Parents in treatment meeting holding hands

Teenage Substance Abuse in Families

Substance use disorders can heavily impact entire families. Even if one family member experiences a substance use disorder, the side effects and implications of this problem can affect every other family member, including friends and relatives. When adolescents and teens have a substance use disorder, parents and guardians can experience anxiety and depression and are at greater risk for physical harm, financial hardship, and legal problems. While people experiencing substance use disorders may use multiple substances, substance disorders are often classified into major categories. According to the Addiction Policy Forum, the primary categories of substance use include alcohol use disorder, marijuana use disorder, sedative/benzodiazepine use disorders, opioid use disorder, hallucinogen use disorder, nicotine use disorder, and synthetics use disorder. According to a study published by Statistica, almost half of US families are affected by substance use disorders.

How Teenage Addiction Impacts a Family

Teenage addiction poses risks to all family members, including the development of mental health disorders, relationship problems, physical violence, exposure to traumatic experiences, financial problems and theft, and legal issues, to name a few. The entire family system is affected by the substance use disorder even if just a single individual abuses substances. It is important to know that substance use disorder can often run in families. Other family members besides a person with the known disorder may have undiagnosed behavioral health disorders. For this reason, families need to seek help for all members when one member is receiving treatment. 

How Addiction Affects Parents

When a child experiences an addictive disorder, parents can experience extreme hardship. Not only do parents fear for the safety of their child, but potentially the safety and security of other children in the household. Parents can experience constant worry, trauma, depression, and feelings of social isolation and may be affected by legal issues resulting from the substance use disorder. Parents can also become fearful that the plans they had for their children are jeopardized by addiction, including school completion, college acceptance, and eventual independence. 

How Addiction Affects Siblings

The siblings of people living with substance use disorder can be at risk for exposure to dangerous situations or drug use. Siblings can often experience stress by feeling the need to hide their loved one’s substance use problem. And siblings may face social pressures or negative experiences if peers discover that their loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol. Importantly, siblings may fear the loss of a relationship with their loved one or may experience grieving and loss if their loved one must leave the home environment or loses their lives to the substance use disorder. Another issue for siblings is that a significant portion of a family’s available time and financial resources may be allocated to the treatment of the child with an addiction. This allocation of resources may seem unfair or may reduce the chances for some siblings to have material needs met or higher education funded. 

Family Therapy for Addiction

Family therapy for addiction is a vital step in preserving the family system, educating all family members, and unifying the family around the goal of supporting the recovery of their loved one. Contrary to the beliefs and fears of some people, high-quality family therapy is not intended to be blaming or punitive but rather solution-oriented. The goals are often centered on achieving a safe home environment that supports recovery and ensures that family members are connected to support groups and treatment resources they may need to address the problems resulting in their loved one’s substance use disorder. A significant concentration of family treatment is helping families address core issues that are important to helping their loved one recover while protecting the wellbeing of the entire family system. These issues include codependency and attachment, the disease concept and neurobiology of addiction, conflict resolution and effective communication techniques, effective parenting, relapse prevention and preparedness, understanding 12-Step recovery, family reunification, and helping teens make the right choices.

Family Therapy Treatment Program

Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services offer an extensive family program that provides education, counseling, group and individual meetings, and ongoing alumni family support groups. Each family with a child who completes treatment with us receives a 16-week Curriculum-Based Parent Coaching and Aftercare Support facilitated by a licensed therapist (post-discharge), free of charge. The Muir Wood family program is applicable and appropriate to families whose children are experiencing mental health conditions without the presence of a co-occurring substance use disorder. Families of children with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and other behavioral health conditions benefit from this programming and learn how to help support the positive mental health of their child following treatment completion. 

Adults who experience substance use and mental health conditions may live independently or can exercise control over their home environment after completing treatment. Teens most often return home to live with their families after treatment. Helping parents and family members understand how to support their loved one’s recovery and create a safe, supportive home environment can improve outcomes.

Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services offers a comprehensive family program that addresses the role of families and how they can continue helping their teens at home.