The Impact of Substance Abuse on Interpersonal Relationships

Substance abuse has an impact on interpersonal relationships. It can destroy families and lead to disharmony at the workplace. The substance abuser will usually find solace in the company of other heavy drinkers or drug users. This group will support the substance abuse, and provide the individual with the sense of belonging to a community. Belonging to such a group can make it more difficult for the individual to break away from addiction. In order to be successful in recovery it will usually be necessary to build a new network of friends who support sobriety.

Interpersonal Relationships Defined

Interpersonal relationships occur when two or more people interact with each other. This will often occur face to face. It is also possible to have such a relationship online without ever meeting the person in real life. These interactions may be brief or longer lasting. The different types of interpersonal relationship include:

* Family
* Professional relationships
* Friends
* Romantic relationships
* One night stands
* Online acquaintances
* People met through everyday interactions
* People met through participation in a group or community

The Effect of Substance Abuse on the Family

The family of a substance user can suffer greatly. It can be particularly damaging when it is a parent who is abusing alcohol or drugs. The effects on the family can include:

* Neglect
* Substance abuser may be prone to dramatic mood swings and paranoia
* Fetal Alcohol Damage
* Lack of affection within the home
* Irrational anger
* Physical violence
* Verbal assaults
* Domestic violence
* Financial hardship
* Criminality
* Children who grow up believing that substance abuse is normal behavior
* Infidelity
* Sexual assaults
* Traumatized children

Substance Abuse and Co-Dependency

The spouse of a substance abuser can adapt to the situation by becoming co-dependent. They start to put the needs of their substance abuser partner ahead of their own. Their life now revolves around the substance abuser so much that they start to lose their own identity. It is almost like they have become addicted to the chaos created by their partner. It is not necessary to be the spouse of the substance abuser in order to become co-dependent. It can also happen between friends and even work colleagues. Substance abusers tend to attract partners with low self-esteem. This means that they are the perfect candidate to become co-dependent.

Substance Abuse and Peer Pressure
Peer pressure refers to the influence peers have on the behavior of the individual. It has repeatedly been shown in studies that drug users will usually be first introduced to these substances by friends. It can be especially difficult for young people to ignore the persuasive tactics of their peers. Those who have low self-esteem will be the most vulnerable. Once people have bowed to this peer pressure it can be a slippery slope.

Social Support for Substance Abuse
Substance abusers will look to other drug users for fellowship. These people will be able to provide social support, and this is something that humans depend on. The function of this group will include:

* Physical assistance such as sharing drugs or lending money
* A resource for advice and information
* Emotional Support
* Appraisal of how the individual is performing within the group

A group of substance abusers will share a worldview where not using drugs is viewed as deviant behavior. The group will accept the behavior associated with such abuse far more tolerantly than society as a whole. There is also often support for criminality and other unethical behavior. If a member decides that they wish to escape addiction the other members of the group can react negatively. They may often try to sabotage such attempts.

Internet Addiction and Interpersonal Relationships

In recent years there have been growing concerns for the effects of internet addiction on interpersonal relationships. The worry is that by spending too much time online it may cause people to lose their social skills. One study in 2007 found that internet addiction was higher among those individuals who struggled most with interpersonal relationships.

Interpersonal Relationships in Recovery

The right interpersonal relationships can greatly improve the chances of a successful recovery. By being around people who support recovery the individual will benefit from the social support functions of such a group. There can be many challenges to be faced during early recovery, but by having supportive interpersonal relationships it means that these challenges do not have to be faced alone. Such support can come from:

* Therapists
* Counselors
* Peers in recovery
* Family
* Friends and work colleagues who support the decision to quit substance abuse
* Online communities that promote sobriety
* Support groups such as AA