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When Substance Use and Abuse Affects Your Family

In addition to the tragedy of death and illness due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many families across the nation are facing a distinctly different threat: Substance abuse. The numbers are staggering—an increased rate of overdose and deaths due to the concurrent opioid crisis, as well as increased rates of abuse of alcohol and other substances, makes home less safer than most families would want. If you suspect that substance abuse is affecting your family, make it a mission to seek effective substance abuse counseling for yourself, or encourage other family members to do the same. While you cannot force someone else to change their behavior, you can recognize how it may affect your family. Read on to find out family-focused tips from a Littleton behavior psychologist on how these signs show up and how you can manage them.

When Parents Use: Effects on Kids

Recreational substance use, when done responsibly and away from children, is not a problem for most adults. However, when use turns to abuse, or when it becomes an everyday event, children can be exposed to risks. Many Littleton child behavior psychologists help children work through the challenges of an addicted parent, including the fear of the parent dying or being harmed, challenges with responsible parents, and increased emotion. Many households with substance abuse are more likely to see domestic violence or child abuse, because people on substances typically don’t make good parenting decisions. For parents who are fully immersed in addiction, even basic parenting tasks like having food on the table, making sure everyone is clean, and paying bills may go ignored. One parent may shoulder all the stress, putting a wedge in your relationship , or both parents may use together.

Substances Come Between Couples

Whether one or both partners is using or abusing substances, the couple relationship will be challenged. If you are an addict, you may “love” your substance more than your partner—or, at least, that’s how it may feel. Resentment, anger, and conflict can follow. When both partners are abusing substances together, the situation may feel right, but this can quickly devolve into codependency. If you notice that “couple time” is being taken over by “drug or alcohol time,” consider this a red flag! Consulting with a Littleton couples therapist is a great way to determine if there is something amiss in your relationship, or something amiss in the substance use.

When You Suspect Your Child Is Using

Grown ups aren’t the only ones using substances. Many children and teens are experimenting more with substances, ranging from illegal substances purchased from peers, to sneaking medications from the medicine cabinet. Teen substance use can devastate your family . First and foremost, always lock up medicines! Your teenager likely knows more about opiate and prescription pill abuse than you do, so keep those controlled substances under your control. While your child may be showing normal symptoms of “teenager,” such as sleeping a lot, communicating less, or being irritable, these can also be similar to signs of substance use. If behaviors seem unlike the normal teenage malaise, don’t hesitate to start a conversation or explore further.

When you or someone you love has problems with substance use, getting help can seem like climbing a mountain. Offer to make that climb with your partner or child, or reach out for help if you feel your own substance use has gotten out of control. In addition to evidence-based substance abuse treatment, couples therapy and family therapy can help strengthen the family system to support sobriety.

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