How Addiction Affects Families

Addiction, also known as a substance use disorder, is a disease that affects the mind, body, and spirit. As substance abuse progresses, the impact on an individual’s life worsens and the risk of short and long-term effects increases. But the effects of addiction do not only affect the person using harmful substances, it also impacts the family and friends around them.

Unfortunately, close relationships with family members and loved ones are likely to be negatively impacted by the problems that are caused by substance abuse. Addiction affects the family in different ways, whether it is a child, spouse, or parent, all can suffer emotional damage alongside other consequences.

Despite these difficulties, it is possible to overcome the hardships and heal the wounds caused by substance abuse. Family members are able to work together to mend relationships so all can live happy and healthy lifestyles. Read on to find out about how addiction affects families and the most effective ways to move onwards and upwards.

What Is a Substance Use Disorder

What Is a Substance Use Disorder

A substance use disorder is a complex brain disease. It is characterized by the uncontrolled use of harmful substances despite negative consequences to one’s life. Individuals living with an alcohol or drug addiction intensely focus on alcohol or drug abuse to the point where their day-to-day life is heavily impacted, from work life to financial difficulties to family.

People living with substance use disorder often have distorted behaviors and thinking due to the changes in the brain’s chemistry and structure. The effects of the substances on the brain cause people to have changes in personality, intense cravings, and other abnormal behaviors and movements. Over time, individuals engaging in drug or alcohol abuse build up a tolerance, this means they need more of the substance in order to feel the same effects.

A lot of the time, people living with an alcohol or drug addiction are aware of their problem but are unable to stop, even if they want to. Addiction can affect their physical and psychological health as well as cause interpersonal problems, like with family members.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

If you believe a family member is living with a substance use disorder, most substances induce noticeable signs and symptoms, causing behavioral and physical.

Although it is important to remember that a substance use disorder is a complex disease that affects individuals in many different ways, there are some key things to look out for.

Physical signs

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in complexion

Changes in Behavior

  • Ignoring or avoiding responsibilities, such as school or work
  • Secretive behavior
  • Withdraw from loved ones, including extended family and friends
  • Financial difficulties

Psychological Symptoms

  • Poor motivation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • Little motivation
  • Irritability and mood swings

How Addiction Affects Family Members

A substance use disorder impacts everyone and their loved ones in a unique way, it is a not one size fits all disease and personal factors influence the experience. The same can be said for family members. Unfortunately, if someone within the family household is living with an alcohol or drug addiction, relationships and a once peaceful home can easily become strained, no matter which family member is abusing substances.

Whether is the child, parent, sibling, or spouse, addiction can really change the family dynamic and the entire family has to endure the negative side effects of drug or alcohol abuse. So, how exactly does addiction affect the family?

Depending on which family member struggles with an addiction disorder, family members will all have different experiences and responses. Some may take a step back, not wanting to involve themselves in any shape or form. In contrast, others can take the opposite role and develop unhealthy coping mechanisms like enabling or codependent behaviors. Others may simply try to blend in, ignoring that the alcohol or drug abuse is even happening.

How Addiction Affects Children

According to the Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), around one in eight children are living with a parental figure who has actively abused substances within the past year. The effects of living and dealing with parental substance abuse are dependent on the family situations, such as whether they come from two-parent or single-parent households, as well as whether it is one or both of the parents struggling with substances. Children living in a house affected by addiction ultimately bear most of the damage.

Witnessing a parent abuse drugs or other substances is an isolating experience, children feel there is no one to turn to and no help to deal with the situation. Living in such an unpredictable environment can cause a role reversal where the child attempts to manage the situation. Children living with parental substance abuse are undergoing a distressing and traumatic experience that can cause delays in development and learning, increasing the risk of mental and emotional disorders.

Family addiction affects the whole home, and early exposure to this kind of turmoil can cause a child to feel physically and emotionally unsafe and neglected as they receive inconsistent and little support. This can cause children to become emotionally unstable, where they may develop self-blame or extreme guilt for their parent’s substance abuse.

Children living with an addicted parent have their social development stumped and affected, causing problems in their health, confidence, and mental health. Unfortunately, children who experience parental substance abuse are at a much greater risk of developing substance use disorders later on in life.

How Addition Affects Spouses

Within the context of marriage, it is understandable that addiction affects spouses in the most obvious ways. Addiction can cause individuals to become dishonest and selfish, but the person living with the addiction is often unable to see or understand the impact of this behavior. This tends to drive a wedge between partners, causing spouses to react with guilt, shame, or sadness.

Generally speaking, life and marriage’s general ups and downs are common factors to cause conflict within marital relationships. However, when one partner is abusing substances, a cycle of conflict can be apparent within the household. Research has found that addiction and higher divorce rates have a closely interlinked relationship, it can also affect the well-being and mental health of the partner dealing with the substance abuse.

How Addiction Affects Siblings

Siblings of individuals who abuse substances have often been referred to as the ‘invisible victims.’ The entire family is obviously affected in various ways, but with the parent’s time being consumed with their child living with addiction, the ongoing issue draws the attention away from the other family members. Siblings tend to end up living on the sidelines as they learn to deal with their frustration, shame, resentment, and confusion.

Siblings have a first-hand experience with the negative side effects of drug or alcohol abuse and how it affects the family. This stops them from abusing substances, not wanting to experience the same negative implications. Alternatively, others have turned to alcohol or drug abuse to try and escape the emotional turmoil caused by the addiction.

It is not uncommon for siblings to take on board a load of responsibility for the rest of the family, maybe they have had to become responsible for taking care of other members of the family, and dealing with legal issues or financial difficulties. This happens as the rest of the family is preoccupied with dealing and coping with the family member abusing substances. This is a lot to handle for anything, especially when trying to deal with and support a sibling living with a substance use disorder.

How Addiction Affects Parents

Parents struggling with a child’s substance abuse have a unique set of issues and difficulties they have to deal with. They are constantly worried about their child’s well-being and safety and may even feel partly to blame for their child’s decisions. It can feel powerless watching the disease take over your child, this can cause some parents to take on an enabling or overbearing role.

Dealing with adult children and their substance abuse can create co-dependent relationships, a typical coping mechanism for dealing with a family member with addiction. This can include a parent taking responsibility for their child and their actions, putting their child’s needs and wants before their own feelings, and the inability to set or maintain healthy boundaries.

The Effects of Addiction on the Whole Family

The Effects of Addiction on the Whole Family

The substance abuse of a family member can of course individually impact different family members, but there are also a number of different ways addiction affects the whole family. Not all families experience the same negative implications, but at times the experiences are similar

Increased Risk of Abuse

As substance abuse continues, individuals can become difficult to deal with and unpredictable. Drug and alcohol abuse can cause a person to come frustrated, angry, and erratic and can lead to them lashing out at anyone close to them. People are more likely to act out when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One of the most profound effects of addiction on the entire family is the increased risk of abuse. Whether this is physical, emotional, or sexual.

Parental substance abuse can cause parents to decline in functioning within their parental role. This is due to mental and physical impairment due to drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse within a parent is recognized as a risk factor for different forms of child abuse.

Research has found that excessive alcohol or drug use increases the risk of experiencing domestic violence within a relationship. There are many forms of domestic violence, whether it be physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. When an individual abuses drugs, it changes the chemicals in their brain, which can result in violent, irrational, or controlling behavior. Domestic violence often stems from a desire for power and control and when someone is under the influence, they are likely to lose control of their inhibitions.

If you are in a relationship where you are experiencing abuse, there is help and support available 24/7. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available and confidential. Please reach out to 1-800-799-7233 if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence.

Financial Support

Drugs and alcohol are expensive and many people abusing substances throw all of their money into trying to get hold of the substances that they need. But addiction can make it difficult to maintain a job, so families typically take on the financial responsibility for the family member living with the addiction.

Of course, buying drugs or alcohol is costly, but with addiction comes additional expenses, from legal fees to health care. According to research, the economic downfall of substance abuse is more than twice the amount of other neurological diseases.

Increased Risk of a Family Member Abusing Substances

Another way that addiction affects the family is the increased risk that another family member will start to abuse substances. It has been said that abusing substances ‘runs’ in the family. Additionally, many people have a genetic predisposition to addiction and research has continually found genetics to be a risk factor for developing an alcohol or drug addiction. Other factors that play a role in addiction include:

  • Exposure to trauma, neglect, or other adverse early life experiences
  • Envrionemtnal factors
  • Learned behaviors
  • Psychiatric factors

Typically, the chances of having more than one family member with addiction are pretty high, creating a pattern and causing the cycle to start again.

The Family Roles in Addiction

As we know, addiction affects the family in many different ways. However, medical professionals have distinguished five roles that family members tend to adopt to deal with addiction. In some family situations, each member takes on one role, whereas other members may adopt multiple roles and other families don’t fulfill all roles.

These six different roles are an active way to observe how different family members deal with their loved one’s addictions.

The Addicted Family Member

This role is the person abusing substances. They are the source of a lot of the conflict, whether it be indirectly or directly. Due to changes in brain chemistry and the effects of drug and alcohol use, they tend to be selfish, acting and behaving in ways that are suited to them, regardless of the impact on the family. Much of the family dynamic revolves around this member.

The Hero

The hero’s role attempts to make the family appear normal to others. Although they are not directly enabling, they often try to maintain a sense of stability in the household and even attempt to maintain appearances to others. The hero tends to be a self-sufficient and highly responsible individual.

The Caretaker

The caretaker refers to the family member that attempts to cover up and make excuses for the person abusing substances. They try to keep the peace and make the rest of the family as happy as possible. They find their purpose in enabling the individual with the addiction, unfortunately keeping the vicious cycle of addiction ticking on.

The Mascot

The mascot is the comedy maker of the family. They try to relieve the stress and chaos by attempting silly or humourous behavior. They just want people to see the light side of things and are constantly trying to make their family feel better through their different behaviors. This role can be exhausting and is adopted as an attempt to avoid the reality they are facing.

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is the exact opposite of the hero. They tend to act with hostility towards the family and are often defiant. They deal with the effects by acting out and drawing attention to themselves through problematic behaviors.

The Lost Child

The Lost Child

The lost child is the quieter one. They try to avoid additional chaos and attempt to steer clear of what is happening. The lost child role is typically adopted by younger siblings as they are used to their older siblings leading. They attempt to blend in with the background of the chaos happening around them.

What Does Family Therapy Involve?

It can seem difficult to cope when a family member is struggling with addiction. Maybe you feel like you’ve tried your best to help and you’re now at a loss. When attempts are unsuccessful, it’s disheartening and can push you back in terms of progress. However, there are many ways you can help a family member overcome addiction. It is also important to remember that there is support for the whole family. Addiction affects not just the individual with the substance abuse disorder, but family members too.

A great opportunity for family members to work together and have the chance to exchange their feelings in a safe space is family therapy. Guidance from a counselor can help you and your family work through confrontational difficulties in an effective and constructive way. Some of the topics you may encounter in family therapy include:

  • Boundaries
  • Healthy communication
  • Addiction education
  • The balance between accountability and positivity

A family therapy treatment plan differs for all families and their specific situations but ultimately can help improve strained relationships, conflict, and dealing with difficult emotions. Family therapy can involve both individual and group therapy. Sessions and who is attending them may change over the course of the treatment plan.

Treatment at Alina Lodge

Alina Lodge is an exceptional treatment center for individuals battling addiction and their loved ones. We are considered to be among the top residential treatment programs in the United States and offer a diverse range of effective treatment options. We treat a range of substance use disorders that are treated with quality care, individualized treatment programs, and positive results.

We understand that one of the most challenging aspects of addiction is the impact it has on families. Our family therapy program gives our patients and their family members a deeper understanding of these effects, allowing the space and time to deal with conflicts and teaching coping strategies to practice when a crisis may arise.

If you or someone you love is battling with a substance use disorder, our team at Alina Lodge can give you the tools needed to take your life back from alcohol and drug addiction so you are able to continue living a happy and healthy lifestyle. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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Samantha Kelly​

Director of National Business Development & Admissions Coordinator

I am a dedicated and passionate professional with extensive experience in business development Admissions and marketing. I have an incredible passion for showing others that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel if someone truly wants it.
Being in recovery myself I understand the struggles of addiction and alcoholism. I Started this Career path in 2009. With multiple years of experience, I bring a multi-faceted approach and am always seeking new ways to make a difference in the lives of those I work with.

Kim L. Buckner


As a Substance Abuse Motivational Speaker, Pastor, Peer Advocate, and Facilitator. Kim helps clients avoid relapse by understanding their triggers. Those people, places and things that can cause craving, as well as internal triggers like feelings, thoughts, or emotions. Kim also clients with identifying and building healthy relationships now that they’re clean and sober.

Kim’s background includes extensive experience as a motivational speaker and work in faith-based organizations helping youth and adults alike. He says he is motivated by giving back to the community, understanding, and not judging who she comes into contact with. Kim’s favorite quote is by Dr. Raymond Johnson: “The respect given to others rebounds to the giver to deny the scared in the Other is to deny it in oneself.”

Caty Burns


Caty graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minors in Counseling and History. Throughout her undergrad, she worked at the local CASA program, supporting volunteers advocating for children who had experienced abuse and neglect. Caty worked for seven years at a community mental health center (CMHC), partnering with children, adults, and families.

During those seven years, she taught life and coping skills as well as behavior management, provided case management and peer recovery services, and facilitated treatment teams that included the client, family, providers, and community members. I have also worked at an IOP providing group therapy services. She is currently working towards my Master of Social Work.

In her free time, Caty enjoys reading, especially historical fiction, spending time outdoors and having movie nights with her family. Disney World is her happy place, and she dreams of living among the elephants.

Madison Knowles

Mental Health Therapist

My name is Madison Knowles, I am a Mental health therapist at NPAC. I am a single-mother of two and I have a daughter who is globally delayed and has been diagnosed with autism. I have been in this industry since I was 16 years old, as I was fascinated with human behavior. I obtained my masters in applied behavioral analysis and started off working with people with disabilities. I then found my love for counseling when I worked with juveniles who had mental health and substance use issues. I then decided to go back for my mental health therapy license after that and working in a forensic treatment center. I went on to obtain my therapy credentials and since 2017, I have also been working on my PhD in forensic psychology in which I am currently working on my dissertation. I am inspired by change and how resilient people can be. My favorite inspirational quote is “Some will, Some won’t, So what, NEXT!!!” This quote has inspired me to try, try, and try again no matter how hard life gets, someone will give you a chance eventually. As a therapist at NPAC, I have been given the opportunity to work with diverse populations such as in substance use and mental health and I am known for my work with people on the schizophrenic spectrum as well as with other clients with other severe conditions including personality disorders.

Megan Carmona, LMHC

Lead Therapist

Our Lead Therapist, Megan, is a bilingual Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in working with adults who struggle with addiction, anxiety, depression, and trauma. As Lead Therapist, she provides individual, family, and group therapy sessions to our clients.  Megan says “I am very passionate about therapy, especially about supporting my clients in exploring their strengths and identity. My goal is to provide individuals with the tools that can help them achieve independence in coping with their challenges and facilitating personal development.” In her free time, Megan enjoys watching docu-series and playing video games with her family. Her dream is to own acres of land so she can care for vulnerable animals, especially old dogs, cats, and horses. 

Kristen Bensley

Primary Clinician

As Primary Clinician, Kristen works with all aspects of our clinical team, from case management to primary therapy.  She has broad experience working in the mental health field. Prior to joining our team at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic, Kristen was part of the team awarded the Evernorth Behavioral Health Center of Excellence Designation by Cigna. She says her motivation is to help people rediscover who they are and become excited about the future and all the possibilities life offers. Kristen’s favorite quote is: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Ronn Daigle, MSW

Therapist, Utilization Review Clinician

Ronn Daigle services as a Therapist and Utilization Review Clinician at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has been working in the field of substance use disorder treatment since 2011, with experience in all facility-based levels of care. Ronn earned, both an Associate of Arts in Psychology (2013) and Bachelor of Science in Human Services, with an Addiction Studies Concentration (2015) from Indian River State College. 

Ronn additionally earned a Master of Social Work degree in 2021 and is a current Registered Clinical Social Work Intern working toward licensure (LCSW). He describes himself as detail oriented, and solution focused.

Ronn says: “There is nothing more fulfilling than working with someone who doesn’t believe in himself or herself, and being there in the moment with them when the belief begins. We work with individuals who come to us at a point and time in their respective lives where they do not believe that change for others is possible; let alone for themselves…throughout the process they eventually come to a point where they realize that change is not only possible, but achievable.”

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI

Assistant Clinical Director

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI is the Assistant Clinical Director at Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic who specializes in the treatment of LGBTQ, addiction, as well as mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety, to Bipolar Disorder, trauma, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, and eating disorders. Erika utilizes a number of modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Mindfulness amongst others. Erika has been in practice for close to a decade and has earned her license in Mental Health Counseling, as well as being a Master’s Certified Addiction Professional. Erika has worked with many individuals including couples counseling and family therapy, and is fluent in Spanish.
Throughout my years of practice, one of the things I enjoy helping people find is inner peace. Whether you are in the deepest parts of depression, overrun by your anxiety, controlled by your addiction, or there are certain issues in your life that are negatively impacting your ability to function, and have a happy, healthy life, maybe now is the time to talk about it. I am a big believer in empowerment, working hard in therapy, and utilizing different techniques to help you regain that inner peace that may have been lost along the way. I want to work with you as a team because with two people, absolutely everything is possible. I want to be there as a therapist, to help build you up, support you, but also help you be honest with yourself and accountable. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, my biggest goal for you is going to be simple….for you to no longer need my services. Why? Because if you no longer need my services, it means that you have regained your peace, you have regained your strength, you have regained your confidence. It means that you now have the tools to address any issues that try to derail you, and best of all, you will have the insight to overcome and thrive. So let’s begin this journey together, and get you to the place you want to be, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and in your sobriety.

Aurelio Ayuso, MSW, LCSW, CAP, ICADC

Clinical Director

Aurelio has worked with those that suffer from the disease of addiction in adults and juveniles alike for over 10 years, beginning in the United States Navy where he proudly served for 20 years, working with those that were succumbed by addiction due to trauma and continuing his passion for helping those in need locally in Central Florida.

He specializes in both Addictions and Trauma, he has worked first as a therapist then as the clinical supervisor to both the Juvenile and Adult Drug Court programs in Brevard County. Aurelio has been instrumental in developing substance abuse treatment programs directly tailored to help those that also suffer from complex trauma due to their addiction. He has been recognized by several organizations for his forward thinking and ability to tailor treatment to individuals in the most restrictive environments.

Mr. Ayuso received his Graduate Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker as well as Certified Addictions Professional in the State of Florida, and Internationally Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor. Aurelio specializes in the treatment of Addiction, Trauma, and Abandonment using strength based strategies deeply rooted in Solution Focused, and Mindfulness Therapies. At the Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic he passionately develops holistic curriculums that foster the belief that through addressing the mind, body, and spirit together, the Disease of Addiction can be addressed successfully.

Robert Lehmann, MHSA

Chief Operating Officer

Bob Lehmann is the Chief Operating Officer at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Services Administration with a concentration in Mental Health Administration and over twenty-five years of experience as a senior executive at addiction and mental health treatment facilities.

One of the reasons for his commitment to excellence in addiction treatment was his experience related to family members who suffered from the disease of addiction. Bob has been actively involved in community organizations throughout his career. Recently he was one of the founders of the Florida Addiction Treatment Coalition (FATC) and is its present Vice President. FATC was designed to bring together treatment executives in Florida to advocate on behalf of treatment facilities and the clients they serve adhering to a foundation of integrity and service excellence.

Jose R. Toledo, M.D.

Medical Director

A well-rounded and accomplished individual, Jose R. Toledo, M.D., is the Medical Director of Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a neurologist with 25 years of experience and has been in private practice since 1991 on the Treasure Coast of Florida. He completed his neurology training at the State University of New York and his Fellowship training at the University of Pittsburgh in Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology.

He also completed 24 months of acute inpatient psychiatry at the Western Missouri Mental Health Center, University of Missouri in Kansas City. In 2008, Dr. Toledo participated in and was certified in the continuing medical education activity entitled “Buprenorphine and Office-Based Treatment of Opioid Dependence” from The Medical University of South Carolina during which began his quest to found and head Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a brain specialist with particular competence in addiction medicine and out-patient detoxification treatment and integrates the fields seamlessly. He is certified to prescribe Buprenorphine (Suboxone). He incorporates his background in neurology into the addiction field. Dr. Toledo is member/fellow of The American Medical Association, The Florida Medical Association and The American Society of Addiction Medicine