What Is Substance Abuse And How Does It Affect Families?

Last Updated: Feb 24th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

What Is Substance Abuse And How Does It Affect Families?

Substance abuse doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Abusing a substance, whether that’s alcohol or drugs, doesn’t just impact a single person. It can have negative effects on entire families in a number of ways. By asking, “what is substance abuse?,” and learning how it affects families, individuals might be more inclined to seek treatment.

What is Substance Abuse?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, substance abuse can be defined as an illness where individuals continue to use harmful or illegal substances even after suffering negative consequences. Often, substance abuse is the beginning of an addiction.

Becomes a Financial Burden on Family

Those who struggle with addiction or substance abuse often have a hard time creating financial stability. After all, it’s incredibly difficult to maintain a well-paid professional career, or indeed any kind of employment, when abusing substances on a regular basis. Any money available is often diverted to drugs or alcohol rather than important or necessary purchases.

As a result, addiction and abuse of substances often leads to family issues revolving around finances. Some family members want to help provide financial security for their loved ones, but they may end up unknowingly further enabling the addiction. Conflict commonly arises in these situations. 

Substance Abuse Can Cause Individuals to Withdraw

Those struggling with substance abuse are often ashamed of their actions, or they feel guilty about their behaviors. When this happens, it’s common to withdraw from family gatherings. While those struggling with substance abuse might do this to protect loved ones, it can often cause lingering questions about why it’s happening. Many lifelong rifts among family members arise because of addiction. Sadly, this withdrawal can take away a valuable support system for recovery. It can also result in depression or another co-occurring disorder for the person struggling with substance abuse.

Creates Poor Role Models for Children

Children and teenagers often take cues from their parents, grandparents and extended adult family members. When there are individuals who struggle with substance abuse in the family, younger members may see this as normal behavior. Unfortunately, this could set children up for a problem with addiction if parents aren’t vigilant about making sure that their children also know the dangers that come with substance abuse. Children need to know the answer to the question, “what is substance abuse?,” so that they can steer clear of it in the future. 

Substance Dependence Can Lead to Theft or Violence

Abusing substances can lead to actions and behaviors that aren’t typical. When abusing drugs or alcohol, individuals might engage in a range of activities that they normally wouldn’t. Some examples include:

  • Stealing from family members to afford more drugs
  • Driving family members while under the influence
  • Becoming violent with family members
  • Yelling or arguing about minor issues

Substance abuse can be heartbreaking for families, but there is a solution. At 1st Step Behavioral Health in South Florida, treatment can halt substance abuse and get you on the right track towards sobriety. Call (866) 319-6126 for help.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.