According to the 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 14.5 million people aged 12 and above were living with alcohol use disorder — that number includes 414,000 youths aged 12 to 17. While the resulting number of affected family members is unknown, it can be assumed that at least two to three times as many are suffering as a result of their loved one’s alcohol use.

So, what are the alcoholism effects on the family? Below, we discuss some of the most common ways family members are negatively affected by alcohol abuse. Read on to learn how alcoholism affects family life and discover the potential steps and interventions that can help families cope with the challenges associated with alcoholism.


Young businessman sitting on a chair holding alcohol, symbolizing how alcoholism affects family relationships and work-life balance


Relationships Are Often Strained

Regardless of whether it’s a marriage, a brother-sister relationship, a parent-child relationship, or something else, the bonds between family members and an individual who’s abusing alcohol are often extremely strained.

When it comes to marriage, the bond between married or cohabitating partners can dissipate quickly when only one partner abuses alcohol. Research conducted by Maria Testa and Jaye L. Derrick and published by the National Library of Medicine indicates that verbal aggression is nearly twice as likely to occur when one spouse has consumed alcohol in the previous four hours. Even more shocking is that physical abuse, particularly in the form of domestic violence, becomes up to four times more likely.

Children of parents who abuse alcohol are at an increased risk of suffering from it themselves. Still, they’re also more likely to experience abuse at home, underscoring the profound impact of alcohol addiction as a family disease that perpetuates across generations.

Children May Encounter Developmental and Emotional Issues

Further research speaks to the developmental and emotional issues that children of those with alcoholism often encounter. Neglect is a common concern for children of those with alcoholism, and it can lead to issues at school, poor emotional development, and problems in other relationships that last well into their adult years, making it difficult for them to find healthy relationships. In babies and toddlers, issues with hitting developmental milestones, such as walking, talking, and potty training, can occur as a result of parental neglect due to alcoholism.

How Does Alcoholism Affect the Family Finances?

Excessive alcohol consumption is expensive. While the actual cost varies from family to family, it can be estimated that most addicted persons spend at least several hundred dollars on drinking each month. For some, that number can climb even higher, depending on what they drink, how often they drink, and how much they consume each time. For many families, that expenditure is incredibly draining and has a huge effect on savings or even the ability to pay necessary household expenses.

There are other ways finances can be affected by alcohol misuse, too. If drinking and driving is a factor, the risk of criminal charges for driving while intoxicated is a distinct possibility, and the costs associated with a DUI are high. In North Carolina, a Level I DWI conviction carries fines of up to $4,000, and that doesn’t include costs such as legal fees, medical bills for injured parties, tow and impound fees, and insurance increases. On top of that, DWI convictions come with jail sentences of up to two years, so drivers can expect to be out of work for at least as long as their sentence lasts.

Lost jobs don’t just result from drinking-related offenses. Alcohol abuse often directly correlates with poor performance at work, and it’s not uncommon for those who suffer from alcoholism to lose their job, which ultimately destroys family finances.

Self-Care Is Often Neglected in Favor of Caring for a Family Member With Alcoholism

When a person suffers from alcohol abuse or alcoholism, their family members often drop everything to help them overcome it. Their time is spent handling issues that arise as a result of their loved one’s alcohol addiction or caring for their family member when they’re intoxicated or hungover. As a result, caregivers begin to feel stressed, overwhelmed and sometimes out of control regarding their own well-being. Self-care becomes less important than caring for their loved one.

Unfortunately, the level of care family members often provide when their loved one abuses alcohol has the opposite effect that they desire. Instead of helping, they enable the person to continue their negative behavior. This can lead to the addiction and related behaviors becoming worse instead of better, and in some families, it results in a total breakdown of the family unit. Typically, professional intervention and counseling for both the alcohol abuser and the family are the best options to overcome this type of situation.


Couple arguing during family therapy showing signs of verbal abuse caused by alcohol addiction


Overcoming Alcoholism Should Include Family Therapy

When one member of a family has alcoholism, everyone suffers. When your loved one is ready to get help, finding a treatment program that involves the entire family is important. While other aspects of treatment, including detox and individual therapy, are important, providing your loved one with opportunities to heal their relationships with you and other members of your family is vital.

Caring for and living with a person with alcoholism puts strain on everyone in the household, and it’s not practical to expect that removing alcohol from the equation will make things feel normal again. It’s important that family members have the chance to share their emotions, including their anger and frustration with the situation as a whole and with the alcoholic family member. Expressing these emotions in a controlled, safe setting, such as family therapy, can create a basis for healing, and for most families, it’s the best way to regain some semblance of normal after treatment.

Get Help For Your Family Member Today

If your family member is battling an addiction to alcohol or other substances, Changing Tides can help. Our alcohol rehab facility in North Carolina offers day treatment/ partial hospitalization and outpatient programs to help your loved one overcome their addictions successfully. Our program is family-focused, and treatment involves regular family therapy sessions.

Contact our admissions team today to learn more about how your loved one can seek treatment and find assistance.

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