Impact of an adult family member’s problematic substance use on family life

Problematic substance use can be a significant cause of stress for family members of the person using substances. This review, published in the journal Drug: Education, Prevention and Policy, examines current research in order to explore the question 'What is the impact of an adult family member's problematic substance use for family life?'

Following a systematic search, the researchers analysed the data of 15 qualitative studies.

The overarching theme was An unknown invisible intrusion, which reflects the overwhelming and pervasive impact of an adult family member's substance use on the wellbeing of the family. It describes the struggles families experienced in their attempts to manage the demanding life situation as well as the loneliness.

Three other themes were also used to describe the data.

Taking over the family life- this theme describes the exhaustion that many family members felt and the way it created a 'messy' and chaotic family lifestyle

Family survival- Families had to be creative in order to find ways to adapt to survive. Family members often spend a lot of time trying to understand the situation and hoping for some kind of change

An invisible family-  this theme describes how families keep the problem to themselves through concern about what people outside the family were thinking and feelings of shame and blame. They described loneliness and struggling to access professional help.

The results indicate the harm from problematic substance use is far-reaching and can impact how a family is able to function as well as the wellbeing of the individuals that make up the family. This research can be used to support the development of interventions that include help for family members.

Citation
Sari Kaarina Lindeman, Kristine Berg Titlestad, Lennart Lorås & Terese Bondas (2021) An unknown invisible intrusion. Impact of an adult family member’s problematic substance use on family life: a meta-ethnography, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, DOI: 10.1080/09687637.2021.1943316
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