Addiction in Families: The Lesser-Discussed Casualties of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Addiction in families is becoming an increasingly common reality. Last year over 72,000 Americans succumbed to fatal drug overdose. Countless others escaped with their lives after overdosing, and more still walk around every day teetering on the edge of death as drugs cause their health and quality of life to spiral into decline. At the same time, alcohol is killing over 85,000 Americans each year and sentencing many others to a life of poverty, alienation, indignity and mental illness. Alongside these millions who suffer and die each year from addiction are legions of family and friends who battle their own personal crisis as they’re forced to watch their loved one surrender their lives to addiction.

As we pass the halfway point of National Recovery Month 2018, we continue to celebrate the efforts of those who have successfully reclaimed their lives from drug and alcohol addiction; however, it’s also critical that we take the time to acknowledge the impact of addiction in families and the role of the family unit in helping individuals in their everyday recovery. Despite the enormous emotional and psychological toll addiction takes on family members and friends of substance use disorder victims, many struggle to find the support they need to deal with this trauma. This National Recovery Month, Recovery Unplugged and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) wants you to know that there is help out there to get you through this ordeal.

There’s a commonly cited aviation-related metaphor that applies to addiction in families: “you have to secure your own oxygen mask before you put it on your child”. This is because when you’re at your best and most healthy and capable, you’re able to take care of the people around you, including your addicted loved one. If someone you love is struggling with addiction or substance abuse, you have more power than you think in helping them enter treatment, but you have to make sure you’re OK, too.