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One of the largest ways in which drug abuse affects families is the creation of an unstable environment. Children especially are influenced and affected by their parents behaviours. As such, a sibling can also be affected by the actions of another sibling who is abusing drugs. Drugs can affect the way family members talk, act and care for their families. For example, the drug can often come before basic needs such as food, clothing or even the love and attention a child needs to have a stable environment. All of these actions can have long-lasting effects on others in the household, especially young children who grow up with drug abusers as role models. These effects can include the child following in the abuser's footsteps, especially if they have never seen what a functional family should look like.
Drug abuse can affect both family and friends financially. This can come both from enabling and from theft. Enabling is the action of helping a user with his habit because you feel bad for him, or feel it is keeping him around long enough for you to be able to change them. One of the main ways that enabling occurs is through directly or indirectly financing the drug habit through loaning or giving money to the addict. Drug abuse can also lead addicts to steal from friends and family members to support their habit.
Drug abuse can also affect family and friends by inviting violence into the relationship. There are two main times where violence can quickly escalate for an addict: during extreme highs and during withdrawal. Alcohol is an especially guilty substance for causing violence when users are well over the legal limit of blood alcohol content. This can cause violence both through direct actions, such as getting in a fight, as well as indirect actions, such as driving a car while intoxicated. Violence can also affect the friends and family of a drug abuser during withdrawal. One of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is irritability and anxiousness. The desire to use can quickly cause users to become violent to even close family members in order to get help or money for their next high.
One of the most heartbreaking effects of drug abuse on families especially is abandonment. Once drugs have altered the nerve pathways in the brain, the desire to use quickly becomes more important to anything else in the drug addict's life. Friends and family members quickly get replaced by the next score of the drug of choice. This can often lead to divorce or the loss of children to state custody due to a lack of ability to be a loving and providing parent. There is also an increased risk of parents or spouses being locked up in prison for extended periods of time, leaving their children to grow up without a mother or father. The effects of this abandonment may stick with kids all the way through adulthood.
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