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Drug Addiction & Its Effect on Families

Drug Abuse & Families

Anyone who has been touched by addiction or drug misuse knows it extends beyond the individual. Loved ones can suffer, too! Dr. Daley, Senior Clinical Director, Substance Use Services at UPMC Health Plan walks us through drug misuse and addiction and how families and loved ones can help or find support.


Watch Dr. Daley and Dr. Glance discuss prescription drug misuse & addiction:



Why do people misuse prescription drugs or become addicted?

Some people who misuse drugs initially started out with good intentions. For example they might have wanted to relieve pain, anxiety, or another discomfort; to sleep more soundly; feel more alert; lose weight; or improve concentration.

But over time, especially if they become addicted, they use drugs to experience the high or euphoric feeling, or to prevent or alleviate withdrawal symptoms associated with physical addiction. Many of these individuals use or are dependent on multiple drugs, including alcohol.

Drugs affect areas of the brain that control judgment, memory, decision-making, self-control, and pleasure. This is why most people with a drug addiction deny or minimize their problem. It also helps to explain why some addicted people will do anything to get their drugs, regardless of the negative consequences or risks they take. And, since their judgment is seriously impaired, their thinking defies logic and is irrational.


How does drug misuse or addiction affect family or social relationships?

The problems that addiction or misuse may cause in relationships depends on the severity of the drug problem, the behavior of the affected person, the presence of other significant medical or psychiatric problems, and the coping mechanisms of the family member or other person involved. Not all families or members in a family are affected in the same way.

Drug problems often cause mistrust, worry, anxiety, fear, and anger among family members. Family members may feel frustrated if they are unable to get their loved one to see their problem or get help for it. They worry their loved one could overdose or experience other bad outcomes.

Addiction problems in a family contribute to higher rates of separation, divorce, abuse or neglect, and financial problems as well as physical or mental health problems of family members who feel stress due to the addiction. Some become so depressed and anxious that they need help for themselves.


What can a person or family member do about a problem with prescription drugs?

Any concern about one’s own use or a family member’s use of prescription drugs can be discussed with a health care provider or a professional (doctor, nurse, psychologist, social worker, or counselor) who understands addiction. There are many resources for those struggling and their families to call to get information about local programs that treat alcohol or drug problems. 

Workers who have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can seek help and advice as well. EAPs may offer counseling to help the person decide what to do about the problem. Or, they can help link the person to treatment resources if needed.


How can UPMC Health Plan help members deal with a prescription drug problem?

UPMC Health Plan offers professional services by health care coaches who are trained to deal with substance use, mental health, and other problems. These coaches can help the member determine the severity of the problem and help connect them to specialized treatment services if these are needed.


For more information:

UPMC Health Plan Special Program Assistance (SPA) 1-855-772-8762  

Behavioral health case management and telephone coaching for members with substance problems.

PA Get Help Now 1-800-662-4357

This helpline and website provides information about local resources for substance use disorders.