A common misconception about substance abuse is that it is solely the problem of the person struggling with addiction and only affects them. When this falsity is believed, it can cause the person to battle their addiction alone, without the help of others as a support system.

In reality, addiction affects more people than just the person struggling with drugs or alcohol. In many cases, interpersonal relationships are physically, mentally, and psychologically harmed by their loved one’s substance abuse.

If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, understanding how your relationship is affected can help the person struggling get assistance sooner and may help you both resolve ill feelings substance abuse caused.

Substance Addiction’s Effect on Interpersonal Relationships


One of the biggest effects addiction has on interpersonal relationships also tends to be one of the unrealized. Enabling occurs anytime you do something that, although you may have good intentions, actually furthers your loved one’s addiction.

Common enabling actions include:

  • Ignoring a love one’s addiction

  • Lying or making excuses for them

  • Financially supporting them

  • Prioritizing their needs before yours

  • Blaming other factors or people for a person’s addiction

Although you may think that you’re helping a loved one through some of these actions, by not making them take responsibilities for the consequences of their substance use, you’re allowing their addiction to continue. As time goes on, this can cause a number of other issues within your relationship.

Secrecy and Trust Issues

Often in an effort to hide their addiction, adults will become more secretive with their spouses, children, and other loved ones. They can begin lying about:

  • Their whereabouts

  • The company they keep

  • Events they’re attending

  • Where their money is going

As the lies continue, feelings of distrust can form between adults and their loved ones. For children, this can mean not feeling as though they can rely on or trust their parent. For spouses, these trust issues can cause big riffs within their marriage.

Once these trust issues are deeply ingrained in interpersonal relationships, loved ones may end up distancing themselves from adults struggling with addiction, as to not be in an environment or near someone who constantly lies to them.

Financial Problems

As mentioned above, those struggling with drug or alcohol abuse may lie about the fact that they’re spending so much money fueling their addiction. However, the financial issues created by addiction often are much greater.

Substance abuse is an expensive habit. While adults may be able to “afford” their addiction for a short while, they can quickly find themselves searching for other ways to pay for drugs or alcohol. If adults run out of cash typically used as “spending money,” they may dip into funds meant for necessities such as groceries or utilities. From there, spending can spiral into selling valuables for cash or dipping into saving accounts.

While financial issues can be stressful within any marriage or relationship, when those issues are the result of addiction, spouses and loved ones can feel even more frustrated.


Whether due to a substance decreasing a person’s inhibitions and ability to control their emotions or the resulting issues caused by a person’s addiction, anger between loved ones is not uncommon in relationships affected by substance abuse.

These feelings of anger and resentment can cause more arguments between partners, resulting in separation or even violence.

Violence and Abuse

Certain drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamines, can increase a person’s aggression, and those struggling with addiction always have an increased tendency to become violent. This can put partners, children, and other loved ones at risk for abuse.

As time goes on and their substance abuse worsens, adults struggling with addiction can continue to take out their frustrations and aggression on loved ones — and unfortunately, domestic violence is common in relationships affected by substance use.


This issue is similar to enabling, but it can be even more dangerous in some cases. A codependency forms within relationships affected by addiction when one or both partners perform actions that force them to physically or psychologically rely on the other person.

In some cases, the non-addicted partner may provide the other person with their only source of financial means, meaning they must stay in the relationship (in which their partner ignores their addiction) in order to have a place to live or food on the table. In other cases, the person struggling with addiction may give their partner a sense of importance when they need them for financial or emotional support.

When neither person in the relationship takes action to get their loved one struggling with addiction help, they form a codependency on each other, enabling their actions and leading to deeper substance abuse.

How to Fix Interpersonal Relationships Affected by Addiction

With addiction causing so many problems within interpersonal relationships, you may be wondering what can be done to repair things.

First and foremost, getting your loved one help for their addiction is the best first step to repair your relationship. Once they are free from the hold of drugs or alcohol, several things can help repair your relationship, such as:

  • Attending AA or NA meetings

  • Going to therapy as a couple or family

  • Being patient and openly communicating with loved ones to allow for healing

North Carolina Alcohol and Drug Rehab

Silver Ridge is a unique rehabilitation center in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville. Our services are tailored to meet the needs of established, midlife adults age 35 and up who are struggling with drug addiction or alcohol addiction. Contact us today to get the help you need.