Family Systems Approach to Addictions

Published: 2019-09-24 07:00:00
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Drug and substance misuse has presented numerous challenges both to healthcare providers, the abusers themselves as well as their families. The world population is riddled with numerous individuals struggling with drug misuse and addiction problem. Cocaine, cannabis, and amphetamine are some of the commonly abused substances whose effects range from delinquency, poor academic performance, accidents and suicides. According to the European Union authority for monitoring drug use and drug Addiction (EMCDDA), approximately 4 percent of deaths that occurred in the year 2010 in Europe can be attributed to drug use. In 2009, at least 20 million of individuals within 12-25 years in the United States and more than 11 million individuals within the age bracket of 12-34 had used illegal substances during the month just before surveys were conducted. Fortunately, not all of these substance users end up being addicts; they, however, do need treatment (Aviram & Spitz, 2003). Research has shown that there is a huge gap between substance users who need treatment and those that actually end up receiving the treatment. In the United States, for instance, 8.4 percent of illicit substance users aged 18-25 are in need of treatment but only 10 percent of them end up receiving treatment (Steinglass, 2009). The total number of individuals in the European Union, who used illicit substances in 2010, totaled 30 million. With these glaring statistics, a treatment method to help young illicit substance users needs to be developed. Various therapies have therefore been developed to address this gap.

Questions have been raised regarding the effectiveness of the existing therapies, owing to the seemingly increased number of treated illicit substance users who revert to the use of the substances after treatment as well as the high rate of treatment drop outs. This implies that a new approach needs to be developed to help young drug users who are in dire need of treatment and that this approach needs to be as focused as much as possible in order to avoid cases of drop outs and relapse. Family therapies are promising avenues that can be used to treat young illicit substance users. Research has shown compelling evidence to support the premise that viewing substance abuse from a family perspective might prove a powerful tool to help in the puzzling behavior related to substance abuse. The reason for the inclusion of this family based therapy is because evidence exists that prove that some forms of these substance abuse disorders are genetically propagated (Steinglass, 2009). Furthermore, the secondary consequences related to substance abuse affect family members in as much as it affects the users themselves. Systemic interventions that target the family have several advantages as discussed below:

The inclusion of family in the initial stages of treatment increases the likelihood of the substance abuser getting actively involved in active treatment. A 2004 Stanton review supports this premise. A study to analyze the effectiveness of eleven family-related therapies designed to increase the participation of a substance abuser showed that these programs posted a 65 percent participation rate as compared to group control programmes which posted a mere 6 percent engagement rate (Fals-Stewart, O'Farrell, & Birchler, 2004).

These family, as well as couples treatment approaches, have also shown to reduce the effects associated with illicit substance abuse disorders and the sustenance of the positive progress that has been achieved. A 2002 review of treatment approaches indicates that a key ingredient in determining the effectiveness of a treatment approach is the family or social perspective. Nine out of the eleven approaches reviewed had a family or social ingredient in them. It is, therefore, good to conclude that the involvement of the family in the treatment approaches is a key ingredient in helping substance abusers (Robbins, Bachrach, & Szapocznik, 2002).

A complex and at times reciprocal relationship exists between substance abuse and the degeneration of social relationships. In scenarios where one couple abuses substances, there are bound to be extensive relational problems ranging from physical and verbal abuse, instability and relationship dissatisfaction. A problematic relationship, on the other hand, might lead to relapse and increased substance use among alcoholics and substance abusers. This creates a destructive cycle where one even triggers the other (Steinglass, 2009). With this destructive cycle in mind, behavioral couples therapies as well as family therapies seek to get rid of excessive drinking and drug abuse, to reach out to the family of the substance abuser to help their loved one change and to restructure the way couples and families interact so as to achieve long-term and stable abstinence.

The presence of substance misuse behavior in a family implies that the whole family will somehow be affected. It is, therefore, imperative that the whole family and not just the concerned abuser that need to undergo treatment. It is for this reason that substance abuse approaches need to synergize traditional substance abuse approaches as well as the relatively new concept of family therapy. Considering the significant achievements of family-based therapies as well as couple based therapies, it is important that a huge resource allocation is allocated in order to disseminate these vital techniques to community-based providers.

References

Aviram, R. & Spitz, H. (2003). Substance Abuse Couple Therapy. Journal Of Family Psychotherapy, 14(3), 1-18. http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/j085v14n03_01

Fals-Stewart, W., O'Farrell, T., & Birchler, G. (2004). Behavioral Couples Therapy for Substance Abuse: Rationale, Methods, and Findings. Science & Practice Perspectives, 2(2), 30-41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1151/spp042230

Robbins, M., Bachrach, K., & Szapocznik, J. (2002). Bridging the research-practice gap in adolescent substance abuse treatment: the case of brief strategic family therapy. Journal Of Substance Abuse Treatment, 23(2), 123-132. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0740-5472(02)00265-9

Steinglass, P. (2009). Systemic-motivational therapy for substance abuse disorders: an integrative model. Journal Of Family Therapy, 31(2), 155-174. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6427.2009.00460.x

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