Research Outline

Addiction and Family Intervention


To determine evidenced based reasoning to explain why an addict cannot stop their addictive behavior on their own. Additionally, to understand the affects of alcoholism and addiction on family members, particularly children.

Early Findings

Why Addicts Cannot Stop

  • According to research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug and alcohol addiction can alter brain functions including impulse control. It is this lack of impulse control that causes addicts to continue to use despite the consequences.
  • Brain scans of people that have addicitions reveal decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, “When the frontal cortex isn’t working properly, people can’t make the decision to stop taking the drug—even if they realize the price of taking that drug may be extremely high, and they might lose custody of their children or end up in jail. Nonetheless, they take it.”
  • At the beginning of addiction, the drug or alcohol affects the pleasure/reward area of the brain giving the addict a sense of pleasure when taking the drug or alcohol. This keeps the addict going back for more.
  • Some drugs can produce up to 10 times more dopamine than other pleasure causing activities such as eating or sex. In addition, the brain begins to adjust to the high-levels of dopamine by producing less of its own. This forces the addict to use again in order to feel any type of pleasure.
  • In addition, drugs and alcohol also affect the danger-sensing part of the brain making the addict feel anxious and stressed when they are not using. At this point, they are using for stress relief rather than pleasure.

Impact of Addiction on Children

  • Children with alcoholic or drug addicted parents often experience depression and anxiety, as well as poor self-image.
  • In addition, children raised by alcoholics are four times more likely to become an addict themselves.
  • Studies have shown that children of addicts have more stress-related physical illnesses such as asthma and colitis.
  • Children of addicts have higher incidences of psychological disorders such as ADHD, eating disorders, and anti-social personality disorders.
  • Educational impacts of parental addiction includes truancy and delinquency, mainly due to lack of energy, tension and worry at home, and taking on inappropriate responsibilities at home.