The Impact of Substance Abuse on Families and Relationships

When we think about substance abuse, we often think of what it can do to the person suffering but can overlook the impact it has on others. Any form of addiction is complex and goes far deeper than what it seems on the surface. Today, we want to talk about the numerous effects substance abuse has on families and the strain it can put on any relationship, be it colleagues, friends, children, or spouse. Of course, we all know it can cause stress, but most of us probably don’t realise how far the impact can stretch. Before we move forward, we would like to highlight that the aim of this article isn’t to lay blame but to spread understanding and awareness of what substance abuse can do. If you are struggling with substance abuse or know anyone who is, Calm Rehab is dedicated to bringing people back to the best version of themselves. At our drug rehab in Bali, we devote our lives to improving others.

The direct effects substance abuse can have on families and relationships.

Firstly, we will discuss the effects that substance abuse can almost instantly cause on other people. Most of them are straightforward to identify if we know what to look for, and they can all lead to long-lasting negative behaviours, stress, anxiety, and trauma, so it is essential to understand should someone close ever struggle with a substance abuse disorder. If you are in this situation, it is imperative to look after yourself, so we advise seeking help and advice as soon as possible. 

Emotional strain – The most obvious, and probably the first thing we think of, is the emotional strain and stress substance abuse can put on all relationships. When someone is suffering, causing this to those who matter most can happen far too easily. It is common for someone struggling to look past the pain they are causing to their loved ones, but it is one thing that needs to be addressed immediately.

A lack of trust – someone struggling with substance abuse can often feel like the enemy, and if not dealt with in the right way, it is only exacerbated. When someone is treated like this, it can cause them to care less about what others think and can manifest into lies, deceit, and even theft. This snowball effect is a frequent occurrence that we see in these situations, so stopping it before it begins is the best way to maintain a decent level of trust. 

Financial struggles – when we care about someone, we can often overlook their faults and do whatever it takes to help them. In a situation involving substance abuse disorder, this can be extremely costly. It may start with lending a little cash, but it can go as far as paying for treatment, covering their debts, and taking on many additional outgoings.

Overload of responsibilities – Most people tend to take on the maximum amount of responsibilities they can handle. Already, it can be stressful, but when someone we love is struggling, it feels natural to help them as much as possible. With substance abuse, this can mean taking on anything from someone’s chores to looking after their children, so the additional responsibilities can become far too much for someone to handle. 

Increased conflict – With all the strain substance abuse can put on families and relationships; it can lead to increased levels of conflict. This is further increased if someone is dealing with withdrawals and they aren’t necessarily capable of thinking logically when facing confrontation. 

A feeling of isolation – Due to the stigma around substance abuse, it can make people feel alone, abnormal, and unwanted. These feelings aren’t just felt by the person using them. It can spread to spouses, friends, and even children. Unfortunately, we live in a judgemental world and being associated with an addict can encourage negative interactions with others. 

Slows child development – Children can be majorly affected when someone close is struggling with substance abuse. When children are growing, they need love, support, guidance and attention to help their development. As you can imagine, any children who are around a regular substance abuser are not going to get the amount they need. This can stunt their social and emotional growth and slow down their learning in many ways. 

Reverses family roles – In a family where an adult has substance abuse disorder, it is often the children who need to step up. Even if children are unaware of what is going on, they still know something isn’t right. Usually, children will begin to look after their siblings and take on housework they shouldn’t need to, and, in extreme circumstances, there can be a complete role reversal. This is where the child is acting as the adult by taking the responsible role in the household. This might include cooking meals, taking care of finances, and much more.

Creates dysfunctional relationship patterns (co-dependency) – in a relationship that involves substance abuse, you will likely find some level of co-dependence. This means that one’s self-worth is measured by how much they can please the other. This often means that the person will sacrifice their desires and needs to please the other person. Though this isn’t recognised as a distinct personality disorder, it is something that can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders if ignored. 

Increased likelihood of domestic abuse – Substance abuse can creep up on a person, or it can manifest at a rapid rate. When someone is struggling with addiction, the people around them are likely to feel at least a few of the effects mentioned above. One of the most shocking ways people close to someone with a substance abuse disorder suffer is through domestic violence. It usually happens without warning as we don’t expect the people we love to act in this way towards us. One of the worst things about receiving domestic abuse is that we easily believe it is always a one-off and will not happen again.

How these effects can have a long-lasting impact on our loved ones

Everything we have discussed above is something that nobody wants to happen to them. However, the longer people are subject to these conditions, there is an increased likelihood they will have long-lasting psychological effects that may require professional help. If someone close to you is struggling with substance abuse, it is essential not to take on the entire task of helping them. Your role as a supportive loved one is essential, but don’t be afraid to seek professional help and guidance from the start. When people are consumed by a relationship that involves substance abuse, it can lead to some awful situations. Here, we will discuss what can happen over time to partners, friends, family members, and even children of someone struggling with addiction.

Substance abuse disorder can be passed on – there are a few ways that this can happen. The most obvious is when a person is in a relationship with someone who regularly uses. Substance abuse can be normalised over time, or the stress of caring for that person becomes too much, and they start using too. This can be incredibly dangerous as it is much more challenging to overcome an addiction when a person’s primary source of support is also using. In this situation, substance abuse becomes perfectly acceptable, and the couple may even start to isolate themselves in fear of judgement.

Another common situation where substance abuse is passed on is from parents and elderly relatives to the children of the family. When a person grows up in an environment that regards drug and alcohol use as a fine thing to do, they are much more likely to start trying various substances in their teenage years and beyond. In these situations, substance abuse often goes unnoticed until it is at a stage where quitting is much harder.

It can destroy someone’s work and social life – Substance abuse isn’t just something that affects the work and social life of the user, but, over time, it can spread to others. If someone is supporting a person through addiction, they often neglect themselves. This can result in having less time for friends and missing days at work. Eventually, they can find themselves without a job or a support network of their own. When this occurs, it can have a terrible impact on someone’s mental health and be too difficult to get back to where they were before. 

It can cause trauma – Substance abuse can cause people trauma in many different ways. If a child has grown up in an environment where substance abuse has had a negative impact on family members, it can lead to severe cases of trauma that often go unnoticed. The trauma can stem from witnessing withdrawals, domestic abuse, financial hardship, and the struggle their parents have been through throughout their childhood. A person in a relationship with somebody abusing drugs or alcohol can also have trauma from the stress, depression, and anxiety they felt throughout the experience. This kind of trauma can have massive effects on a person’s future relationships, employment, trust, social life, general happiness and self-worth.

It can cause high levels of chronic stress or depression – Battling addiction is one of the most challenging things anybody can go through. This is also true for those helping and supporting the person. It is no wonder why it can cause extreme stress for everyone involved. Without the help of professionals, it can be a humongous task to take on and can lead the most mentally stable people towards chronic stress, depression, and other mental health issues. It is essential to be mindful of this when guiding someone through addiction and, if needed, taking some time out. When people struggle with high levels of stress and anxiety, it can also spread to those close to them, so the effects of this can stay around for some time. 

Eventually, this leads to financial hardship – Those suffering from a substance abuse disorder are likely to lose control of their financial situation. This means that partners, friends, and family are often called to for financial assistance. Unfortunately, the majority of people earn just enough to get by, and although we all want to help each other, it isn’t always the wisest decision. Of course, it is okay to lend a little cash from time to time, but the longer someone suffers from addiction, the more financial strain they will put on those around them. In extreme cases, people can be left with very little for themselves and struggle to pay their rent, mortgage, utility bills, or even groceries. The financial side effects can be catastrophic, so it is vital to keep on top of this and seek the help of experts if financial strain starts to occur. 

Develops trust issues – Most people who have seen someone they love deal with substance abuse will understand the lack of trust they develop over time. Addicts often feel shame and don’t want to disclose the truth. In turn, those around them may struggle to trust them or anyone else again. It can be excruciatingly painful to lose the trust in someone you love, and sometimes, it can be near-impossible to get it back. Trust is an essential part of human life, and anyone who loses it is going to suffer for a long time. 

Loss and grief – One thing that we haven’t touched on yet is the loss someone can feel when they feel they have lost someone to addiction. This feeling is genuine and it is likely to occur if the user appears helpless or doesn’t respond well to support. In terrible cases of addiction, we sometimes see loved ones lose their life to drugs or alcohol. The grief this causes will stay with a person forever and cause them terrible trauma for the rest of their lives. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you or someone close is struggling with substance abuse disorder, it is imperative to seek professional help now. The support of loved ones is absolutely essential when recovering from addiction, but becoming clean also needs the help of many external factors. At Calm Rehab, we strive to create positive change in all our clients and their families. Together, we can help anyone return to the person they used to be. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Contact us today to discuss how we can create a brighter future for you; if you feel you might need to, visit Calm Rehab for more info.

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