Addiction has a profound effect on families. It has not been understood until recently that addiction problems can very commonly be traced back to the dysfunction within a family unit. This is important because it makes addiction a problem rooted within support systems rather than isolated to one member within the support system.
Addiction is usually born within a family when one or both of the heads of the family bring it into the equation from their personal history. It was present in their history because the destructive cycle of addiction plays out in many families over many generations. When the addicted head of family introduces it into the new family they have started, things become dysfunctional quickly. Emotions run very high, dreams of unity are shattered and emotional connections between family members are broken.
Through this route, addiction affects all of the members of a family like a toxin would. Sometimes it impacts family members by influencing them toward addiction, while other times it impacts them by creating other stress points within them, typically mental disorders. It has been found that children who are exposed to adverse situations are also more likely to have physical health problems, so an addict within the family affects the well-being of the children within the family immensely.
It is not long before everyone in the family develops an unhealthy set of responses to the addiction problem. This cyclical behavior and system of patterns is based on interactions between the family members and by the inner life of each family member. This pattern becomes permanent and unbreakable without outside intervention.
Addiction is incredibly difficult to treat in part because the root of the problem is not isolated to one person. Family units walk into addiction together, and ideally, every family should walk out of it together as well. Sadly, this is often not the case. Many times, the most addicted and troubled family member does not have the support of their family to quit. Instead, their family enables them and makes their struggle even more difficult.