Is Addiction Contagious?
Not in the way that you might catch a cold or a virus, but are the people close to addicts more likely to become addicts? There is some truth in this theory, it’s not uncommon for a rehab center to see multiple generations, spouses, friends, and siblings rotate through for treatment often for the same addiction.
Challenges of Being a Spouse to an Addict
Often alcoholics cause substantial damage within their home. In fact, they may have skated under the radar as a full-blown alcoholic if they stay home. That puts more strain and stress on their spouse. Not only to provide and maintain the home, but also to detect lying, to cover up for their spouse’s behavior, and handling the emotional abuse that comes with it.
The spouse of an addict may be more likely to explore drinking with their spouse or drinking when they need to destress. They may feel that it’s an escape and that as long as they’re not drinking as much as their spouse does, that it’s not a problem.
Additionally, a spouse may feel as if drinking with their spouse is a way to connect or keep a connection. Studies were done with people who were only social acquaintances where people were paired. One person was instructed to order an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, and the other person in each was left to order what they wanted. Most people who were paired with an alcoholic-drink person also ordered an alcoholic drink in order to have the same experience.
Issues and Concerns with Siblings and Addiction
Typically, children of alcoholics will grow up to have some dependency or addiction to alcohol — more on this in a moment. So, when one sibling begins to head down that road, it’s often that at least one other will follow. This is one of the many ways that addiction and alcoholism break up families.
There’s also the dynamic of older siblings that drink being a role model for younger siblings. One study suggests that adolescent alcohol or substance abuse uniquely fits into the sibling relationship in that if one sibling is using, the younger siblings are substantially more likely to use.
The concern for many parents dealing with one addicted child influencing another child is when to draw a line of separation. Teenagers or adult children that influence their younger siblings may be putting the family and specifically children at serious risk. If this is the concern, then parents should intervene to stop the spread of this type of behavior and hopefully to break the hold of alcohol in their family.
The Alcoholic Connection Between Parents and Children
Children are often the victims of alcoholics, whether intentionally or otherwise. Many children grow up realizing that they experienced varying levels of abuse as children because a parent was an alcoholic. However, during teenage and early adulthood years, they fail to realize that the cycle must be broken and often fall into alcohol addiction themselves.
NACA, or the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, has found that children of alcoholics are at four times the risk of becoming an alcoholic than those who did not have alcoholic parents. Of course, the “more likely” phrase loosely fits into the narrative as there are numerous other factors available. Questions such as, well, did they drink at younger ages simply because alcohol was available? Or, did they turn to drink because they saw their parents use it as a coping mechanism?
Then there is looking at the various stages of adulthood. Many alcoholics will introduce their children to alcoholic through teenage years as a rite of passage or welcoming into adulthood. Some simply turn a blind eye to empty bottles, or a sneaked beer or two choosing to not acknowledge the shared behavior.
When the child reaches adulthood, however, the two will often share experiences through their addiction. Many children of alcoholics recall their parents reminiscing on drunken adventures or misadventures. After a few years of drinking, they will have their own stories to share and “fit in” with their parents.
How and When to Get Help From a Rehab Center as a Family
Not every addiction or rehab center offers family treatment or therapy. At Rehab Carolinas, we know that addiction often spreads far beyond one person in a family. We make sure that anyone seeking treatment has the resources they need, and that the family members involved in their treatment have resources and therapy options available as well.
Contact Rehab Carolinas for more information on setting up a program for you or for a family member.