When a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it impacts the lives of every member of the family. Even though it may seem that the primary effects are related to the emotions, there are physical ways that the addiction of a loved one may impact your life and the lives of any other family members who are involved in the situation. Recognizing those physical effects can be an important part of ensuring that a treatment program will also assist a family throughout the healing process.
According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, or NACOA, living with an individual who is addicted to a substance can put the entire family under a large strain. It causes stress to build up over time and ultimately causes physical symptoms that are associated with the tension and stress of the situation.
The American Psychological Association states that a state of constant stress can cause the muscles to tense up and maintain a guarded position. Over time, that chronic state of tension in the muscles cause back aches, headaches and similar physical symptoms.
Along with the basic tension-related discomforts, the APA points out that stress can cause difficulties breathing, increased heart-rate, high blood pressure, pain in the stomach or concerns related to blood sugar levels. Over time, those chronic health conditions can become a serious problem and may contribute to the development of diabetes, heart conditions or damages to the internal organs.
When a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, he or she may behave in ways that cause physical injuries to members of the family. Depending on the substance, the extent of the injuries and the changes to an individual’s behaviors may vary. In some cases, a loved one may become abusive after using a substance and can physically harm children or other individuals.
Some substances can cause hallucinations or changes to the way that the brain registers information. Other substances cause paranoia or violent behaviors. When a loved one is showing signs of violence, it is important to leave the house immediately and take any children away from the situation. It can result in serious injuries to the family when a loved one is hallucinating, paranoid or violent.
Even if the individual is not violent, substance abuse can result in accidents that cause injuries. A loved one may be clumsier or may not be able to control his or her body. That clumsy behavior may result in falls, breaking objects or other accidental injuries to the individual or others who are around the individual. If a loved one is driving after using a substance, then there is a risk of severe injuries.
Unhealthy Emotional Behaviors
Substance abuse may impact the family members in unexpected ways, particularly when it comes to unhealthy emotional behaviors. Children and a spouse may not feel comfortable discussing their own emotions and may become emotionally disconnected from the individual and the rest of the family.
The NACOA explains that children may take on adult roles and may hide their own emotions in an effort to comfort a parent who is abusing a substance or to avoid certain reactions from the adult. In other situations, the entire family may develop difficulties trusting each other and outside individuals due to the situation in the home.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., the entire family may need to be involved in treatment and should join support groups to work out the emotional challenges that are associated with substance abuse. It is not healthy to avoid negative emotions or to ignore the situation.
Addiction impacts more than just the individual who is using the substance. It causes problems for the entire family and can result in severe physical health concerns. When a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, it is important to get professional help for the entire family.