Psychosocial distress, physical illness, and social behaviour of close relatives to people with substance use disorders

Jóna Ólafsdóttir, Tarja Orjasniemi, Steinunn Hrafnsdóttir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study explores how a family member with substance use disorder (SUD) affects the psychosocial, behavioral, and physical states of other family members. Sixteen in-depth interviews with relatives of Icelandic individuals afflicted with SUD were performed. The interviewees were selected from a pool of Icelandic families whose members included one or more chronic SUD users. They represented different relations to the user (spouses, parents, children, and siblings) and both genders. All participants except for siblings expressed that SUD had negatively affected their mental health by inducing depression, anxiety, and stress-related physical illness. All had experienced physical violence, mental abuse and financial loss. Parents indicated that the SUD of the family member had isolating psychosocial impacts on their children and caused a loss of connection among their family members. All participants, except the siblings, regarded their workplace as a shelter. The study’s findings can help social professionals to better understand the effects of SUD on families, family systems, and public health in general.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-154
JournalThe Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Domestic violence
  • families
  • harms to other
  • mental and physical disorder
  • social behavior
  • substance use disorder
  • SUD

Field of science

  • Social work


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