How Substance Abuse Impacts the Family (and How to Seek Help)

It is a well-known fact that substance abuse doesn’t only affect the person who is abusing drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse impacts the entire family in one way or another. There are well documented effects of chronic substance abuse that have affected the whole family. Substance abuse is often called a ‘family disease’. But how does it impact the abuser’s family members?

An addiction can make an impact on a variety of issues affecting the family:
  • Finances
  • Physical health
  • Psychological well being

One must also take into account the severity of the addiction. Is the person struggling with addiction only just lying to their family, or has it progressed to stealing from them. The fact is, that due to each situation and each family being different, the impact arises differently. That is what makes it impossible to assign a universal, causal relationship between substance abuse and the family unit. However, the impact of addiction is significantly negative to most families.It’s interesting to note that family members tend to play a role, or multiple roles, just as they do in normal, every day life, when addiction is added to the mix. Excluding the ‘Addict’, there are 5 roles played by family members.


Most often this role is assumed by the non-addicted spouse, or the eldest child if it’s a single parent household. The enabler takes on responsibility for all the things that the addicted person has left undone. This could be anything from taking care of the home, taking the kids to school, handling finances, and even making excuses for the addicted person. The enabler is in denial about the truth of the situation.


Usually the eldest child in the family, who is an overachiever, and serious by nature. A hero takes on responsibilities that extend beyond their age, often assuming parental roles. They may be obsessed with making sure everything is perfect, making it difficult for them to maintain their role as the addiction gets more severe.


If there is a child in the family who is the troublemaker, displaying defiant tendencies, and misbehaving in school, that child is most likely to be the scapegoat. As the child gets older, they may start getting in trouble with the law as well, thus reflecting the toxic atmosphere at home.You may be playing one of these roles in your home. If so, you have identified that a loved one has a substance abuse problem. That is the first step when you want to seek help for them. You can start by talking about the problem, to medical professionals or therapists, and coming up with a plan. This could involve an intervention with the addicted person, with the help of a professional interventionist. It could also involve learning more about treatment methods, reaching out to rehab centers, learning about AA meetings, and eventually talking with the addict about them. However, know that you are not required to solve the problem alone, and always seek out the support and guidance of a professional.

We help you navigate family roles in rehab while you are here getting healed. Our goal is to help you navigate it to the best of our abilities. If you have addiction, we are here to help. Call us to find out more: 512-750-6750.