Alcohol Use in Families

Alcohol Use in Families as a Family Disease & Its Effects

Alcohol Use in Families is a Family Disease

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), commonly called alcoholism, is often described as a “family disease” because it affects more people than just those struggling with alcohol addiction. Addiction occurs in all types of families, and its emotional side effects are felt by children, spouses, husbands, and other loved ones. Their lives, attitudes, and behaviors can change permanently as a consequence of the disease. They can even experience depression, anxiety, and shame as a result of alcohol abuse. Living in a home with alcohol use disorder (AUD) can lead to tension, disruptive behavior, and strained relationships—all of which can cause significant stress on the family unit.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) [1], genetics and family history of alcohol problems increases the risk of alcohol use disorder. Genetics plays a role, with hereditability approximately 60 percent, but it is also influenced by the environment. Parents’ drinking patterns may also influence the possibility that a child will one day develop alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol Use in Families
Alcohol use alone does not cause neglect, abuse or lack of care – poor parenting does.

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The Link Between Alcohol Use in Families & Family Problems

It is no secret that alcohol and family problems often go hand in hand. It may be a cliche, but it’s true. Addiction to alcohol or alcoholism is really a family disease. In multiple cases, the family of an alcoholic actually suffers more on a daily basis than the person themselves. Alcoholism influences every aspect of a family, including emotional, financial, physical, and legal. Because of this, alcohol abuse can cause many family problems. In fact, alcohol abuse is one of the leading factors behind divorce, marital problems, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and damaged relationships between parents and children.

The Effects of Alcohol Use in Families

  • Alcohol use in families can have a damaging effect on many generations. When a family member is suffering from alcohol abuse, those closest to them can find that they have to contend with strained relationships, financial problems, and harm to their own wellbeing and health.
  • We have taken a look at the effects that alcohol abuse can have on a family, how to deal with addiction in the family, and the support that an alcohol rehab can offer the individual embarks on recovery.
  • Alcohol use disorder causes emotional and physical health problems. Someone with alcohol use disorder experiences the brunt of the physical problems, but people who are close to them often share the emotional side effects of that individual’s addiction.
  • Family members of alcoholics can experience anxiety, depression and shame related to their loved one’s addiction. Family members may also be the victims of emotional or physical outbursts.
  • A person suffering from alcohol use disorder may try to protect their family from the effects of alcohol abuse by distancing themselves. Sadly, isolation does little to shield family members from the emotional and financial side effects of alcoholism. In addition, neglect can also have a negative impact on loved ones.

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Alcohol Use in Families & Its Impact on Children

  • Children can be very affected by alcoholism in their families. They can feel guilty, believing they are responsible for the drinking and the fact that it won’t stop. Children can also become angry and frustrated as they try to make sense of why a person they care about is behaving in such a way.
  • As alcoholism can interrupt daily routines, this can involve a child missing out on regular mealtimes or bedtimes or has to take on new responsibilities to establish a routine in the household. Their behaviors and mood can also become unpredictable, where they find it hard to make friends and are scared of going to school.
  • Older children of a person suffering from alcohol abuse can struggle from isolation, obsessive perfectionism, hoarding, and excessive self-consciousness, as they worry that they are different from other people. They can also have problems in school, as family life makes it hard to study and establish relationships.
  • Young people whose parents have problems with alcohol abuse can seem mature. They may have taken on practical carer roles – for siblings and their parents. They may try to protect their parents, helping to hide or minimize their drinking while being in significant conflict with them.
  • The thoughts and emotions that present themselves in childhood can be carried into adulthood, where the individual struggles to find healthy relationships, makes poor choices, behaves erratically, and has a negative self-image. They can also continue to feel the depression, anxiety, and introversion that began when they were a child.

Alcohol Use in Families, Its Impact on Spouses & Partners

al-anon-support-alcohol use in families
Problematic drinking can contribute to abuse,
neglect and harm.

As individuals become addicted to alcohol, their focus can change, where they neglect their work in favor of drinking or dealing with the effects of their drinking problem. This situation can lead to a partner or spouse dealing with the consequences of a loss of income or financial issues in the household. They may also have to take on more duties with regards to the home and family.

A person with alcohol use disorder may also put themselves and others in risky or unsafe situations when drinking or acquiring alcohol, which can be dangerous and draining for those who care about them.

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Alcohol Use in Families, Co-Dependency & Enabling Addiction

Everyone wants to protect and love their family. When a person has alcohol use disorder, their family may try to hide its existence as they feel ashamed. They may want to help the person struggling with alcohol get out of troubles caused by alcohol. However, families can also try to help, cure or control the alcoholism, or even agree to let it continue in exchange for keeping everyone together.

While it is done with good intentions, this attitude and action can result in alcohol abuse impacting everyone in the family. Instead, seeking and asking for outside advice and support can help break the cycle, letting everyone rebuild a life away from alcohol dependence and addiction.

Alcohol Use in Families & Domestic Abuse

One of the most severe cases of alcohol use in families is domestic violence. Because of the behavioral differences, alcohol may cause, a relative suffering alcoholism can be dangerous to be around. Family members can express violence to their spouses or children. 75% of domestic violence acts include a parent abusing a substance, and alcohol is by far the most common. While alcohol abuse is never an excuse or the only contributing factor to domestic violence, it is involved in the majority of incidents. It is also true that alcohol can cause someone to react emotionally and with lowered inhibitions.

Alcohol Use in Families & Divorce

Spouses who drink may experience depressive episodes because they feel alone and isolated from the rest of their families. Watching a partner or spouse drink can encourage mistrust, stress, and acceptance of alcohol abuse disorders as real and normal.

On the other hand, the partner or spouse who does not drink may become more frustrated when their partner is not helpful around the house or is emotionally unavailable. Moreover, a spouse may become an enabler, denying the severity of their partner’s drinking problem. Families may part ways, or married couples may opt for divorce.

Alcohol use in families is one of the leading reasons couples and partners seek counseling. Alcohol problems are also linked to lower marital satisfaction, and it’s one of the top reasons for divorce in the United States. When both spouses have problems with alcohol, they’re less likely to divorce than when one spouse drinks more heavily than the other.

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Alcohol Use in Families & Expectant Mothers

If an expectant mother drinks too much alcohol, she can expose the fetus to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). One such alcohol-related health condition that can impact babies is called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is the most involved diagnosis, used when several physical and developmental abnormalities are present. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [2], 0.2 to 1.5 infants out of 1,000 births have FAS. Babies born with FAS are impacted by physical disabilities and learning disabilities.

Alcohol Use in Families & Parental Problems

Alcohol use disorder can make parents unstable and impulsive. Their parenting skills decline as the disease progresses. Parents struggling with alcohol tend to interact with children in inconsistent ways, sending mixed signals to children. One example of mixed signals may pertain to acceptable alcohol use, increasing the risk of underage drinking.

Alcohol Use in Families & Impact on Family Finances

Alcohol use in families is an expensive disease. Depending on the type of alcohol an individual drinks and how much they drink, someone addicted to alcohol may spend from $300 to $1,000 on alcohol each month. That can be a major drain on a family budget.

Other money problems may be the indirect result of alcohol abuse. For example, an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) can cost thousands of dollars in fines, court fees, and car insurance increases. A car accident can make someone incur tens of thousands of dollars in vehicle replacement or health care costs.

The most significant hit to a family budget may happen when an alcoholic loses their job because of their disease. Even a temporary loss of income can have a disastrous impact on a family.

Find Help at We Level Up NJ

Early admission may help prevent problems of alcohol use in families from escalating. Unfortunately, many people struggling with alcohol use disorders don’t realize its impact on their families. Oftentimes, denial is a big part of not taking control of one’s drinking habits. However, there is help available. If you or someone you care about has been struggling with alcohol misuse, don’t hesitate. Reach out to an addiction specialist using our secure online form or by calling us 24/7. We Level Up NJ will also answer questions regarding rehab, 12-step programs, and treatments [3].

alcohol use in families
Problematic drinking can contribute to abuse,
neglect and harm.

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[1] NIAAA –

[2] CDC –

[3] We Level UpAlcohol Abuse Information