How Drug Addiction Affects Relationships

Drug addiction impacts all types of relationships. Spouses, family members, children, friends, coworkers, and even acquaintances are affected by someone battling drug addiction and the behaviors that come with it. The reasons drug addiction can destroy relationships go a lot deeper than the fact that one person uses drugs when the other doesn’t. Often, loved ones will neglect their own needs for the sake of saving the relationship.

For first responders, strong relationships support them when the job is over for the day. When they are fighting addiction, having a support system can make or break their path to recovery. Let's examine how drug use impacts relationships in different ways.

The Different Ways Drug Addiction Affects Relationships


When substance abuse problems become apparent in a relationship, the person not suffering from the issue will often feel guilt. They feel like they must help to must find a solution. Unfortunately, that's not how substance use disorders are "fixed." 

Codependent people become addicted to helping the addicted person overcome their bad habits. This is the wrong way to help someone with an alcohol or drug addiction and enables the addict’s drug abuse.

If an addict is forced into treatment programs or support groups, or other forms of therapy by a codependent relationship, they'll never succeed. The addict must see the need to do this for themselves, not because others are making them. Otherwise, treatment can backfire and cause more harm than good.


Most codependents of drug addicts are enablers. They know their family or friend is suffering from mental health and addiction issues, but they don't know what to do about it, so they ignore it or think it'll fix itself. They let the people in their lives get away with secrets, deception, and lies. They let the addict steamroll them and get away with things they would never let other people get away with under normal circumstances.

In some cases, enablers may feel they are better than the drug addict in their life. Resentment may creep into the relationship. Since they stay silent about the issue, they feel as if they're covering for their family, friend, or coworker. They may be doing things to keep them from losing their job, hurting their children, or causing other problems in their life. They feel more like a caretaker than a friend, leading to negative feelings towards the addict, pushing them over the edge.

If an addict is enabled and believes they can continue to use, they'll continue to do so – perhaps even more than they did before the addiction was discovered. This can create even more secrecy in the relationship as they push boundaries to get away with more drug use.


Every relationship has a level of trust between two people. When one person in a relationship uses drugs, various issues arise beyond just the drug use itself. The sufferer feels shame and anxiety about what they're doing that the other person doesn't know. The deception that comes with drug use may fracture the relationship, causing one person to walk away from it because they feel hurt by what the addict has done to them.

In a marriage, this can lead to divorce. However, confronting issues of trust early on during addiction allows both sides to seek help. The addict can begin battling their addiction, the other person can support them during recovery, and their trust remains intact. Family therapy, marriage counseling, and individual therapy for everyone involved in the marriage can help rebuild trust and healing.

If an addict lies to people in their life, those lies will eventually catch up to them and harm their relationships. For those supporting the addict, lying to them will only hurt them in the long run. It'll keep them from seeing the truth about their addiction. They'll lose trust in you, too.


Drug addiction makes it much more difficult to be intimate in relationships. It's not just about sex. As the addict’s brain becomes more preoccupied with getting high than maintaining relationships, their ability to love and show care for someone falls by the wayside.

Imagine being so high you forget to kiss your kid on the top of the head every time they go to school. Think about how good it is to greet your husband or wife with a hug when they get home from work. Remember the fun times you had with coworkers celebrating a big win. How would you feel if those moments didn't happen anymore?

For the addict, as they begin isolating themselves out of shame for their addiction, they forget these tender moments because that intimacy is replaced by whatever they're addicted to. They may feel unloved, develop low self-esteem from the lack of intimacy, or feel the relationship has come to an end for reasons they don't quite understand.

If an addict begins forgetting these small acts of intimacy throughout the day, they fail to show their loved ones they care about them. They'll also slowly begin forgetting other things they should be doing as addiction gets worse. This adds up over time. Family, friends, and coworkers will remember the addict’s behavior. Children are likely to be impacted the most by this over time.


Violence can erupt in relationships due to drug addiction. Sometimes addicts behave unpredictably even though violence would never be an issue when they are sober. The lack of awareness, empathy, and control under the influence may lead to them acting in ways they never would before. They can become frustrated, angry, and suffer from mood swings. This can lead to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

Even if it happens only once, relationships are often damaged by violent outbursts. The addict may not realize what they've done, but the person on the receiving end will remember it forever. If the relationship continues, they may need individual counseling to move on. When drug addiction in a relationship reaches this stage, something must give.

If an addict begins exhibiting violent behavior, escalation may continue if an intervention isn't staged or the addict doesn't admit they have a problem. At this stage of addiction, relationships may go beyond fixing – no matter what the addict does to save them. Sometimes violence is the wake-up call a drug addict never wants to have because of how bad it is for other people in their lives.

Can Relationships Be Saved When One Person is Suffering from Drug Addiction?

There are many other ways drug abuse can affect relationships. Every relationship is different. Every relationship has its issues, big or small. Every relationship has its pros and cons. Every relationship means something dearly to the people involved.

No drug addict wants to lose their friends and family. And likewise, their friends and family don’t want to lose them, either. They want to fight for and support one another, even when the addict doesn’t know when to stop, and their loved ones don’t know how to help.

Drug addiction is a disease. Brains are rewired the more a person uses drugs. This is science. But there are ways to combat addiction if the addict is ready to get help. And there are ways for those in their lives to love and support them during recovery.

First Responders First will help you battle addiction and find effective ways to cope with what life throws at you on the day job. No matter what's going on in your life, no matter your addiction, we're here to help first responders rebuild their lives one day at a time. Reach out to us today.