Who Answers?

Navigation: Why Do People Blame Their Family Members for Their Addiction?, The Need for Control, The Stigma Surrounding Addiction, Unresolved Family Issues, Denial and Defense Mechanisms, Shame and Guilt, Genetic Factors, Miscommunication, What is Family Therapy and How Can it Help?

Addiction is a complicated medical condition in that it doesn’t just affect the person who has it, but also their loved ones. When someone is struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD), it is common for family members to feel a sense of guilt and responsibility for their loved one’s addiction. This can lead to a cycle of blame and resentment within the family dynamic.

It goes without saying that the family unit plays a significant role in a person’s development and well-being. Family units have their own unique dynamics, roles, and patterns. These dynamics can have an impact on a person’s behavior, including their choices and even their relationship with drugs and alcohol. [1]

In some cases, family dynamics can contribute to the development of addiction.

For example, a family with a history of substance abuse may create an environment that normalizes substance abuse. If there are members who enable addictive behaviors, then that could also be another contributing factor. When someone does develop a drug addiction, the family also tends to struggle. Addiction can disrupt the entire family system. [1]

It can cause strain and tension within relationships, leading to feelings of anger, resentment, and guilt. Family members may also feel a sense of responsibility for their loved one’s addiction, believing that they could have prevented it or that they are somehow to blame.

In this article, we will talk all about addiction and family dynamics: specifically, why some people blame their family members for their addiction. We will also discuss how family therapy can help break this cycle.

Why Do People Blame Their Family Members for Their Addiction?

There are many reasons why people may place blame on their family members for their addiction. Since addiction is such a complex condition, it’s no surprise that there are psychological, environmental, and genetic factors at play.

Sometimes by looking at your own family dynamics, you may uncover some truths about your substance abuse. After all, family plays a significant role in shaping one’s early experiences. Parents help you develop your emotional well-being. While they can teach you how to prevent substance abuse, they can also contribute to its development—oftentimes unintentionally.

A dysfunctional family can contribute to the development of addiction. But family members are not solely to blame for its development. There are many other factors that can push an individual to abuse illicit substances. Blaming family members oversimplifies the problem.

Still, it’s worth discussing why addicted individuals feel the need to blame their loved ones for their condition. Let’s take a closer look.

The Need for Control

One reason people may blame their family members for their addiction is the need for control. Addiction can make you feel powerless and out of control. In an attempt to regain this control, you may look for someone else or something else to place the blame on. It’s an unhealthy coping mechanism that people use to reconcile their behavior.

Blaming family members gives them a semblance of control over their lives. It allows them to deflect responsibility for their actions. It helps them avoid confronting the difficult and uncomfortable reality of their own choices. They hope it would give them some control over the chaos that addiction has brought into their life.

On the flip side, family members may also feel a need to control the situation and their loved one’s behavior. They may blame their addicted loved one for ruining the family dynamics. Others blame themselves, thinking maybe they could have done something differently to avoid the problem.

In either case, blame only provides a temporary reprieve from the internal turmoil caused by addiction. It’s simply a defense mechanism born out of the need for control.

The Stigma Surrounding Addiction

Unfortunately, there is still a significant stigma surrounding addiction. This stigma leads to shame and guilt because everyone in the family views addiction as a moral failing or a sign of weakness. The result is that family members blame each other in order to avoid this shame, when in fact addiction is a medical condition that affects the brain and alters behavior.

Substance use disorders are chronic and treatable medical conditions, but people who have them still face discrimination. It is one of the biggest obstacles keeping people from getting the medical treatment that they need. This creates a harmful cycle wherein people are too ashamed to get help, and it only perpetuates the stigma. [2]

Because of stigma, family members may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their loved one’s addiction and may blame them for bringing shame upon the family.

Stigma can lead to a lack of understanding and empathy from family members. This can make it difficult for them to see addiction as a disease. This can lead to blaming the person for their addiction rather than recognizing the complex factors that contribute to it.

This stigma also extends to families, where loved ones may be seen as responsible for the person’s addiction. Outsiders may judge the family by blaming genetics or their parenting style. This blame-shifting only perpetuates harmful stereotypes.

This is why it is important to seek medical assistance for drug addiction. Seeking help confronts the stigma and helps eliminate the shame associated with going to rehab.

Unresolved Family Issues

Some people blame their addiction on their family members because of unresolved family issues. When these issues are not addressed, they can continue to impact family dynamics and relationships.

Unresolved family problems may have contributed to the development of their substance abuse problem. If there are unresolved conflicts, traumas, or dysfunctional patterns within the family, it can create a fertile ground for the development of substance use disorders.

Addicted individuals may point fingers at family members as a way to cope with their own feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy. By attributing their struggles to family dynamics, they externalize responsibility. It helps them avoid confronting their deeper personal issues.

Addressing and resolving these underlying family issues through therapy or counseling can help everyone move towards long-lasting recovery: both the addicted person and their family members.

Denial and Defense Mechanisms

Some people are simply in denial of their own condition. Addiction can be a challenging thing to deal with. That is why some people find it difficult to acknowledge their own role and responsibility in developing their substance abuse.

Denial allows them to protect themselves from the harsh reality of their addiction by shifting the blame onto others. In this case, they may point their fingers at family members.

Some people put up various defense mechanisms just to avoid accountability. They may project their own undesirable traits or behaviors to others. This makes it easier to avoid facing personal accountability.

For this reason, the addiction treatment process usually aims to address these defense mechanisms. Therapists and counselors work with patients to replace these unhealthy defense mechanisms with healthy coping mechanisms. These new tools should help them face life’s challenges without falling back into their old addictive habits.

Addiction treatment also teaches patients how to acknowledge the problem and take responsibility for their actions. Instead of maintaining their distorted self-perception or blaming their loved ones, they can accept the reality of the situation and start working towards long-lasting sobriety.

Shame and Guilt

We’ve mentioned these earlier, but shame and guilt are some of the most common reasons why people blame others for their addiction, especially family members.

Substance abuse tends to affect families on every level: emotional, psychological, social, and financial. It can even start to affect people’s health due to the constant stress of having an addicted loved one. This exhausting experience is only exacerbated by the shame and guilt people feel over it. These are some of the more intense emotional effects of SUDs. [3]

It is crucial to recognize that blaming family members for your addiction can only hinder the recovery process.

Genetic Factors

When we talk about risk factors of drug addiction, genetics is often one of the first to be mentioned. There is evidence to suggest that some people are genetically predisposed to addiction. Addiction may run in the family. [4]

Certain genetic variations can increase susceptibility to substance dependence, making certain individuals more vulnerable to developing an addiction when exposed to drugs or alcohol.

People who have loved ones who are struggling with addiction have an increased risk of developing it themselves at some point. Just like other risk factors, this is not a guarantee that you will actually become addicted. But the risk is higher compared to someone who are not genetically predisposed to addiction.

What this means is that even if you have a family history of addiction, you are not necessarily guaranteed to develop it yourself. But if you have access to the drug and use it repeatedly, you may have a bigger chance of becoming addicted. [4]

Consequently, individuals with a family history of addiction may perceive their genetic predisposition as a direct link to their struggles with substance abuse. This attribution can create a sense of frustration and resentment towards family members, as the genetic component is perceived as a contributing factor beyond personal control. However, it is crucial to recognize that addiction is a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors, and blaming family members solely based on genetics oversimplifies the intricate nature of addiction.


People may sometimes blame their family members for their addiction due to miscommunication and a lack of understanding.

Miscommunication within families can lead to misunderstandings and misplaced blame. Family members may not fully understand the challenges and struggles that come with drug addiction. This may lead to frustration and resentment. Those who have an addiction may feel unsupported by their families, further contributing to a breakdown in communication.

Instead of addressing the root causes of addiction, blame may become a coping mechanism for both the addicted individual and their family members. In the long run, this will only hinder the chances of productive dialogue and collaboration in overcoming the challenges of addiction.

It’s essential to approach discussions about addiction with empathy and understanding. However, it’s also important for addicted individuals to take responsibility for their actions and work towards positive changes in their lives.

Professional help, such as therapy and counseling, can be beneficial for both individuals with addiction and their families in navigating these challenges.

What is Family Therapy and How Can it Help?

Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on improving communication and resolving conflicts within a family system. It recognizes that issues affecting one family member can impact the entire family dynamic. [1]

When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, family therapy can help address the effects of substance abuse on each family member. Family therapy helps identify dysfunctional patterns like enabling behaviors. It can also help improve communication and rally each member in support of their addicted loved one. [1]

It creates a space wherein family members can express their concerns and discuss the problem freely. This should help open up the underlying issues that are contributing to the addiction. This can also help family members understand how these issues may have contributed to their loved one’s addiction and how they can work together to heal and move forward.

By involving the family in the addiction treatment process, it creates a system of support that can enhance the chances of successful recovery for the patient. They can then work on repairing relationships and rebuilding trust.

Family intervention is a process that involves a trained professional working with the family to address the impact of addiction on family dynamics. The ultimate goal is to break the cycle of blame and resentment and create a supportive and understanding environment for the person struggling with addiction.

Through family healing and intervention, families can play a crucial role in a person’s long-term addiction recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, look for a rehab near you today. Learn more about the different treatment programs that are available and get started on the road to recovery.







author avatar
Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

Addiction Treatment Centers For
Drugs, Alcohol and Prescription Drug Abuse

Call Now