family and addiction
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Addiction: Tearing Families Apart

Although addiction affects everyone differently, the factors that contribute to the development of addiction remain the same. For some, a genetic predisposition renders them particularly susceptible to addiction, more likely due to a confluence of biological factors to become an addict once they experiment with an addictive behavior. There are also environmental factors that can cause a person to become an addict.

This can refer to the combination of family and addiction in the household, being part of a peer group that consists of recreational drug users and addiction, living in a community in which substance abuse is common and mind-altering substances are readily available, and so on. However, the final ingredient for the development of addiction rests in the individual’s own behaviors and depends on whether he or she begins to experiment with recreational intoxication and substance abuse. More often than not, it’s a combination of these factors—the genetic, environmental, and behavioral—that result in a person becoming an addict, physically and psychologically depending on addictive behaviors or mind-altering substances.

When an individual suffers from addiction, he or she experiences a number of profound effects. Dependence on destructive behaviors and substances can cause an array of health effects, causing an individual to suffer rapid weight loss or even emaciation. Depending on the substance, addicts might be putting themselves at risk of contracting one of a number of diseases such as AIDS or HIV.

What’s more, addiction causes a degradation in character and behavior, which results in criminal behavior and the damage or even destruction to important relationships. In fact, the extent of damage suffered by the loved ones of addicts is often underestimated. Family members, friends, coworkers, and other loved ones must often watch as their addicted loved one continues on a self-destructive path, feeling helpless to stop it. The many effects of addiction can result in immeasurable damage to families, making it difficult to remain supportive and encouraging to the one who’s dependent on alcohol and drugs.

Family and Addiction: Development and Effects

Just as people aren’t born addicted to alcohol, drugs, or harmful behaviors, loved ones don’t develop addiction overnight. The precursor to addiction is often recreational substance abuse, but it’s also common for individuals prescribed controlled substances for legitimate conditions to begin abusing those drugs, developing dependency in the process.

However the addiction develops, there’s often an initial period during which time the individual who is developing an addiction does so largely without the notice of other members of the family. As an individual’s recreational substance abuse begins to give way to addiction, his or her tolerance for the substance of choice increases, resulting in the need to consume more of the substance to achieve the desired effects. This often coincides with the individual beginning to display abnormal behaviors.

However, these behaviors often begin infrequently and grow slowly, steadily more frequent, which causes the family to develop a tolerance to these behaviors and makes them somewhat less noticeable. In plainer terms, this might mean that an individual slowly withdraws from the family to an increasing extent, but the family doesn’t really notice since the addict withdraws little by little over time.

As an addict becomes increasingly preoccupied with his or her substance abuse, the behaviors worsen and become more prominent, causing members of the family to begin to worry about the individual. This is often the point during which trouble at work or at school begins, or perhaps even legal troubles if the abnormal behaviors are criminally punishable. It’s also during this period that a family decides—either consciously or unconsciously—how they are going to handle or cope with the individual’s growing addiction.

The response can be to deny the reality or severity of the problem, to adopt a zero-tolerance stance, and so on. Members of the family often suffer physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, in their work, and in many other ways, which might initiate feelings of resentment toward the addict.

Over time, the situation becomes more serious. Many addicts resort to criminal behavior in order to sustain their addictions, which often includes lying to and stealing from their own loved ones, causing family members and friends direct hardship that often leads up to a breaking point. If the individual remains unwilling to admit the nature of his or her problem, accept responsibility for his or her actions, and receive treatment for addiction, the result is often that the family implodes.

The addict might be forced to move out of the home and lose the support of the family, which can have a number of consequences; if the individual has not yet lived on their own or has minimal work history, this could mean that he or she has to abruptly begin fending for him or herself without having any time to prepare for the transition.

What to Do When a Loved One Suffers from Addiction

The combination of family and addiction can result in a number of dire consequences. Perhaps the biggest risk is the possibility that it results in other members of the family developing and suffering from addiction; research has indicated time and again that individuals are significantly more likely to develop addiction when addiction runs in the family or when they have been exposed to addiction in their childhood and adolescent years. For this reason, it’s important to address the issue of a loved one suffering from addiction and prevent the situation from causing additional hardships in the future.

When a loved one is suffering from addiction, it’s common for family members to orchestrate an intervention. Often with the help of an intervention specialist or interventionist, the family gathers together to confront the addict in an empathetic, non-aggressive way, expressing thoughts and feelings, sharing how each member of the family has been affected by the addict’s dependency, and encouraging the addict to free him or herself from the chains of addiction.

With adequate preparation, interventions have proven to have an admirable rate of success. Additionally, when a member of the family suffers from addiction, it’s important to outline consequences for the behavior if it continues should the individual choose to deny the reality of dependency and refuse to participate in family treatment.

If you or a member of your family currently suffers from addiction to harmful behaviors or substances, Drug Treatment Center Finder is here to help. We have a team of knowledgeable recovery specialists on standby, waiting for your call so they can help you to find the recovery program you need to regain your independence and live a healthy, sober, productive life. Don’t wait—call us today.