Alcoholism is as harmful to the family’s well‑being as any drug addiction

Although opioid and other drug addictions receive more attention than alcohol addiction, all have serious consequences on the family. Addiction professionals familiar with the effects that alcoholism and addiction have on families share why alcoholism is just as detrimental to families as other addictions and how children are specifically affected.

Al‑Anon Family Groups, which includes Alateen for teenagers, provide support to anyone affected by someone else’s problem drinking. *Ninety‑three percent of members report that their lives have been very positively affected by Al‑Anon Family Groups and forty‑two percent that receive professional services and attend Al‑Anon feel that since coming to Al‑Anon, they have seen an improvement in their treatment, counseling, or therapy.

*2018 Al‑Anon Family Group Membership Survey.

This professional panel interview was recorded at the Al‑Anon International Convention 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. The professionals interviewed were:

Nancy Duff‑Boehm, PH.D., Clinical Psychologist, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Mintie Grienke, M.ED., Counselor/Psychotherapist, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Ann McGreevy, MA, Supervisor of Psychological Studies at FCPS, Frederick, Maryland, USA

Hugh A. King Jr., MD, Psychiatrist, Mandeville, Louisiana, USA


Al‑Anon cooperates with therapists, counselors, and other professionals, but does not endorse, oppose, or affiliate with any professional, organization, or entity. The opinions expressed here were strictly those of the person who gave them. Their comments reflect their professional expertise and use of Al‑Anon as a resource for their clients and patients who are or have been affected by an individual’s addiction to alcohol.

Video Transcript

Alcoholism is as harmful to the family’s well‑being as any drug addiction

Moderator: Why is alcohol addiction as serious to the family’s well‑being as other types of addiction? It’s connected to our first question.

Hugh A. King Jr., MD, Psychiatrist: I agree that the alcohol addiction is certainly as serious as any other and it’s a long‑term process, I think, for a lot of people. And as was mentioned, the opioid addiction is really getting all the press and all the attention at this particular point when alcohol remains about the same. And it is, I think, it’s a long-term 20- to 30‑year problem for a lot of problem drinkers, whereas the addiction to opiates and some other chemicals is very short. In a year or two, it’s obvious there is a problem. So sometimes, it’s this long‑term subtle influence on the family that builds up and people that live in this situation, you know, they see over periods of time that hopefully things are getting better, and then they don’t. They go back to the same way, and then maybe they’ll get better this time, and they don’t, they go back. But this is escalating over a period of time to the point that, you know, finally it reaches a point when something happens, some crisis and once again the alcoholic is usually forced into some sort of treatment very rarely do they go willingly.

Ann McGreevy, MA, Supervisor of Psychological Studies at FCPS: You know, when you are a child, or an adolescent it really doesn’t matter what a family member’s addicted to. It is impacting the family. And if you have done any reading or studying on adverse childhood experiences, you know that family member’s addiction is one of the adverse childhood experiences. And so, it is impacting the child’s brain development, it’s impacting the child’s social ability to interact with other children their age, it’s impacting the child’s ability to form meaningful adult relationships. So, it’s impacting the child and adolescent’s functioning across the board. So, alcohol addiction is just as imperative, detrimental, as any other addiction on a child’s functioning. And as you’ve heard, and as you know it can set patterns for lifelong dysfunctional interactions and relationships.