Connections Between Addiction and Family

Connections Between Addiction and Family

You may not think addiction and family have anything to do with one another. Many people suffering from addiction go to great lengths to hide that addiction from their loved ones, and therefore they believe that their addiction and their family have nothing to do with one another. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Research shows that family dynamics in addiction are very much affected and that one person’s addiction can have lasting effects on their loved ones for their entire lives.

Substance Use Disorders Tend to Run in the Family

Though different family members may not choose the same substances, the simple fact is that if one family member has an addiction, the others have a higher likelihood of developing one. Genetic studies that analyze the heritability of addiction have found that up to half of an individual’s tendency to develop a substance abuse disorder comes from their genes.1

While you can’t change your genetics, and neither can your family members, you can learn to look out for one another and spot the signs if you know addiction is likely to develop. This is especially important for parents or other caregivers of children to understand. Parents should learn to recognize the signs of addiction and spot them before they get out of control. Knowing the risks and staying aware can prevent, for example, one sibling’s quieter addiction from going unnoticed or being overshadowed by another sibling’s more urgent issues.

Even if no one else develops an addiction, the impact can still be severe and long-lasting.
Specific issues will vary based on the family members’ relations to the person with an addiction. The closest family members, such as children and spouses, will suffer the most significant effects, and those effects may last longer than for more distant relations. This is especially true if the family member is subjected to violence or other dangerous situations because of the addiction.


When a parent struggles with an addiction, it will almost always be the child of that parent who suffers the most. Children need a steady, safe environment to learn to navigate the world and develop healthy attachments. When the environment is unsafe, or the child has learned through several examples why their parent can’t be trusted, those attachments don’t develop normally. These kids can grow up with mood disturbances, insecurities, and impaired relationships with their peers.

Addiction is particularly bad in families with young children who are still going through vital stages of learning and development. However, older children and teenagers who witness frequent drug use are more likely to copy this behavior. They may use drugs recreationally at first before developing addiction problems.2


When spouses have children together, usually, the sober parent attempts to protect the children from the parent with an addiction. In the worst-case scenario, the other spouse also develops a substance use disorder. Children then have no one left to protect and support them in these difficult circumstances.

In a childless marriage, addiction issues are bound to cause distrust, friction, and codependency. The sober spouse feels forced to take on caring for their partner and paying the bills. Domestic violence rates are also higher when one spouse has an addiction.

Clear Life Recovery Understands the Family Dynamics of Addiction

The idea that one person’s addiction could impact the whole family may feel devastating. But there is hope in sight if you and your family are open to asking for help. Clear Life Recovery offers family addiction therapy that keeps all of your loved ones actively involved in the recovery process and ensures that everyone receives the care and treatment they need. Don’t let your spouse or your children handle these problems alone. Contact us today and ask about family addiction therapy and other treatment options.


About Benjamin Hogan

Over the years, Benjamin has held positions in many different areas of alcohol and drug addiction services all over the country. He made a name for himself as an interventionist and has held certification as a Certified National Drug and Alcohol Interventionist (CNDAI-II). Benjamin specializes in helping support families of people struggling with addiction by focusing on education and instilling healthy boundaries to ensure lasting changes. Addiction is a progressive disease, but using an evidence-based approach, an intervention, when done correctly, can help to increase the willingness of a loved one to seek sobriety faster.

"In my experience, by helping families make necessary changes, they not only get their lives back, but they also help change the mind of their loved one more quickly. In an intervention, family and other loved ones take a proactive approach, instead of waiting and being stuck between fear and (false) hope. I realized in my own recovery, that when my family changed, I had to change in response. That is where I found sobriety. This is why I believe in what I do!"