If you wouldn’t stress me out so much, maybe I wouldn’t need to use drugs as often” It is never your fault that someone is using drugs. Even if they are feeling stressed, there are other coping skills they can choose to use.


Understanding what is involved in recovery

• You cannot force someone you love to stop abusing drugs. As much as you may want to, and as hard as it is seeing the effects of drug abuse, you cannot make someone stop using. The final choice is up to them.

The right support can help you make positive choices for yourself, and balance encouraging your loved one to get help without losing yourself in the process.

• Don’t expect your loved one to be able to quit without support. Withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant, painful, and even deadly. While medical input is always a good idea, if your loved one is addicted to benzodiazepines or is a heavy drinker, withdrawal can be dangerous and should be done under medical supervision.  

• Recovery will be an ongoing process. Someone who abused drugs will not suddenly be a cured person once sober. Drug use may have been masking painful feelings that will bubble up to the surface.

Many in recovery experience depressed moods for up to a year or more as their brain reestablishes from the drug abuse.

Learning new coping skills to resist cravings, and how to apply them in stressful situations, is an ongoing process. Ongoing support is crucial to work through those issues.

drug addicted person

Other links:

Drug Abuse and Addiction 

Causes and Physical Signs of Drug Abuse and Addiction 

Mental and emotional signs of abuse and addiction 

Effects of drug abuse and addiction  

Why do drug-addicted persons keep using drugs?  

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