Addiction Affects the Entire Family

Addiction is a beast that batters a person’s mind, body, and spirit. The addicted person isn’t the only one who suffers, however. Addiction affects the entire family. Young children, teenagers, spouses, and parents are impacted in different ways. Furthermore, current family members aren’t the only ones who feel the impact of substance abuse. Addiction is hereditary and can continue for generations.

Addiction Affects the Entire Family

A child born into the world may be vulnerable to addiction in two ways. The first way is genetics. The second way is their environment. For example, a child may be born with his or her parents’ eyes or mannerisms. In addition to appearance, a child may also receive genes that are prone to addiction. Parents pass their genes on to their children and grandchildren for generations.

A person is vulnerable to addiction through environmental characteristics, as well. Some drugs are addictive after just one use. On the other hand, addictions can also develop over time. For example, a person with a stressful job may be in the habit of drinking alcohol after work. Repeated workdays that end with a drink often develop into addiction. This new gene is often the start of an addiction legacy in future generations.

What’s more is that members of the family unit experience effects of addiction through the addicted person. Here, we explore how addiction affects the entire family, in addition to the addicted person.

How Addiction Impacts Individual Family Members

          Young Children

An article that appears in scientific journal PubMed Central (PMC) reveals the major impact areas of addiction on children. Academic and cognitive functioning, mental health functioning and substance abuse need the most support.

Children with alcoholic parents commonly have low grade point averages. They have to repeat grades more often and generally don’t continue their education after high school. Lastly, they “show weaker performance in reading, spelling, and math during early and middle childhood compared to their peers.”

Addicted parents often struggle to meet the basic needs of their children. With little to no support academically, children tend to undervalue education. This frequently causes complications for them throughout the rest of their lives.


The adolescent years bring significant challenges for human beings. It’s a time of extraordinary growth, both physically and emotionally. According to Stanford Children’s Health, more than one in 10 kids “live with a parent who is abusing or addicted to alcohol or drugs.” While addiction affects the whole family, teens especially feel its impact.

They all too often become the hero of the household. In other words, the teen feels like they must step into their addicted parent’s shoes. They care for younger siblings and their addicted parent(s), as well as themselves. They are frequently overachievers that get high grades, while running their household.

Although a parent’s obligation is to care for their teenagers, roles become reversed. The teen, for all intents and purposes, becomes the head of the household. The teen feels like they’re responsible for solving the problems of the household. They even go so far as to sabotage well-meaning interventions. While the teen is overachieving as the hero, their peers are preparing for their futures.


When we get married or otherwise commit our lives to someone, we expect to have a lifelong partner. But just like so many things, addiction takes that away from the family unit. This leaves the sober spouse to carry the burden of both people on their own.

What’s more, as we mentioned above, addiction batter’s the person’s mind, body, and soul. As a result, tension in the relationship builds and sometimes tears occur that are unrepairable. Despite the damage the addiction has caused, recovery can return your loved one to you. It’s never too late, but the sooner the addicted person seeks treatment, the better. Addiction affects the whole family in different albeit significant ways. Spouses find that their commitment to one another is truly tested.


As we discussed, the teenage years are especially complex for humans. Teens are certainly impressionable and experimental during this time. It’s natural for parents to have concern about their teen becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Probably because of this, many parents are shocked to hear that their teen has an addiction. Once that feeling subsides, parents often blame themselves for not protecting their children or being stricter in other areas of life.

Adolescents are more likely to develop an addiction if they have addicted parents. But there are certainly many other reasons that don’t reflect on the parent. Environmental and genetic circumstances can also be the culprits. Social influence and mental health can also be the cause of addiction.

Parents are in a unique position to encourage healing in the addicted person and the rest of the family unit.

Because addiction affects the whole family, Recovery in Motion has developed programs to heal the family. Learning about addiction and healthy coping mechanisms bond the family while they work together to heal. If you’re ready to have your family back, give us a call today. It’s never too late.


[1] “Does Addiction Run in Families?” Easy Read, 6 Sept. 2019,

[2] “How to Help Teenagers with Addicted Parents.” How to Help Teenagers with Addicted Parents,

[3] Jessica, Solis, and Julia M Shadur. “Understanding the Diverse Needs of Children Whose Parents Abuse Substances.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 5 June 2012,

[4] Lander, Laura, et al. “The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Families and Children: From Theory to Practice.” Social Work in Public Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013,