Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Family Tips

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Drug and alcohol abuse doesn’t just affect the user.  It has an impact on everyone around that person, from friends, to coworkers and especially family.  Drug and alcohol abuse can be hard to cope with in the workplace, but it is even more difficult to cope with in the home.  Families may feel lost when coping with drug and alcohol abuse – it can be hard to know what is the right thing to do, say or even how to act around someone that is suffering from substance abuse issues. Addictions, whether caused by drugs or alcohol, are treatable through rehabilitation and therapy and a family should never lose hope.  The most important people to help when a family is affected by drug and alcohol abuse are the family members.  Experience has shown that many people with substance abuse issues will not seek treatment until their family does.

Dealing with drug and alcohol abuse in children

Drug and alcohol abuse in children can be especially hard on a family.  While parents may not understand the reasons why their child has turn to drugs or alcohol, it can be especially difficult to get over the feeling of hopelessness.  Parents who suspect their child is abusing drugs or alcohol should contact someone knowledgeable about drug and alcohol abuse in children.  It may be a drug treatment center, school counselor, the family physician, or a psychologist. It doesn’t matter as long as the person is knowledgeable and familiar with substance abuse.  The best way to approach a child dealing with drug and alcohol abuse is to have honest and open communication.  It can be helpful for the family to speak with someone knowledgeable about substance abuse before addressing the user.  The second step is to get the child evaluated by a substance abuse professional, such as a counselor or rehab treatment center.

Parents with drug and alcohol abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse in parents is difficult for both parents and children.  Depending on their age, children may not understand why a parent behaves differently under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Young children may feel guilty about the behavior that results from drug and alcohol abuse, not realizing the cause is the substance and not themselves.  Older children may recognize what is going on, but may be unsure of what to do.  Groups like Al-Anon have children and parent specific groups that can help family members cope with the affects of drug and alcohol abuse and understand that the family is not responsible for the choices of one individual.

Family members should never feel that they’ve done something to cause the drug and alcohol abuse.  Although it can be frustrating and hurtful to see your family member wounded by drug and alcohol abuse, it is more harmful to continually make excuses and hide substances.  This only serves to enable the behavior and continue the addiction.  Family therapy and support groups for family members of individuals that suffer from drug and alcohol abuse can help family members learn how to stop enabling behaviors.