You know how fast substance abuse can turn into an addiction and negatively impact your health, but are you aware of the harmful effects of drug addiction on family members?

If you abuse any type of drug, including alcohol, your behavior may shift over time and cause problems for the people around you, including friends and relatives. In most cases, it happens gradually over time so there’s a good chance you won’t notice it.

Your friends and family will.

In this article, you will discover the harmful effects of drug addiction on family members.

Effects of Drug Addiction on Family Members

A substance is a product that when consumed, causes physiological changes. Substances can range from prescription medicines to over the counter items.

Many addicts choose to combine substances, doing whatever it takes to maintain their high. Or, they choose to use psychoactive producing substances to the point where their use becomes a danger to their health.

This is known as substance abuse, when the use of a substance, illegal or legal, starts to interfere with leading a productive life.  Some may begin avoiding daily responsibilities to use, while others may experience legal issues like driving under the influence.

It is at this point, also, where the family is being directly affected by substance abuse. While every family is different, there are some common effects shared by the ones dealing with a substance abuser among the members of their family.

Disrespectful behavior

Those who abuse substances don’t necessarily intend to show disrespect to family members. But the overuse of any drug will make you behave in ways you never would if you weren’t in this situation. For the family members, they are trying everything they can think of to stop the use. They will go to any lengths to keep a person away from drugs.

The user, on the other hand, does not see their actions as helpful. Just the opposite, they feel their family members are trying to make them suffer because the withdrawal symptoms are all the user can think of, and how to avoid them.

These thoughts of withdrawal can lead a substance abuser to behave in extremely disrespectful ways towards family members. This can include behaviors such as stealing, lying, fighting, and even physical violence.

Trust issues

Because substance users have engaged in disrespectful behaviors, family members no longer trust them. They want to believe they are telling the truth but too often they have been found untrustworthy.

This leads to not only fighting about substance abuse but also fighting about the lies in which they have been caught.

This does not mean substance users are bad or that they can never be trusted again. It means that right now they are struggling with a drug that is offering them relief from pain in some way. They want to continue this negative coping, no matter what that means, even if it means their family no longer trusts them.


There are some family members who refuse to recognize there is a problem. Meaning, rather than confront the person abusing substances, they pretend nothing is wrong. They find it easier to cope with the problem if they ignore it.

Denial is dangerous for the entire family. It allows a substance abuse problem to grow and become out of control, making it harder to manage for everyone.

Denial can be a major roadblock to healing and recovery. It can be an indirect way to give permission to the substance abuser to continue their negative behaviors. In addition, when one family member is in denial and others are not, there can be a division among the group.

This division can lead to some family members withdrawing from the situation, while others become dependent, or co-dependent.


For the substance abuser, they become dependent on those family members who will enable their substance use. It is rare to find a drug user who can support their habit all by themselves. They usually have a friend or family member who supplies them with money, a cell phone, a car ride or even drugs.

The enabler in the family means no harm. In fact, they may feel as if they are doing the right thing like they are keeping them out of trouble in some way. The opposite is true, however.

Sometimes the enabler can be addicted to the substance abuser. Most of their days are spent focused on the drug user. They neglect family members who are not using, who deserve their attention. This creates animosity.


When discussing disorder caused by a family member who abuses substances, it is easy to think of an unclean house, financial chaos, and being disorganized in all areas. While these are signs of the disorder, there is another form that can be even more damaging.

Mental health disorders can also appear in the substance user, as well as family members, Substance abuse has a connection to mental health problems such as depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders.

For some users, drugs have become a way to help them cope with their mental health disorders. For other users, drug use has created mental health disorders. For family members, the effects of living with a substance user can feel like a traumatic experience. It can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as panic disorder and mood swings.

Disorders such as these are not ones you can conquer on your own. It’s a great idea to seek help from a professional, for both individual and family therapy.


It doesn’t take long for regular substance abuse to develop into addiction and start negatively impacting you and your family.

If the problem isn’t addressed, the effects of drug addiction on family members can be disastrous.

Both the substance abuser and family members need help coping and overcoming the effects substance abuse has had on them personally and as a group.

Each family member has a right to be heard, to get help overcoming the mental and physical distress caused by a substance user. They need to do this first so that once they are on their way to healing; they can properly deal with the drug user in the family.

Families need strength, as a unit, working together as a team to overcome this problem.

There are professional treatment centers that can help. They have a network of professionals, including medical staff, addiction counselors, and mental health therapists, all of whom can help your family in each step, from intervention to detox to recovery and relapse prevention.

Your family can succeed in beating the effects of substance abuse.

Photo by Simon Rae