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Addiction and Its Impact on John and His Family System


Addiction is a complex phenomenon continuously explored and re-imagined by academics and experts in different fields, yet little is known about the connection between one’s family system and addictive behavior. Nowadays, psychologists pay closer attention to the implications an individual’s social circle might have on their likelihood of becoming addicted or recovering from addiction. After all, the ones who are supposed to provide baseline protection and a sense of security, such as parents, can often be neglectful due to a variety of reasons. In the case of John, his parents had children when they were kids themselves. As a result, they were financially and mentally unprepared to care for a child. Therefore, John and his siblings were brought up in a dysfunctional environment and forced to carry their parents’ unresolved burdens. Self-aware parental figures who understand their own mistakes and facilitate the best conditions they can for their children rarely have to deal with them suffering from addiction. Furthermore, in regard to recovery, a strong support system such as one’s family is fundamental to the process of healing from addiction. The purpose of this paper is to examine John’s family system and history in order to identify the most beneficial recovery strategies for him.

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The Impact of Addiction on John and His Family System

Addiction seems to be a constant in John’s life, primarily because of his family. It has affected John in more ways than one. His dad’s alcoholism and abuse laid the foundation of John’s worldview. As a child, John has primarily known only one example of how the world works – his family. This meant that addiction became normalized for him. His mother’s Xanax addiction and sister’s heroin addiction only solidified the already exciting attitude towards addiction and its normality.

However, it is important to note addiction is most often a family disease and not just a condition an individual has to deal with. In John’s case, addiction is not only hereditary but an obvious symptom of family dysfunction. The disease model posits that neuro-chemical vulnerability and family history are exceptionally important factors in trying to determine whether someone is at a high risk of developing an addiction (Jerebic, 2019). Addiction is an outcome of social learning, which is why a family environment filled with addicts can have a destructive impact on other family members, especially children. According to research, any form of dependency is usually “a result of unconscious defensive mechanisms, in particular identification with a violent figure in the family” (Jerebic, 2019, p. 178). Addiction of the father, and then, mother and sister, essentially created a cycle of unhealthy coping mechanisms with the outside world for John, two of which became alcohol and drugs.

As for the impact on John’s family system caused by addiction, it is evident that John’s family structure lacks any sort of cohesion. While his sister takes care of their disabled brother, his parents raise their grandson, John’s nephew. There seems to be no family equilibrium as the dysfunctionality caused by addiction continues onto the next generation. In certain ways, addiction has made members of John’s family codependent as they can rely only on each other to continue functioning in society more or less efficiently.

Factors that May Contribute to John’s Risk of Relapse

In order to understand which strategies for treatment are best suited for John, it is crucial to examine the factors which may contribute to the risk of relapse in John’s case. Research in relation to relapse is most alarming as scientists indicate that “the majority of abstinent alcohol and/or opioid dependence subjects relapse within one year” (Kadam et al., 2017, p. 627). For John not to become a part of this statistic, it is important to explore which factors in his personal life and environment may promote addiction. According to research, sociodemographic factors play an important role in the relapse process. Kadam et al. (2017) note that an individual is more likely to relapse if they are single, unemployed, have a criminal record and make a minimum wage. Unfortunately, John is all those things and more since he has no financial or moral support from his family to help him move beyond the lower socioeconomic status by starting a business of his own or finding well-paid employment opportunities. Thus, it is apparent that John is at a high risk of relapsing if he does not find stable employment and become financially stable.

Another set of factors is connected directly to John’s environment, particularly his family. The studies demonstrate that attempt to improve mood is the primary reason for relapse cited by most addicts (Kadam et al., 2017). Thus, the incidents, which may contribute to an individual’s relapse, are the ones causing emotional distress and sadness. John’s dysfunctional family is one of the root causes of his negative moods. In addition, him seeing his father, mother, and siblings partaking in alcohol and drug abuse may trigger him and lead to a relapse as a result.

Narratives for Employment and Relationships

In John’s case, the most important areas from the bio/psych/social assessment to explore are relationships and employment. Regarding employment, John is a high school graduate yet has not been able to keep stable employment. The lack of consistency in his routine and finances this causes may contribute to John’s struggle with addiction. Ideally, once John starts treatment for his alcohol and drug addiction, he finds stable employment with a good wage and pre-determined hours to create some sort of a routine. As for relationships, it is evident that John’s family is dysfunctional. His abusive alcoholic father and a mentally ill, Xanax-addicted mother are not the best for his attempts at recovery. While John spends time with his family and loves to visit his nephew, it is important for him to be independent and not move in with his parents as it may trigger a cycle of alcohol and drug abuse. John’s sister’s family and his disabled brother may provide the support he needs once he makes the first steps towards recovery and demonstrates his commitment to getting better.

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Benefits of Family Therapy vs. Individual Therapy

Many treatment centers and psychologists all over the world recognize addiction as a family disease and claim that it can be treated only through family therapy. The primary objective of family therapy is to aid an individual in making positive behavioral changes by providing moral support. Furthermore, such treatment improves the family dynamic as a whole by enabling each member to collaborate with one another and resolve frustration and conflict as a result. Thus, John may benefit greatly from family therapy as it ought to help his parents and siblings to end the cycle of enabling and codependency (Cassidy, 2017). Additionally, such therapy is structured in a way to meet the family’s needs, whatever those might be. This would ensure that the family learns how to initiate productive changes. As a result, John and his whole family can benefit a lot by embarking on a journey to sobriety together.

However, there are many advantages to individual therapy as well, which is why it is often the foundation of any addiction treatment plan. After all, John is the one responsible for achieving and maintaining sobriety. Only he can make decisions regarding his short- and long-term priorities in life. Thus, no matter how supportive the family might be, John is the one who actually has to learn healthy coping and stress-relief mechanisms. Family therapy on its own would not allow John to focus solely on his own irrational decision-making patterns, which lead to substance abuse. Apart from the above-mentioned benefits, individual therapy would enable John to take responsibility for his behavior and fully realize the extent of the problems created as a result of his addictive tendencies.

Incarceration and Addiction

There has been a long-standing debate as to whether drug addicts convicted of certain crimes have to be incarcerated or rehabilitated. On the one hand, incarceration is needed as a part of the punishment for a crime. Going to prison where one cannot simply access drugs on a whim can also be very beneficial and even save someone from an overdose. Addiction and crime are tightly intertwined as addicts are more likely to engage in burglary, assaults, violence, and other crimes (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2021). However, incarceration is not always the right solution.

Politicians and government agencies often defend the concept of prisons by claiming that incarceration helps criminals to change for the better. In reality, it often inflames the situation and puts individuals in harmful conditions. When it comes to drug addicts, in particular, prisons affect their mental health due to enforced isolation, stress, violence, and often a lack of necessary health care. Furthermore, the prison population is at an increased risk of commuting suicide (Zhong et al., 2021). It is important to mention that incarceration does not provide addicts with the much-needed psychological help, medical services, moral support, and nutrition. As a result, once they get out, addicts often find themselves in a worse place than they have been prior to being arrested. Rehabilitation serves as the most optimal alternative to ensure drug addicts truly receive the resources needed to change and become productive members of society.

Drug Abuse as a Societal Problem

Drug abuse is a problem in society that has to be taken seriously and further examined by academics to explore various solutions. It is first and foremost a social problem because it develops as a result of the effect an individual’s environment has on them. Most importantly, it affects a variety of aspects of society: from the Economy to healthcare and family structure and the prison system as well. Firstly, addiction is a widespread health issue that directly affects millions of people globally. According to recent statistics, there are approximately 35 million drug addicts worldwide (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2019). Thus, it is evident that a large sum of people copes with drug addiction, which directly affects themselves and their families, and has an indirect impact on others as well. Drug abuse of one or more family members often results in violence, loss of income, family separations, children being left parentless, and much more. In turn, families are usually tasked with carrying the emotional and financial burden of their members becoming addicted to narcotics. Apart from that, the stigma surrounding drug addiction makes it an important issue in modern society.


Addiction and recovery are exceptionally relevant in the study of psychology. Only the field of psychology can examine addiction in detail and apply various theories to determine common causes, triggers, and recovery pathways for addicts. After all, according to the learning theory, an individual’s social circle affects them in multiple ways and addiction can develop as a result of copying the behavior of others. People may also struggle with recovery due to their minds being programmed to cater to the existing addiction patterns. An alcoholic might simply lack basic problem-solving skills due to a variety of factors, including years of addiction.

The study of psychology helps to determine how addiction develops and offers an individualized approach to treatment and recovery. It is crucial for psychologists to further explore the factors that have direct and indirect effects on addiction and recovery. Psychology allows determining the origin of addiction on an individual basis. Thus, based on this knowledge, mental health professionals can use research and experimentation to motivate addicts to make changes such as shifting their old thought patterns or working on their maturity levels. With millions of people suffering from addiction worldwide, addiction and recovery are more relevant than ever in the study of psychology. Addiction has truly become a global disease, which has to be taken seriously since it leads to destructive, even lethal, outcomes.

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Cassidy, A., & Weng Cheong Poon, A. (2019). A scoping review of family-based interventions in drug and alcohol services: Implications for social work practice. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 19(4), 345-367.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2021). Drug use and crime. BJS. Web.

Jerebic, D. (2019). Strong families – strong societies. The Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow Press.

Kadam, M., Sinha, A., Nimkar, S., Matcheswalla, Y., & De Sousa, A. (2017). A comparative study of factors associated with relapse in alcohol dependence and opioid dependence. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 39(5), 627–633.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2019). World drug report 2019. UNODC. Web.

Zhong, S., Senior, M., Yu, R., Perry, A., Hawton, K., Shaw, J., & Fazel, S. (2021). Risk factors for suicide in prisons: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet: Public Health, 6(3), 164–174.

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