A Better Today

Addiction as a
Family Disease

How is a Drug & Alcohol Addiction a Family Disease?

Drug and alcohol addictions are devastating and monstrous for everyone who is involved. Even if only one family member is abusing, the entire family and network of friends will feel the impact. In many cases, growing up with one or more parents in active addiction continues the cycle of addiction across generations. Addiction is so common these days; many people only need to remember their childhood to realized that they were surrounded by addiction. Those who experienced the effects of addiction at an early age understand how difficult such an upbringing can be.

When addiction takes ahold of a person’s life, violence and neglect tend to be an adopted behavior as the abuse spirals out of control. In some cases, when a parent is an alcoholic, their children may learn to dodge or hide when that parent is drinking to avoid the negative repercussions that could be associated with binge drinking. The child must bare those burdens or follow in their parents’ footsteps.

The instability of the household, the lack of consistency in parenting and availability of love and support can devastate a child’s psyche. Imagine being a child who had a bad day at school, but upon coming home is consumed with fear with every empty beer can they see as they enter the door.

Such heartbreaking tales are often heard from those seeking treatment for addiction themselves. Addiction has shown its potential to be a transgenerational disease. One family member’s addiction can spring other addictions in the following generations, until someone decides that enough is enough.

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Substance Abuse as a Coping Mechanism

The effects of substance abuse can plague a family for generations. Genetics and the environment plays a big part on the depth of addiction and what drug is abused. If it is socially acceptable in one family to get drunk every night on the weekends, that type of behavior can be passed onto the next generation as an acceptable way to cope.

Developing negative coping mechanisms that involve abusing a substance to cope with stress or hard days in life can influence whether someone develops an addiction or how bad an addiction could become.

Healthy coping skills are often absent in families affected by addiction. Just as negative behaviors are passed on, so are positive, constructive ones. Healthy coping skills are critical for any individual to live a happy, healthy life. Dealing with stress in a healthy manner is one of the key lessons taught in any drug and alcohol treatment facility.

What is The Disease Model of Addiction?

The substances that are commonly abused tend to offer a euphoric feeling of well-being that influences an individuals mood and when these substances are abused or overindulged the brain begins to change. Once the brain changes, choice is just an illusion.

We know that both legal and illegal substances can be abused. Thus developing an addiction or physical and mental dependency. Developing a dependency on a substance can cause negative consequences to both the body and in the person’s life. This dependency is expressed in a type of behavior that negatively impacts the way they view themselves, others, and life in general.

The disease model of addiction is recognized by most medical associations, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine. It is widely agreed that, similar to diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, addiction is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental, and biological factors, including genetics.

How Does it Compare to Other Diseases?

Many who buy into the stigma of addiction, do not believe that it is a disease. However, the correlations and similarities between addiction and other diseases prove that addiction is certainly a disease. Like commonly recognized medical diseases, if left untreated, addiction will often include or lead to mental health disorders, and will become more severe, disabling, and life threatening.

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Addiction is defined as “a complex disease of the brain and body, often chronic in nature, involving continued, compulsive use of one or more substances despite serious health and social consequences.”

Addiction disrupts regions of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgment, and memory. It damages various body systems as well as families, relationships, schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.” Like chronic medical conditions, addiction is progressive and will become worse over time, and involves a cycle of relapse. All of these criteria lead medical professionals to recognize addiction as a disease.

Drug & Alcohol Addiction Across Generations

Substance abuse effects each family member differently no matter the age or relationship. The family, as a unit, is most dramatically affected as each member relies on each other. Children of parents struggling with a substance abuse problem demonstrate just how different addiction impacts each family member.

When a parent is addicted to a substance, the resulting scars left on the children can be devastating. The children either grow up looking to substance abuse as a way to cope or they rise above realizing that drug & alcohol abuse is not the answer and will never be. Anxiety, emotional instability, and psychological issues are common in children who have one or more parents in active addiction.

Establishing healthy coping mechanisms and boundaries, expressing emotions like anger and love, and developing strong relationships are negatively impacted when parent’s regularly abuse substances when their children are growing up.

Parents who are forced to watch their son or daughter’s addiction spiral out of control also experience a very different aspect of addiction as a disease. The disease feeds off the love they have for their child and the length the parent is willing to go to make their child happy and safe. As the addiction becomes the focus of their life, parents notice lying, stealing, manipulative behaviors, and their child staying out all night or for days at a time.

Feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and powerlessness tend to plague the parents of the addicted child causing desperation to cloud their judgment. Parents are forced to lie on behalf of their child, enable their drug use by giving them money or letting them borrow their car to pick up drugs or turn the other check when they realize their stuff is being sold for drug money. The family dynamic suffers as the bonds of love are stretched thin.

Whether you are the child of someone struggling with a substance abuse addiction or the parent who is losing their child to drugs and alcohol, you will feel the effects of addiction as a family disease. What is important to know is that there is help and you are not alone. There is family therapy and support group opportunities to help empower you and aid in helping them.

How Can Support Groups Help Your Family?

Support groups are an excellent resource for breaking the multi-generational cycle of addiction. There are support groups for every facet of addiction’s influence, many of which are 12-step based. A fantastic place to start is Al-Anon, which is named for friends and family members of alcoholics, Nar-Anon, named for people with someone addicted to narcotics in their life, and many others for every sort of substance.

A great aspect of these programs is that they teach family members how to engage with someone who is actively using. Enabling is a major component of addiction that many family members engage in without realizing it. Enabling is a behavior that allows the person who is abusing drugs and alcohol to continue the behaviors associated with addiction without negative consequence. With the guidance and support of others, you will no longer feel helpless and afraid of losing your loved one.

Other support groups exist for those who experienced addiction during childhood and have witnessed its effects later in life. Groups such as Adult Children of Alcoholics provides a safe place for individuals to learn healthier ways of living from others who have had similar experiences.

Anonymous Fellowships Offer the Support Needed for Healing & Understanding.

Participating in Family Therapy Encourages Long-lasting Recovery

If your loved one has enrolled in a drug & alcohol addiction treatment program, that treatment facility should provide detailed family therapy options. Family sessions can be incredibly beneficial for working through resentments and healing old wounds. When a person is actively using, his or her behavior can be incredibly hurtful. Having a treatment facility that educates the whole family about addiction as a disease will encourage healing and help create an understanding of why they did those behaviors.

A Better Today Recovery Services understands how important it is for healing to occur at a family level. We are here to help you find treatment centers that offer family therapy during and after your loved one’s treatment. Rebuilding those family bonds back to what they were before the addiction took control is our goal. Now, more than ever, they will need your strength, encouragement, and overall support when they are fresh out of treatment.

Showing your support during the treatment process is a vital part  This makes the first steps of recovery less intimidating; encouraging them to take the teachings seriously. Getting involved in your loved one’s treatment helps educate the whole family about addiction and recovery. ABTRS is more than happy to connect you with treatment that includes the whole family to encourage long-lasting recovery.

Make the Change that Heals the Whole Family

The stress and strain caused by addiction on a family can seem overwhelming and leave everyone feeling hopeless. No matter how much effort is put in to helping their addicted loved one, the situation always leaves the family feeling powerless, taken advantage of, and frustrated. Bonds are broken, feelings are hurt, and one or more family members doesn’t quite understand why they just can’t stop.

The important thing to understand is that when you enroll your loved one is a substance abuse treatment program a new life of respect, contentment, and happiness is achievable for the whole family. If your family has been negatively affected by a family member’s addiction, reach out for help today.

There is help out there that focuses on healing the whole person and their family. Let ABTRS help you find it for your family or someone you know.

Saving Lives; Healing Families

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Reputable Sources are Important When it Comes to the Disease Model of Addiction

Getting unbiased information that you can trust in is important to ABTRS. It is vital to know where your information is coming from and whether you can trust in the source to make the life-changing decisions you need to make. Knowledge has always been considered empowering. Especially when it comes to taking control of your disease of addiction and seeking the treatment you need to live a life that is fulfilling and rewarding.

When it comes to substance abuse treatment, you need reliable resources that are unbiased and proven or tested to be effective by the scientific or psychology community. We take pride in providing knowledge from reputable sources that are up to date and relevant. Check out the list below to learn more about where ABTRS got their information for this webpage.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4126. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004.

NIDA. (2018, July 20). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction on 2019, February 13

NIDA. (2018, January 17). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition on 2019, February 13