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How Drug Use Hurts Your Family

March 31, 2022

The wide-spread use of drugs created a wealth of information about how specific drugs affect the health and well-being of users. These conversations look at the ways drugs negatively impact one’s physical and mental health, their finances, their ability to function in society, and their relationships with others. The impact drug use has on family can be a difficult subject to approach. For many, the presence of drugs in a household disrupts what was once a peaceful and loving environment. Conflict between drug users and their family members becomes normal as trust between these individuals erodes. Communication becomes difficult, and relatives often become guarded and unwilling to visit. For some, their drug use and the deterioration of their relationship with their spouse leads to the end of the marriage.

The loss of trust and communication can eventually lead to a loss of contact with family members. The drastic changes in the physical appearance and behavior of drug users can elicit negative reactions from family members, which in turn can increase feelings of distrust and suspicion. Many people can also turn away from family members who use drugs, because of an increase in verbal and physical assaults. Heavy drug use can alter a person’s mental state, making them irritable to outside forces and more likely to lash out if they are unable to satisfy their cravings. In addition, if someone dies as a result of a fatal overdose, or is hospitalized as a result of an overdose, the shock family members experience can lead to severe emotional trauma. Family members may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like drugs or codependent behaviors.

Children are particularly susceptible to drug use in a household. Studies have shown that children growing up in households where drugs are present are more likely to develop an addiction to drugs. Witnessing scenes of verbal and physical abuse, combined with the increased stress of living in a household with a drug user invokes distressing emotions in children. These emotions cause delays in learning and development, and may lead to mental and emotional disorders. These children are also more likely to develop feelings of guilt and self-blame for their parent’s addictions, as well as feelings of unworthiness which can lead to dysfunctional attachments in adulthood. Children living in households with drug use are three times more likely to neglected or experience physical/sexual abuse. In extreme cases, children are removed from their parents and placed into foster care.

Teenage drug users can also strain familial relationships, particularly with their parents. Many teens who engage in drug use become overwhelmed by the addictive substance, and the resulting emotional and mental strain they endure can lead to problems in their relationships. Strained relationships with parents and feelings of isolation, anxiety, and being unwelcome in their homes can lead teenage drug users to run away from home. This decision, and a lack of support from their parents, leaves them vulnerable to sexual, economic, and emotional exploitation.

In addition to the emotional difficulties that arise from drug use in a home, the financial burdens often exacerbate the situation. Drug users may begin stealing from family members to pay for their drugs, further eroding trust between family members. Other families may be forced to mortgage their house, sell valuable items, and/or wipe out college and retirement accounts to cover the costs of getting their relatives help. These financial burdens can lead to feelings of resentment and anger that erode a family’s ability to heal. While drug use may seem to only impact the individual drug user, it has far reaching effects that influence the decisions, lifestyles, and happiness of every family member. Seeking help to end drug use can help families heal from the traumas they suffered and support one another in the future.

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