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How Drug Addiction Affects The Family Unit

24th Jul 2017

Substance abuse has been a huge issue in the world for as long as most of us can remember.  Addiction is a lifelong struggle, and the addict is never the only person affected by the disease.  People who battle addiction are almost never very aware of the damage their drug use causes the people who are closest to them.  

The emotional damage that is caused in the midst of addiction can cut much deeper than any physical abuse. The best defense against such pain and turmoil is education.  Take a moment to consider these few ways in which drug and alcohol addiction can affect the family unit.  

The importance and breakdown of our social roles

When an adult in the family is wrapped in their addiction, standard family roles quickly break down.  No matter whether it is prescription drug addiction, alcohol abuse, or methamphetamine, the social breakdown is the same.  Dad no longer does “dad” things, or Mom is no longer a nurturing advocate in life.  

Families are naturally hierarchical, so it would make sense that when the hierarchy breaks down, the discourse flows down through the rest of the family.  For children, these social roles are important to their emotional development.   

Financial issues almost always follow addiction

The cost of maintaining any sort of addiction is expensive.  Alcoholics spend thousands every year on their addiction.  Some addictions are even more expensive, and an addict will empty their savings to support their habit.  

The social cost of drug and alcohol addiction in 2012 was estimated to be around $185 billion, including medical care, policing, and the cost of imprisoning addicts.  

Children are affected very differently than adults

Children often adopt new roles in the family when one or both of their parents are affected by drug or alcohol abuse.  Here is a brief breakdown of some of the ways children are affected by addiction.  

  • The Hero – This is the kid who feels responsible for keeping everything together.  They work hard, and often seek the approval of others.  
  • The Scapegoat – This kid is always the one to blame when something goes wrong.  The family hierarchy focuses on their faults to serve as a distraction from the real issue.  This child typically becomes rebellious, and are at a higher risk for becoming an addict in the future.  
  • The Lost Child – The quietly pained child who seems to always fall into the background of life.  In the shadows of the scapegoat and the mascot, the lost child is pushed aside and often ridiculed for seemingly unwarranted emotional outbursts.  
  • The Mascot – This is the kid in the family who is always cracking jokes on the outside and cracking up on the inside.  They are often hyper-active and sensitive.  

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