Drug and Alcohol Treatment for Families

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Drug and alcohol treatment centers know that family history can influence substance abuse. As evidenced in the death of Eva Rausing in London, drug and alcohol problems often affect more than just one family member. Even as an inquest into the death of Mrs. Rausing is being held, her husband is undergoing treatment for alcohol detox and he is under arrest for drug-related charges. The couple had a long history of drug use, including crack, cocaine and heroin. According to Forbes, the couple met at a drug and alcohol treatment facility in the 1980s. Sadly, their addictive behaviors continued, culminating in her recent death.

Family Patterns of Behavior

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, addiction is an illness that can be passed down from generation to generation. In addition to genetic factors, addiction is also a pattern of behaviors taught to children as they grow up. If parents or grandparents suffer from substance abuse or attend drug and alcohol treatment, it is very likely children will learn how to use alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism when they become stressed or have uncomfortable emotions.

Parents and loved ones can also contribute to addiction by enabling addictive behaviors. For example, if an addict is hung over from drinking the night before, their spouse may call an employer and excuse them for missing work because they are hung over. Other common types of enabling behaviors include providing money to buy drugs, buying drugs for the addict or making excuses for destructive behaviors while the person is high or drunk.

Family Participation in Drug and Alcohol Treatment

Family participation in drug and alcohol treatment can be key in helping rehabilitation efforts become effective. Addiction does not just affect the person who is addicted. It influences and impacts every person in the family, including parents, siblings, spouses and children. Family counseling as part of the drug and alcohol treatment process often includes helping to identify enabling behaviors from family members and methods to encourage the addict to maintain healthy coping skills. Family members may be provided with suggestions of alternative activities for the addict to participate in when they realize the addict is feeling stressed or upset.

It is important for family members to also develop their own support system to cope with the impact of addiction and the emotions of having a family member in drug and alcohol treatment. Programs such as Alanon and Alateen can provide excellent resources to talk with other people who face addiction challenges.

Frequently, family members need to go through their own drug and alcohol treatment process to cope with the impact of addiction. They may feel angry and resentful at the negative effects drug addiction or alcoholism has on them or the family in general. They may feel angry at the person who is addicted. Family and individual therapy can help family members process their feelings and emotional responses in healthy ways that help both the addicted person and all members of the family.

It is often said that addiction is a family illness. Once treatment at a rehab facility ends, all members of the family will need to continue the treatment process to help not only the person with the actual addiction, but to also help rebuild and strengthen the family. In the long run, family involvement in drug and alcohol treatment can break the cycle of addiction and bring about healing for everyone.