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Addiction: The Family Disease

When it comes to addiction, it is not only the person afflicted with this disease who is suffering, rather it is a family disease. What does this mean? Addiction destroys relationships and affects not only the nucleus of the family but will continue to affect generations to come. Addiction is often coupled with depression, anxiety, trauma, anger, and frustration just to name a few. Yet, it is equally difficult to distinguish which came first, the addiction or other underlying issues.

by Veronica Zubia-DeJong, LMHC

Although a disease, addiction is often not treated as many other diseases in our society. Addiction is often seen as a choice or as something that can be controlled when in fact, once an addict chooses to pick up their drug of choice, the power of choice is removed completely. Therefore, families often misunderstand the addict and their inability to stop. This does not relieve the addict from responsibility of their actions rather it allows for understanding addiction and how to treat it.

Treating the addict is oftentimes a collective approach that includes a vital piece: family. Once the addict has made the decision to begin a recovery journey, it is then when they begin to learn what it means to completely remove substances from their lives and begin learning how to make healthy choices. Families are an integral part of this journey as they too begin to learn how to live with their “new” family member. Walking a recovery journey inevitably changes a person as they set out to understand themselves and start to repair damaged relationships.

It is only through understanding and education of addiction not only with the individual, simply with every family member who has been affected by this terrible disease. When we begin treating the disease as a family problem will we begin to reverse the effects of addiction for generations to come.


National Library of Medicine. The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Families and Children: From Theory to Practice. Lander, Howsare, and Byrne. 2013.

Psychology Today. Addiction as a Family Affliction. Mager, Dan MSW. 2016. 

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