Impact of Substance Abuse on Family Members
In spite of the fact that harm of alcohol and drugs is widely discussed, many people continue to abuse these substances. Very often this leads not only to the degradation of the personality but also to the disintegration of his or her family. Alcohol and drug addiction is one of the most common causes of the disintegration of families. However, if substance abuse in a family does not lead to family disintegration, it anyway undermines material welfare, provokes the development of nervous and cardiovascular diseases in all family members involved in the situational conflict.
Drug abuse of family members differently influences a family and their relations; it can carry out a catalyst role in acts of violence and cruelty, can be an excuse of violence and cruelty, and a security measure from violence and cruelty. Violence and cruelty cycles often pass from generation to generation, when drug abuse of a family member directly or indirectly causes emotional and physical harm to other family members. If the family is isolated from society and social services, only doctors can detect signs of family destruction and sexual and physical abuse. Drug abuse (alcohol is also a drug) negatively affects the relationship in the family, mental and physical development of the family members (Morris, 2013).
In most cases, people start abusing substances because of boredom, the monotony of life, and dullness of the family relations. The person taking drugs or alcohol tries to escape from reality, relax, and calm down. Everything can begin with ordinary meetings with friends with drinking beer or smoking marihuana and finish with the real alcoholic and drug addiction. It is important that family members could stop addiction of the abusing person in time, thereby without having allowed the conflicts in the family. The most terrible situation arises when both spouses start abusing. In such cases, the probability of that they will cope with alcohol or drug dependence is very small. In such families, parents often deny the existence of the problem in their children or spouse and use to have unrealistic expectations. Sometimes, substance abuse is resulted in self-medication in order to cope with sharp depression or anxiety (Morris, 2013).
Male alcoholism and drug addiction are the most frequent phenomena. However, it is known that in most cases, wives remain with their addicted husbands, trying to support them and rescue from alcoholism or drug addiction. On the contrary, the husbands often do not want to keep the marriage with the abusing wives. When a man becomes substance dependent, his professional life and family lose a priority, and he becomes aggressive and rough. In such a situation, all troubles are borne by his spouse who is compelled to earn money, do housework, and bring up children (Flowers, 2010).
Children suffer from a lack of care and attention because of alcohol or drug addiction of the fathers and continuous employment of the mothers. Continuous scandals and conflicts negatively influence performance at school, mentality, and character of the child. Typically, children growing up in dysfunctional families feel defective among their peers not only because of the abusing parent but due to financial problems in the family which are also the consequences of alcoholism and drug abuse. Moral trauma experienced by children may adversely affect their health in the future (Bullough, 2001).
Today, it is known that female alcoholism and drug abuse are much more difficult to treat because addiction develops much quicker in women than in men. Besides, substance abusing woman experiences a degradation of the personality quicker: she ceases to take care of herself, becomes sexually lax and, unfortunately, she does not often manage to save the marriage. Substance abuse in the family also has a negative influence on posterity: in a drinking family, the risk of the birth of children with physical and intellectual deviations is extremely high (Flowers, 2010).
It is clear that the spouses are difficult to tolerate the constant conflicts and misunderstandings in the family, with slovenliness, roughness and aggression of a spouse, and that children are involved into this situation. Therefore, for the majority of such couples, divorce becomes the only solution. Numerous probes also confirm the fact that drug abuse and alcoholism take the first place among motives for divorce (Barnard, 2007).
Influence of drugs on family life, family relations, and the fate of its members often has a fatal character. If both parents are addicted to drugs, the normal parameters of the existence of such family are distorted in many aspects. In fact, narcotic abuse of even one member of the family destroys the family’s psychological adaptation, undermines material welfare, and provokes the development of nervous and cardiovascular diseases in all members involved in the situational conflict. There are families where substance addiction passes from generation to generation, forming a type of personality and possibilities of each new generation. Moreover, children in such families are born, having received the drug in the embryonic period (Haley, Golden, & Peterson, 2009).
However, there is also an opposite variant of so-called happy family, which have never had drug addicts before. In such families, the beginning of the drug use by one of the children becomes a novelty for the whole family. Parents are not always ready to help the adolescent whose mentality is struck with substance poison. Therefore, parents often make a lot of mistakes exacerbating a stressful family situation (Vangelisti, 2004).
Problems arising in the family from alcohol and other drugs abuse o can be rather different. First of all, alcohol and drug abuse leads to economic problems. The family member abusing drugs becomes the bad worker; he or she works a little, the quality of work decreases, absenteeism increases, forcing colleagues to hide it, and even robs the employers. All this eventually results in a lack of promotion and expulsion. Financial problems also include the inept disposal of money or their use for a purchase of narcotic substances. Constant drug expenses deplete money and wealth, and the family becomes impoverished. People having the dependence on drugs and alcohol may have emotional problems such as the sense of guilt, depression, and psychological frustration (Barnard, 2007).
Chronic and periodic drug abuse has serious, though nonspecific medical consequences. Drug addiction of one of the family members also leads to disruption of family traditions. For example, such tradition as the daily family dinner can be broken if the person abusing drugs misses it because of drug taking or forgetfulness. Important holidays, such as New Year, Christmas or birthdays, become a reason for the increased alcohol intake and result in tension in the family relations. The behavior of the family member abusing drugs, which is considered inadmissible in society, can lead to the isolation of the whole family from the society, including the relatives and friends. Children of substance abusing parents are scared to invite friends to home because they are afraid of the aggressive and inadequate behavior of parents (Haley, Golden, & Peterson, 2009).
Purchasing food becomes irregular, and the half-starved diet with the preparation of dishes from monotonous cheap products often takes place. From infancy, children are deprived of full-fledged food including dairy mixtures, fruits, vegetables, etc. Care and education of children become impossible because of their parents’ business in purchasing and the use of substances. If in a family there are senior children, they assume duties on supervision over younger brothers and sisters that without control of adults can do harm because cruelty becomes the only way of maintenance of discipline (Vangelisti, 2004).
The physical and sexual abuse is most common in families where there is a substance addiction in one of the family members. There is a close connection between physical and sexual abuse and drugs or alcohol abuse. However, the relationship of cause and effect is not always obvious. Financial, medical, and emotional problems cause tension in the family which can be shown in physical or sexual abuse concerning one of the spouses or a child. Such actions create a situation in which one of the parents not taking substances has either to support and protect the child that often provokes a parent abusing drugs to violence or to refuse protection of the child for a temporary improvement of the relations with a partner (Tarkington, 2011).
Cruelty, physical and sexual abuse often accompany the family drama of the addicted parents, where mental disorder in family members has the most diverse character – from a sense of guilt and depression to embitterment with senseless unmotivated aggression. The loss of a house is an outcome of the family impoverishment. Lack of accommodation makes coexistence impossible, and, as a result, the family disappears (Tarkington, 2011).
Parents abusing drugs or alcohol are capable of influencing the children very negatively. Influence on children is much stronger than the influence on surrounding adults. Having matured, children start understanding that parents will not be able to help them in the future and, in general, pose a threat to their life. Children tend to hide from others what is happening in their families; they conceal facts about pernicious habits of the parents from peers and adults. All this negatively affects mental development of the child. Besides, children use the same justifications as their parents in order to hide the feelings concerning the problems existing in the family (Bullough, 2001).
All of the above terms of the disorder in the family do not pass unnoticed. Psychological disruptions in early childhood lead to the formation of the neurotic personality at the mature age. Such personality is easily coded on the use of drugs. Therefore, children from families with addicted members give the greatest percent of drug addicts in the human population. Children who have grown up in a family where cruelty and physical and sexual abuse took place also receive frustration of basic social requirements (participation, safety, love). The number of such people with the destroyed social opportunities constantly increases, their requirements and possible activity are always asocial and criminal that at mass manifestations destabilizes social institutions (Bullough, 2001).
Taking into account all abovementioned information, one can state that drug and alcohol addiction is a heavy chronic disease from which the whole family suffers. The addict is capable of influencing the family members mentally, physically, and socially, destroying a matrimony. The destiny of the addict and his or her relatives will depend on how family members treat this problem. Family members have to show hardness in the solution of this problem, they have to minimize risks promoting drug abuse and refuse periodic intake of alcohol, for example. In addition, it is necessary to withdraw the addict from the environment which promotes the development of drug addiction. The person also has to be learned on how to overcome difficulties by means of various trainings. Besides, experts in narcology have to be involved in the solution of this problem.
- Barnard, M. (2007). Drug addiction and families. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
- Bullough, R. V. (2001). Uncertain lives: Children of promise, teachers of hope. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
- Flowers, W. D. (2010). Alcoholism/drug addiction: A disease or not! – What causes alcoholism and drug addiction. New York, NY: iUniverse.
- Haley, J., Golden, R. N., & Peterson, F. L. (2009). The truth about drugs (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Facts on File.
- Morris, G. (2013). Effects of drug & alcohol abuse on the family. Live Strong.
- Tarkington, H. (2011). How alcohol and drug addiction affects family members.
- Vangelisti, A. L. (Ed.). (2004). Handbook of family communication. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.
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