Addiction does not occur in a vacuum.  If a parent or guardian is an active addict living with children, the chances of those children succumbing to addiction increase exponentially.  If there is an unaddressed mental health issue with the family, the possibilities of addiction for both the caregiver and the person suffering from the unaddressed mental heatlh issues increases as well.

The consequences of addiction reach far beyond the addict.  The whole family unit may  suffer from mental, physical and emotional deterioration due to active addiction.  The alcohol or drug user, as well as family members may bend, manipulate and deny reality in their attempt maintain a family order that they experience as gradually slipping away.  The entire system becomes absorbed by a problem that is slowly spinning out of control.  Little things become big, and big things get minimized as pain is denied and slips out of sideways.

Consequences of Addiction on Families and Strangers

There are many ways in which alcohol and drugs negatively impact the members of a family.  A quick look at a few examples reveals how profound the impact can be.

For example, according to the Center for Diseas Control and Prevention:

  1. Every day, 28 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.  This is one death every 51 minutes.  The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.

What happens to the families of th alcohol-impaired driver?  What of the family of the person killed in the alcohol-related motor-vehicle accident?

  1. Alcohol in the mother's blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord.  Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities.  These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.  Children with these disorders might have the following characteristics and behaviors:
  • Abnormal facial features, such asa smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip
  • Small head size
  • Shorter-than-average height
  • Low body weight
  • Poor coordinaton
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty in school (espically with math)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ
  • Poor reasoning and judgement skills
  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with the heart, kidney, or bones

How does the family support the medical, physical and intellectual needs of a child with FASD?

  1. A study of more that 6,000 first-graders across four U. S. communities has found that a significant number of children have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), with conservative rates ranging from 1 to 5 percent in community samples.

What is the cost to school systems and the community at large to ensure that teachers are trained to teach children with FASD?

  1. The cost of job loss and productivity has been also linked to costs associated with the criminal justice system as well.   Between 2007 and 2015, overdose deaths from illicit drug use rose 230%, indicating the cost rose to around $445 billion.  These numbers do not include th cost of 911 calls, emergency room visits, days of work lost for family members etc.
  2. Alcohol and drugs are implicated in an estimated 80% of offenses leading to incarceration in the United States such as domestic violence, driving while intoxicated, property offenses, drug offenses, and public-order offenses.

The cost of maintaining an addiction (alcohol, drug addiction, gambling, shopping, pornography, etc.) can devastate a family's finances.  An active addict will have to feed his or her habit or face withdrawl.  The sympotms of withdrawal are intense and in many cases, life-threatening. Because of this reality, the addict is driven to spend more money to support the addiction.  Sadly, this often leads to other negative behaviors such as stealing, robbing, or selling one's body for drugs and alcohol.

Family members who are suffering from depression, anxiety, anger or other emotions due to an active addict need help as much as the addict.  There is hope for both the family and the addict.  Detox and diagnosis and a comprehensive, multidisciplinary team approach to a personalized treatment protocol can prove to be a favorable life-altering opportunity.  Both the family and the addict need help to alter the family dynamic and stop destructive behavior (using for the addice and lying for the addict or enabling for the family).  Trained therapists have multiple therapeutic modalities at their disposal to address the issues within the family.  Reach out to a mental health therapist at or a recovery center near you.

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