Addiction is known as a family illness because it is not only the person with the addiction who is affected. Those who live with an addict will suffer the consequences first-hand as it can negatively affect relationships between siblings, spouses, parents, and children. However, addiction can also affect the wider community too. Although it is possible to become addicted to almost anything, two of the most common and most devastating addictions are alcoholism and drug addiction.
How Addiction Affects the Individual
Addiction is an illness that changes the way the brain functions. Those affected may become selfish and manipulative and will stop at nothing to get their hands on the substance they are craving. Substances such as alcohol and drugs affect the behaviour of an individual, meaning the person may suffer from anxiety, mood swings, depression, or low self-esteem. He or she might become aggressive and violent and could lash out at those closest to them.
Many addicts will become consumed by their need for a particular substance and will begin to neglect their responsibilities at home and work. They will no longer have an interest in activities they once found important. They may start to neglect the people in their lives too, including their spouses and children. This can have a profound impact on relationships, with some never recovering.
How Addiction Affects Children
Children can be deeply affected by a parent’s addiction. They will see other people’s reactions to their addicted parent and may hear whispered comments. This can be devastating as they could become embarrassed or ashamed of their parent, and then guilty for feeling this way. All of these emotions can take a toll on a child.
Children are affected in other ways, too. They may be neglected by a parent with an addiction, which can lead to them becoming the target of bullies at school. They may find that their school work suffers and, as a result, will become isolated and withdrawn. Their childhood can be very traumatic as a result of having an addicted parent.
How Addiction Affects a Spouse
Being married to someone with an addiction is extremely difficult. Watching the person you have loved change into someone you barely recognise is distressing; it can be very hard to live with an addict, especially one who becomes aggressive or violent while intoxicated.
Even if a spouse is a highly functioning person, he or she may not be providing for the family, which can result in financial hardship. When one parent is providing for the family both financially and emotionally, it can become physically draining.
Being married to an addict can be immensely stressful, especially when trying to keep the addiction a secret. Many people are too embarrassed to admit their spouse has an addiction and will try to do everything possible to prevent others from finding out.
How Addiction Affects the Wider Community
Many addicts are high-functioning, but others find it tough to cope with the pressures of life. Some will become so engulfed by their addiction that they will lose everything they have, including relationships with others, their jobs, and their homes. They may then end up turning to crime in a bid to feed their habit, and this could have an impact on the wider community.
Taxpayers are also affected by addiction, with healthcare resources being allocated to those suffering from this illness. There is also a cost to the taxpayer in terms of police work and criminal proceedings against underworld gangs peddling illegal drugs.
Addiction is a terrible illness that is said to affect approximately five people for every one person with the illness. Thankfully, help is available, and with advances in tools and techniques, more people are accessing the treatments they need to kick their habits.