Does my loved one have a substance use problem?

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by Emilee Krupa, Licensed Substance Use Disorder Counselor (SUDC), Marriage and Family Therapy Intern


A common question we get asked is “How do I know if my child/spouse/friend has a substance use disorder?”.  The reality is that there are many factors that go into someone developing a substance use disorder, which can include experimentation, stressors or other environmental factors, a lack of family stability, socioeconomic status, social settings, or simply just a lack of support. Social networks and family structure play a substantial role in development, maintenance, and recovery from substance use disorders especially in teens and young adults. 


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Addiction Can Be a Form of Escape

It is not uncommon for people to use substances in order to “escape” from current emotions or past trauma. Common issues might be physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, school or work-related stressors, and family or friend stressors; having experienced these things it would appear to be a logical choice to use substances to escape.  Substances can be used to self-medicate and ease the pain of the issue for a short time, but additional consequences are sure to arise. Many people who have suffered from addiction or had loved ones who have suffered want to know the “cause”, but unfortunately, the “cause” typically isn’t just one thing but a combination of many.


Addiction Affects the Whole Family

The family is still considered one’s primary source of nurturing, attachment, and socialization; therefore, when an individual has a substance use disorder the effects are felt by the entire family and the effects on each member are unique.  Family members can be instrumental in finding out how the substance use disorder has developed, is being maintained, and what within the family is going to negatively or positively influence the treatment process. For these reasons, it can be beneficial for the entire family to participate in therapy so they can work together on the whole family healing. 


Family Members Can Be Part of the Solution

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription pain medication deaths are at epidemic levels over the past decade, and opioid-related deaths have quadrupled in young people from ages 12-25.  Because the whole system is affected by substance use, it is a family issue. Research shows us that when substance abuse is treated with the whole family, not just the substance user, therapy is significantly more effective. 


If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction or is in recovery and working on healing relationships in the wake of addiction, call us for a free consultation with Emilee or one of the other therapists in our office (801) 432-0883.

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