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Soc Work Public Health. 2013;28(3-4):194-205. doi: 10.1080/19371918.2013.759005.

The impact of substance use disorders on families and children: from theory to practice.

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Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA.


The effects of a substance use disorder (SUD) are felt by the whole family. The family context holds information about how SUDs develop, are maintained, and what can positively or negatively influence the treatment of the disorder. Family systems theory and attachment theory are theoretical models that provide a framework for understanding how SUDs affect the family. In addition, understanding the current developmental stage a family is in helps inform assessment of impairment and determination of appropriate interventions. SUDs negatively affect emotional and behavioral patterns from the inception of the family, resulting in poor outcomes for the children and adults with SUDs. Social workers can help address SUDs in multiple ways, which are summarized in this article.

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