How does addiction affect families? There have been more and more incidents reported in which families have been put at risk by the epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid drug use across the country. One recent incident out of Pennsylvania illustrates how serious the problem of family addiction has become. It led to the destruction of a family and a sister’s plea to others in similar circumstances to do everything possible to help a loved one overcome addiction.
This story in The Washington Post tells about how a seven-year-old girl woke one day to find both of her parents unresponsive from a drug overdose. The girl had tried to wake her parents without success before going to school. Later, her comment to a bus driver about her parents led authorities to discover both parents dead from overdose in their home. There were three other young children in the house.
Even more tragic, other family members were aware of the adult couple’s drug dependency and had tried to get help for them and their children. The sister of the mother who died from overdose had attempted to intervene by getting the couple to seek drug treatment or removing the couple’s four children from the dangerous home situation. In a video embedded in the article, the sister talked about how drugs had changed her addicted family member, making it a challenge to help her. “She wasn’t the person I knew. It was like the drugs had taken over,” she said.
The stakes are too high—get help for family addiction
A sad truth about addiction is that it never affects one person alone. Addiction is a family disease. This family addiction to heroin resulted in the most tragic of consequences and left their young children vulnerable until authorities discovered what had happened. Before that, their addiction had already created a risky situation at home: photos shared by the overdose victim’s sister showed a house in disarray, and the use of injection drugs also carries the risk of spreading disease and bacterial infection.
On top of those health risks, addiction is a family disease in how it changes, damages, or destroys family relationships. The behavior and personality changes of an addicted family member that come from heavy drug use often alienate loved ones—those who might be the best chance of helping their addicted family member find treatment for their drug problem. Speaking out to others trying to get a loved one to seek help for addiction, the sister of the victim urged persistence. “Just don’t stop trying,” she said. “Make them understand…that you’re doing this because you love them.”
If you have a loved one struggling with a drug addiction—and especially if your addicted family member is at risk of heroin or prescription opioid overdose—help them find treatment for addiction. Even if it strains a family relationship, getting help for a loved one is the first step toward healing a damaged family.