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All in the Family: How the Home Environment Impacts Teens and Addiction

Teen boy

Being a teenager is Tough

They face peer pressure in order to fit in, not to mention the intimidating and unpredictable transition to adulthood. These things can cause stress, which oftentimes leads down a dark path of substance abuse that is difficult to deviate from.

Many teens turn to substances due to low self-esteem or as a result of social outcasting. While the world environment certainly plays a big part in needing addiction treatment, the impact the family environment has on teens cannot be overlooked. 

How Family Plays a Role in Addiction

In some of us, the brain is more wired to have difficulties with substance abuse. While it’s true that genetics can leave us more susceptible to addiction, scientists haven’t yet pinpointed exactly how. However, a specific gene can affect the ability to metabolize (absorb) alcohol, thus determining how it affects the nervous system. 

If we are adopted, our genetic background may be difficult to figure out. Regardless, it’s important that we dig deep to find out about our family history in order to avoid alcoholism and drug addiction. 

The environment surrounding the family dynamic is arguably a bigger determining factor in addiction than genetics. For example, family dysfunction can drive a teen to develop an alcohol use disorder or even become a drug addict. If constant arguments and verbal or physical abuse are involved, this could fuel the dysfunction. 

As humans, we are always looking for stability, and sometimes we may turn to substances because we feel it gives us that stability. This isn’t true – it just creates more dysfunction, this time within ourselves. 

The lack of nurturing or ineffective parenting can also spark the need for addiction recovery. In this case, we may turn to substances as a way of “filling the void” so to speak. If our parents are absent from our lives, we falsely believe that our addiction will take away that empty feeling.  

A parent or caretaker who is actively suffering from addiction can be especially problematic. Teenagers are still incredibly impressionable, due to the fragile state of their age. Therefore, the actions and tendencies of a parent or caretaker that is addicted to drugs or suffers from alcohol abuse can certainly rub off onto teens, especially if that parent or caretaker is looked up to as a role model. 

Teen girl front of a cracked mirror

Effective Ways to Limit the Chance of Addiction

The transition from childhood to adulthood is a delicate time in a teenager’s life. The temptation for various addictive substances will be present, and since many teens feel like they can conquer the world, problems such as marijuana addiction could form. However, there are several ways to prevent circumstances like this. 

First and foremost, we need to limit the time spent with individuals that have an addiction, until that individual seeks help. This includes family and friends, so this can be particularly challenging. That doesn’t mean we can’t help them with their alcohol detox or drug detox. In fact, it may provide a great opportunity for us to educate ourselves and learn about the dangers of addiction. 

Finding a distraction is a great distraction from drugs and alcohol. Getting involved in after-school activities (such as joining a sports team or club), finding a part-time job, or even volunteering within the community serves as a great distraction. The busier we are, the less likely we are to need an addiction treatment center. 

Setting goals is also an effective deterrent. A crucial part of growing in life is establishing goals and achieving them. If we want to attend a certain university or thrive in our “dream job”, having an addiction problem will keep us from accomplishing these goals. 

Seeking help for mental health used to be a stigma in society, but not anymore. Now, we recognize how important mental health is to our well-being. If we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, or overly anxious, then it’s time to get help from a professional before we turn to substances to get that release. Getting professional help will also lessen the chance of a dual diagnosis. 

It’s vitally important to know the signs of addiction so that we can be proactive before it’s too late. Some of the common signs include:

  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Increase in irritability and agitation
  • Neglecting physical appearance
  • Loss of control
  • Shaking or slurred speech
  • Insomnia


The chemistry of the home can greatly influence whether teens need a rehabilitation center or sober living. Remember, life is about choices. It isn’t always someone else’s fault that we picked up an addiction. 

Sometimes we hear others claim the reason for their negative behavior is an “addictive personality”. While there may be some merit to this statement, it certainly isn’t an excuse. Ultimately, it’s up to us if we want to turn out like our parents and caregivers or form a new, brighter path.

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