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  • Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford

Substance abuse & Families: 6 Key Benefits to Treatment



Drug and alcohol addiction is not an isolated issue, it is not isolated to the individual that either uses or abuses drugs and alcohol, but extends out to everyone that loves and cares about the abuser. Alcohol and drug abuse is a disease like many other diseases as those suffering are often powerless to control their use, actions, reactions, behaviors while on drugs, etc. What people often underestimate is the complexity of drug addiction - that it is a disease that impacts the brain, and because of that, stopping drug abuse is not simply a matter of willpower, but a matter of health. Drug addiction is categorized as a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the drug addict and those around them. Drug addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain.

When a loved one or family member has a drug or alcohol problem, they have a disease that can harm themselves as well as extend out to family and friends. Drug abuse places a huge burden and stressors on anyone that resides in the home as they struggle to compensation for the physical, emotional, and psychological withdrawal of the abusing member. It is not uncommon for the family home to become chaotic and divided as members struggle to support, understand, and encourage the abuser to seek and secure treatment. The actions of the drug abuser may also illicit feelings of shame and guilt from family members as each tries to negotiate the challenges individually, often trying to keep the abuse a secret from others. Most often attention, finances, parenting, and other household responsibilities becomes diverted from the abuser and delegated to everyone else in an attempt to maintain the homeostasis in the home.

Here are a few challenges families may face when a member is abusing drugs or alcohol:

  • The user may steal from others in an attempt to purchase drugs.

  • The user becomes unreliable as he or she continues to spiral into addition, i.e., unable to or does not remember to pick children up from school, uses money to buy drugs and not able to pay bills, etc.

  • Getting fired from work or inconsistent employment.

  • May engage in illegal acts to obtain drugs.

  • May stay out all times of the day and night.

Typically, when someone is abusing drugs or alcohol they are unable to identify or even believe they are at risk or out of control, therefore they do not think treatment is warranted. Most abusers once they are able to identify mental, psychological, and physical changes in response to their drug or alcohol abuse see it as a personal issue rather than a familial issue. They either clean up after the alcoholic and try to pretend everything is fine. They try to control the problem drinker and force them to stop. Although, some may see the problems they have caused to themselves it may be more difficult for them to see the problems and pain they may be causing those that love them.

When parents or other family members abuse drugs, the children get hurt either directly or indirectly. Research has confirmed children that grow up in homes where drugs and alcohol are a problem are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than children that do not grow up in a drug or alcohol environment. Effective individual and familial therapy can help the abuser as well as those that love them manage challenges related to the drug or alcohol abuse.

Benefits of treatment include:

  • Identification of issues triggering drug or alcohol use

  • Identification of what is maintaining the abuse

  • Identification of each family member’s role in the abuse/addiction.

  • Helps family members repair communication and mend broken bonds.

  • Ability to convey feelings and frustration in a controlled environment that is helpful rather than harmful to the abuser or the rest of the family.

  • Identify and develop healthy strategies to deal with frustration and other challenges related to the abuse or other familial struggles.

#DrugsAlcoholAbuse #FamilialDysfunction #Family #DrugAddiction

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