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Family Violence and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse refers to the total dependence on drugs that may result in very adverse effects on the individual’s health both physically and mentally. Substance abuse leads to addiction to the substances involved such that the individuals cannot be able to cope without their use. Substances that are normally abused include alcohol and other illicit drugs. These drugs are very addictive and the proprietors of such substances find it very difficult to distance themselves from their use. There is always a strong desire to take the substances due to the effects and this makes it very difficult for them to control their intake. Addiction to such substances usually has very adverse effects on the individual’s lives especially their health conditions. Other effects include social and environmental effects. Despite their effects, most substance users prefer tolerance of these effects. Substance abuse does not only affect the individuals but its consequences spill over to society especially the community and also the workplaces (Cherry, 2003, p17). This paper examines the most immediate effects and consequences of substance abuse to the families of such individuals and how it may lead to violence within the family setup.

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Substance abuse by the parents in the family will have a very great effect on the children. In the early stages of development, a mother who is addicted to substance abuse will most likely give birth to a child with a condition referred to as the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) (Davis, 2001, p21). This is because substances such as alcohol in a pregnant woman will have adverse effects on the unborn baby. This condition may lead to the birth of children with a lot of birth defects. Babies born with this condition will normally be shorter and have very low weights as compared to normal children. Most of them have deformed skulls and effects on brain development. Other physical features may also be affected. A woman who can not be able to give birth to normal and healthy children within the family system will attract a lot of controversy within the family. This eventually leads to a lot of violence in the family since the spouse will automatically not be able to cope with this condition. Violence can also result from substance abuse effects on normal children. Children who are raised by parents with addiction to drugs and alcohol will have very low self-esteem; have fear of being abandoned and also loneliness which may eventually lead to depression (Kelleher, 2006, p26). Such children may result in violence within the family due to the pressure and stress that is in their daily lives. Studies have indicated that children of alcoholic parents are most likely to result in alcoholism and other drugs which pose a greater risk of violence.

Substance abuse is a great threat to intimacy within the family system. Alcoholism and addiction to drugs may lead to the spouses developing a hatred for each other. This may also result in a lot of self-pity and loss of social ties which may eventually lead to stress and depression for such spouses (Rugh, 2005, p10). Within the family setup, if one parent gets addicted to alcohol or drugs the other parent has to perform both roles of parenthood. Most of the family responsibilities shift to only one parent. As a result, the parent who is not engaged in the substance abuse may not be in a position to handle all the responsibilities resulting in child and family neglect. The demands to the parent become too much to handle. Alcoholism and other drug addiction result in many marital problems as the burden becomes too heavy on one parent. Intimacy between the two parents dies very fast and most individuals will result in extramarital affairs (Hampton, 2004, p18). On the other hand, most men who are involved in the addiction to alcoholism have high rates of incest within the family. Most children who are reported to have been raped and sexually harassed by their parents result from the effects of substance abuse. The major reason is that most of the individuals who are addicted to drugs are not able to reason and make sound decisions. They end up performing very weird acts within the family and this leads to a lot of violence now and then. Children from such families lose the love and trust of their parents. They seem not to trust anyone else in their lives due to fear of being hurt and most of them actually end up with fellow alcoholics and very abusive relationships.

Families that are affected by the problems of substance abuse are likely to have a lot of emotional problems. The family lacks ways of expressing their emotions and feelings in the right manner. The parents themselves will result in denial of these effects and any attempt to address the problems within the family result in a lot of arguments since they believe they have no problem in their drug intake. This results in a mood of negativity within the family. The communication methods of the family change from well-organized discussions to other forms of communication such as complaints, expressions of displeasure, and criticism. Most of the family members lose positive thinking and the overall mood of the family is filled with ignorance and anger (O’Farrell, 2006, p31). In the families that are affected by the substance abuse the only language to get attention from others becomes creating a situation of crisis. This makes the instances of violence be very many within the family since everyone in the family has a negative mood and attitude. With such attitudes prevailing there are very many instances of wife battering and other forms of physical violence since the man may be feeling that the family is undermining his authority. The woman on the other hand may turn her anger on the children and the family becomes a den of violence. This breaks all the bonds within the family and eventually a family breakup (Hampton, 2004)

The most adverse effects of substance abuse on the family are the economic and financial hardships (Hampton, 2004). Individuals who are addicted to substance abuse are likely to affect the work environment where they may be getting their daily bread. The individuals become very unproductive both in the work environment and also in the family. Many employers on getting fed up with such individuals will lay them off. These results in job loss by such individuals and financial crises will start taking course especially if such individual was the sole provider of the family. On the other hand, if such individuals do not lose their jobs, any income that is generated by the family is directed towards the purchase of drugs. The substances are very addictive and they are costly and this, therefore, affects the family resources. This makes the other family members suffer since such an individual cannot be able to provide adequately for the family. Purchase of simple household basic needs becomes a great problem. The children will suffer from neglect since most of their needs cannot be met.

On the other hand, the family may spend a lot of finances to put such individuals under rehabilitation programs for a solution. Substance abuse may also result in a lot of serious health conditions that may require specialized treatment. This again diverts the family resources to medical treatment. The family is now forced to look for other means of supporting themselves and this increases the levels of dependency on non -family ties (Kelleher, 2006, p36). Financial crises may result in the selling of the family’s assets and also depriving other available resources. Over time, the family may find itself languishing in poverty and this may lead to more reasons for depression within the family. Attempts to sort the financial gap may lead to crimes such as theft.

To illustrate the effects of substance abuse in the family system, a case study was carried out on various patients and their families who had fallen victims to substance abuse. The study builds on the social cognitive theory of substance abuse. The theory seeks to examine substance abuse as a social problem and the case study focuses on the effects of substance abuse in the family set up besides efforts initiated to achieve desired changes. The sample included women, men, and adolescents patients who had were under the addiction to various drugs such as alcohol, heroin, marijuana, and other drugs. The main aim was to find out how addiction to such drugs had influenced their families. 67% of the women interviewed expressed their willingness to abort their pregnancies on realizing the complications they would pose to their children. Most of them have tried to withdraw from the drugs had found it impossible and this resulted in more than 25000 babies being born with FAS complications.

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The women still wanted to maintain their spouses which were very difficult especially for those seeking to have children. This was one of the major reasons they sort help. Some women also admitted having fallen victims to prostitution and this had exposed them to many diseases and a sequence of abortions. 80% of men interviewed had already lost their jobs to the drugs and many of their families suffered a lot of financial difficulties. A couple of them were also involved in extramarital affairs, family neglect, crime, and violence. The teenage sample indicated a family history of drug addiction which resulted in frustration and loss of family ties. Some resulted in drug abuse due to the inability to cope with pressure at home and being unable to help their suffering parents. 74% of the total sample admitted to having been involved in various forms of crime and violence with some having to face the authorities (Swanson 2008).

Social workers related to substance abuse have different roles to play to arrest the situation. The most immediate role is to counsel the family members affected either in a group or individual sessions. This plays a big role in assisting individuals to deal with the effects of substance abuse such as physical and mental illness, poverty, unemployment, and physical abuse (Kaufmann 2007). Social workers coordinate with other physicians, counselors, and nurses in ensuring the individuals get the appropriate treatment. They also have a duty of carrying out various interviews on the clients and keeping records that are used for reviewing the extent of the problem within the society by other professionals. They monitor, evaluate, and keep records of the progress of patients who are recovering from substance abuse.

The social workers also play a role in referring the patients to the community resources which assist families affected by substance abuse to recover. They play a very important role in counseling other family members in a bid to assist them to understand and deal with the members involved in substance abuse. Other roles of the social workers involve conducting programs that educate the community on the effects of substance abuse. Such programs are useful in preventing the effects of drug abuse, reduce the social and family problems resulting from substance abuse, and promote health and also enhancing the role of counseling services in the community. Social workers also develop and advise the authorities on amendments to social policies in order to ensure families affected by substance abuse benefit from the community development programs (Harrison 2008).

In conclusion, substance abuse affects every member of the family even if it is practiced by only one member. The costs that are brought to the family and society are significant and immeasurable. It results in loss of productivity within the family, impairment of both physical and mental health, crime, violence, neglect of family members, and dependence on other people for survival. Families that are affected by the effects of substance abuse, therefore, live under many hardships and suffer different degrees of trauma. An approach to solving the effects of substance abuse within the family system requires a lot of family therapy for the members. This calls for various programs of social work which address such issues. The programs should have a framework of counselors who offer education and different sessions of family therapy (Kaufmann 2007). They should also educate the families on the different forms of treatment and recovery from substance abuse.


Andrew L. Cherry (2003). Substance abuse: a global view. Greenwood Publishing Group.

DI Davis (2001). Substance abuse and family interaction. US, McGraw Hill Press.

Douglas Rugh (2005). Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Current Levels of Domestic Violence. Journal of Family Violence. Springer Netherlands.

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Gary L. Fisher and Thomas C. Harrison (2008). Substance Abuse: Role of Social Workers, Therapists, and Counselors. Allyn & Bacon Publishers.

JW Swanson (2008). Mental disorder, substance abuse, and Domestic violence. The University of Chicago Press

M Chaffin and K Kelleher (2006). Onset of physical abuse and neglect: Substance abuse and social risk factors. Elsevier Publishers.

PA Fazzone (2000). Substance abuse treatment and domestic violence. Diane Publishing.

P Kaufmann (2007). Family therapy of drug and alcohol abuse. Halsted Press.

Robert L. Hampton (2004). Substance Abuse, Family Violence and Child Welfare: Bridging Perspectives. Sage Publications

Timothy J. O’Farrell (2006). Behavioral couples therapy for alcoholism and drug abuse. U.K, Guilford Press.

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