Codependency and addiction are usually closely related as the enabler will cover up or support their partner’s addiction to try to protect them.

Codependency is an extreme emotional reliance on a partner. Most people who are codependent are deeply affected by other people’s feelings, emotions and behaviors. This preoccupation with others often results in one-sided, emotionally damaging or abusive relationships. Codependency and addiction are usually closely related, as codependency was first used to refer to the friends and family members of people with substance use disorders.

Effects of Drug Abuse on Codependency

Substance abuse often makes codependent relationships worse. One partner in a codependent relationship, referred to as the “enabler,” is typically eager to meet the needs of their significant other, regardless of the way it impacts their or their partner’s well-being. If their partner, referred to as the “manipulator,” is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they may either cover up or support their addiction to try to protect them.

Codependency and Alcoholism

Alcoholism and codependency can be difficult to overcome, and both are detrimental to relationships and family life when present. In many cases, the enabling partner will inadvertently support their spouse’s alcohol addiction, either by tacitly accepting their partner’s addiction or actively sustaining it. For example, a woman whose husband is addicted to alcohol may buy him alcohol so he doesn’t have to drive drunk to purchase it. This cycle of enabling typically continues until severe consequences, such as a death or hospitalization, take place.

Statistics on Codependency and Addiction

Much that’s known about codependency comes from studies that involve alcohol. There’s a strong link between parents with alcohol use disorders and adult children who behave in a codependent manner. Often, people in this situation grow up and marry partners who also abuse alcohol. Alcohol remains the primary drug associated with codependency, but other substances can also be involved in a codependent relationship dynamic.

People with codependency also often deal with underlying mental illnesses. Researchers found that 36 percent of women who had symptoms of depression also had codependency symptoms.

Can Codependency Lead to Drug Addiction?

It is possible that codependency and other underlying mental health disorders may contribute to drug or alcohol use. Even when the codependent person is the enabler of an addict, it’s possible that they will also use alcohol or drugs with the person they are dependent on to feel connected to them.

Treating Codependency and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Recovery typically starts with one person in the codependent relationship admitting there’s a problem. While this is sometimes done without outside input, the help, advice and intervention of friends and family usually also plays a role.

The enabler should seek psychotherapy to understand the roots of their codependent behavior, while the manipulator can benefit most from substance abuse treatment for recovery from their addiction.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a form of addiction or codependency, you are not alone. The Recovery Village specializes in treatment plans designed specifically for partners and individuals suffering from alcoholism and co-occurring codependency. To learn more, call The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative.

a woman is standing with her arms crossed.
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
a woman in a yellow top posing for a picture.
Medically Reviewed By – Krisi Herron, LCDC
Krisi Herron is an Adjunct Psychology Professor, a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and a freelance writer who contributes to several mental health blogs. Read more

Asher, Ramona and Brissett, Dennis. “Codependency: A View from Women Married to Alcoholics.” International Journal of the Addictions, July 3, 2009. Accessed March 20, 2019.

Hughes-Hammer C, Martsolf DS, Zeller RA. “Depression and codependency in women.” Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, December 12, 1998. Accessed March 20, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.