Substance abuse and its effects on the family

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:48 pm
When a family member abuses alcohol or drugs, the addiction usually affects the whole family. In many cases, a peculiar form of role reversal results. Both spouses and children of substance abusers often find themselves assuming the role of parent. Role reversal has the unfortunate effect of creating a great deal of tension, and usually results in a loss of respect among family members. Spouses and children of substance abusers often find themselves embarrassed by their loved ones' behavior, and attempt to hide the situation from family and friends. However, this generally only perpetuates the problem, because the addicted family member is allowed to maintain the illusion that the abuse isn't causing a problem. If a child is the addicted family member, the parents' relationship may become strained over disputes concerning how to deal with the problem or as a consequence of blaming each other for the situation. In short, substance and alcohol abuse can throw the entire family into turmoil. Anger and rage may be expressed openly and violently, or family members may suppress their feelings and opinions to minimize the possibility of conflict. Fortunately, treatment is available in the form of family counseling, individual therapy, marriage counseling, group therapy, and other special programs. For more information, consult a health care professional in your area.
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