Effects of Opiate Addiction on the Family

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Opiate addiction impacts more than just the user; family members and close friends can be deeply impacted by the addiction that their loved one is suffering from. Studies show that the impact of opiate addiction the family may include an array of side effects and consequences including:

  • Added stress
  • Inability to control finances
  • Relationship problems
  • Co-dependency

Added Stress

According to Harvard Health, anyone who takes opiates regularly and repeatedly is at risk of developing tolerance, physical dependence and symptoms of withdrawal. While none of these side effects can be pushed off to the loved one, family members are deeply affected by their loved one’s decision to abuse drugs because the health of the individual is directly related to the way the family feels. If a loved one is sick, addicted, or suffering in any way, family members become stressed and upset. They often look for ways to solve the problem and feel heartbroken at their inability to be in control of the loved one’s addiction.

Inability to Control Finances

opiate abuse

Opiate addiction can alienate a person and cause them to lose the support and respect of their family.

When a loved one is addicted to opiates, the financial burden can be devastating to family members. Often times, especially when the addict is also the sole breadwinner for the home, bills go unpaid, necessities are overlooked and financial comfort becomes a thing of the past. As the addiction progresses, it is very common for personal belongings to be sold for drugs, the individual may stop making purchases for children or loved ones in order to purchase drugs, and job loss is always on the forefront of the situation. When there is no longer employment or income, the financial burden becomes even more pronounced with many families of those addicted being forced to live with friends or other family members, or worse, living on the streets.

Relationship Problems

The strain that an addiction to opiates places on the relationships of the household can be debilitating. Loved ones find themselves spending more time fighting about the addiction, the drug use or the financial burden than they do talking about things that are otherwise important such as child rearing, having fun and living a healthy lifestyle. As the addiction spirals out of control, relationship struggles become an evident side effect that is unlikely to go away until the addiction is cured.

Co-Dependency

A very common outcome that results from opiate addiction is co-dependency. According to Southwestern University, co-dependency is a behavior that involves a family member or loved one taking care of an addict. Unfortunately, the family members believes that what he or she is doing is “acceptable” or “helpful” but in reality the individual is enabling the user to keep up his or her addiction. Co-dependency is a real problem that often requires professional help—just one of many ways that the effects of an opiate addiction can negatively impact a loved one.


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