by Patrick Gaffney

Most diseases affect the individual.  However, there are serious diseases that affect the individual and the family.  Opiates can destroy not only the user but also the lives of family members as well.  It is for this reason alcohol and drug addiction are both considered “family diseases”.

Opiates are a form of highly addictive drug that has been used for centuries.  Opiates can range from prescription painkillers—like morphine and oxycodone—to illegal street drugs such as heroin.  Opiates are often used for pain management, but the potential for abuse is high.1

Opiates can alter the user’s personality.  When opiates are used over time, dependence leads to opioid dependence that causes a long-term change in both the structure (the architecture of the brain) and the way the brain functions (the biochemistry of the brain).[2]  These changes give the user strong desires to have more of the drug.  The individual is not thinking clearly and this can cause the user to do things he or she would never normally do.  For example, if a family member is normally driven, he or she may now spend more time sleeping or have sudden financial problems.  Here are some other examples for how drugs can change an individual’s personality:

  • Sudden irritability, commonly seen through anger and violent outbursts
  • Forgetfulness, sleepiness or altered sleep patterns
  • Criminal activity—such as stealing—to obtain drugs

Opiate addictions are one of the most expensive addictions a person can have. Most of us rely on our job and our income to provide for our families. When money disappears because of a drug habit, the addict person will often cut corners in other areas of life.  Drugs are purchased instead of food. Drugs take priority over the rent check. As this cycle continues, there are negative ramifications for all members of the family.

While opiate drugs give temporary relief, the consequences of substance abuse are felt in many ways. Opiate abuse is illegal. If you have children and abuse opiates, you may lose your children. State officials take drug use seriously. Opiate addiction can also lead to divorce. Drug addiction can contribute to a lack of trust in a relationship.  This is one of the most common reasons for divorce.

As a Board Certified Marital and Family Lawyer in Clearwater Florida, I have observed the effects of addiction on marriage and family. This is one of the most difficult struggles a family can encounter. Not every individual survives addiction. Despite this, I have come to know survivors who are functioning well. For those suffering from addiction, remember that even when things seem hopeless, know there is a way to recovery.

1 This blog was taken from the Opiate Treatment Center.  Retrieved from: