5 Ways Family Members React to Addiction

Older woman cryingSubstance abuse not only harms the user and his or her life, but harms everyone connected to the addict, especially family members.  Whether it is a parent, a spouse or a child of the addict, each one suffers the consequences of their loved one’s addiction.  Because each person is an individual, there can be a myriad of reactions to an addict and the addict’s lifestyle, but there are some reactions common to most family members.

Five Reactions to Addiction

Every family is its own small group, with interpersonal relationships purely their own.  A family is unique in that its members share their lives and experiences in a way common only to that family itself.  Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children, all of them individuals but with a special relationship with each other.  It is this tightly knit group that suffers the most from the consequences of a member addicted to drugs or alcohol.  Let’s take a look at 5 ways a family member could react to addiction.

Distance from Loved Ones

One addict who successfully completed the Narconon Arrowhead drug rehabilitation treatment program, when asked how his long-term addiction had affected his family and how they reacted to it, said the following:

The result of my drug use on my family, and my close friends, was…distance.  I created a lot of distance between close friends, and family.  Either I didn’t have any left, or those that I did have, wanted to get as far away from me as they could.  -T.W.

See full video here.

Conflict With Others

Understandably, addiction is a stressful and volatile source of emotional upset from which conflict will result. No human being who cares about another can stand by, immune to the hard feelings and upsets and suffering created by watching someone they love hurt themselves and others.  Disagreements between an addict and a spouse, especially when there are dependent children involved, can be a deep and lasting source of conflict and disagreement.


An addict may tend towards violence as a result of the substance being abused, and a family member may react with violence in kind.  In certain circumstances, there may be the need for a family member to defend themselves. There is the potential for a family member to act in violence stemming from the emotional stresses and hardships incurred by their connection to the addict, as well.

Disconnection & Cutting Ties

At some point, due to the conduct of the addict and the ongoing consequences of the addiction and the addict’s lifestyle, a family member or members may disconnect from the addict, totally cutting all ties.  This can occur especially when many attempts to help the addict have failed, and all resources have been exhausted.


Common to almost any family member is the desire to help the addict, to recover the person the addict was before he or she descended the downward spiral of addiction.   Sometimes a family member will not give-up, and will continue to try and help the addict despite the cost to themselves and other family members.  It is a personal choice, and each individual must make that choice for himself.  No one wants to give-up on someone whom they love.

A Solution for Sobriety

The solution for an addict and the harm he or she causes to self and family members is to somehow and in some way, escape the trap of the addiction and get sober.  There are many forms of treatment being offered to desperate families seeking help for their loved one.  It is vital to choose a treatment program that does not use replacement drugs, and which actually is based on a philosophy of treatment that an addict can overcome his or her addiction, and is not condemned to the theory that addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease.

For further information on a holistic and drug-free approach to drug rehabilitation treatment, please call 800-468-6933.