Has addiction impacted your life or a member of your family? Heroin affects every aspect of one’s life, including interpersonal relationships.

Many times, discussions mostly surround the physical and psychological effects of heroin use. Lingering effects on family members often go overlooked. How addiction affects families is a poorly understood topic.

Altered Relationship with Family

As someone uses heroin more often, the effects of drug abuse on family members become more apparent. Many elements that make up a relationship, such as communication, honesty, respect, and trust, can be strained when heroin enters the picture. Some ways that substance abuse affects families include:

  • Secrecy: Someone using heroin may lie about what they have been doing, what happened to their money, or why they are behaving differently.
  • Violence: As a relationship deteriorates, anger and violence may become a bigger concern.
  • Isolation: Heroin use can compel people to withdraw and isolate themselves from their normal relationships.

The effects of addiction on a family can be short term or might cause permanent relationship damage.

Loss of the Relationship

The use of heroin can even lead to the loss of relationships. One of the most common signs of heroin use is the complete withdrawal from relationships. People who use heroin may begin losing interest in their normal activities and shying away from social events. Family withdrawal can lead to a rather abrupt loss of relationships, which can be painful for families.

Role of Caretaker

To cope with another family member’s addiction, some family member will take on the role of caretaker if a parent is affected by the addiction. This person usually attempts to return life to normal for the person using heroin. Parents and other caretakers, however, may inadvertently enable the addiction.

Caretakers may enable by taking on responsibilities of the addicted individual, giving them money hoping they will recover or making excuses for them.


Isolation is one of the hallmarks of heroin addiction. As the drug begins to take over one’s life, the affected individual may withdraw from friends or family, social events or normal activities. They may also find that some friends or family members withdraw due to not being able to cope with their loved one’s addiction. Family members withdrawing from them leads to further feelings of isolation.

Abuse in the Relationship

According to the Association for Addiction Professionals, “85% of domestic violence incidents involve the use/abuse of some chemical substance by at least one party present.” Note that drug abuse does not always lead to violence or abuse in relationships. However, drug use and violence can compound each other’s effects. Heroin use can lead to anger, paranoia or mood swings, which are the emotions that typically precede violence or abuse.

Exposure for Children

Having one or more parents who use heroin can have severe effects on children. For children of substance abusing parents, there is a higher risk of:

  • Emotional, behavioral and social problems
  • Earlier onset of substance use
  • Poorer academic functioning
  • Higher rates of alcohol and substance use disorders

These children are generally considered to have a higher level of life stressors and more often than not are victims of physical or sexual abuse or neglect.

Risks of Diseases

The use of heroin can greatly increase the risk of contracting diseases, such as HIV or Hepatitis B or C. Some people using heroin fail to sterilize paraphernalia. Sometimes they share injection equipment with others, which greatly increases the chance for contraction. It is also quite common for heroin users to develop skin infections due to exposure to bacteria around the injection site.


The use of heroin and drugs, in general, is likely responsible for a portion of the divorces in America each year. Many people choose not to stay with someone who is addicted to heroin for several reasons:

  • The drug becomes the spouse’s top priority
  • Abuse and domestic violence are more likely
  • The spouse who does not use may feel like they are responsible for all of the duties of the household
  • The financial burden of living with heroin addiction is high

Financial Burden

Heroin has an enormous financial impact on families. According to the American Board of Addiction Medicine, the economic burden of addiction in the United States is higher than the total cost of diabetes, and all cancers combined. Heroin is not cheap, and an individual can go through hundreds of dollars worth of heroin each month. Most individuals who use heroin are not able to keep a job and therefore, have no income or way to pay for their drugs. Job loss leads to stealing money or items from family members to fund their addiction.

The long-term cost can be devastating to a family. Also, consider the cost of recovery, legal fees or fines and health care expenses. The cost of addiction is extremely high and can place a huge burden on families.

How to Find Support

Drug addiction affects families enough to require outside support. Fortunately, there are many support systems in place to help those in need.

Heroin hotlines are one of the quickest ways to get help. These hotlines, sometimes called helplines, are specifically focused on assisting people involved with heroin. The primary goal of these hotlines is to help those affected by heroin start a treatment program through drug detox or rehabilitation center.

Key Points: How Heroin Affects Families

Keep the following key points in mind regarding how heroin affects families:

  • Relationships become less important to people living with heroin addiction
  • The children of people using heroin have a higher risk of difficult life experiences
  • The financial burden of heroin abuse can be devastating to families
  • Heroin hotlines can assist in identifying the correct treatment program for individual needs

If you or your loved one live with a heroin addiction, contact The Recovery Village to get started with treating the addiction. The Recovery Village works with each patient to determine a treatment plan that’s most beneficial to the patient. By addressing the addiction along with any co-occurring mental health disorders, patients are taking a large step toward securing a healthier future. Call today to get started.

How Does Heroin Affect Families?
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