"I can't live like that": the experience of caregiver stress of caring for a relative with substance use disorder

Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2021 Jan 15;16(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s13011-021-00344-3.


Background: The impact of addiction extends beyond the individual using a substance. Caring for an individual with addiction creates persistent stressful circumstances that cause worry, anger, depression, shame, guilt, anxiety, and behavioral problems within the family unit.

The aim of the study: The paper aims to explore the experiences of caring for a relative with a substance use disorder (SUD) and self-care strategies caregivers employ.

Methods: The study adopted an exploratory qualitative design. To be included in the study, participants were required to have a relative with a (SUD) disorder and not be actively using the substance themselves. Individual interviews were conducted to gather their experiences, meanings, and how they made sense of caring for a relative with a SUD.

Results: Twenty one participants were involved in the study, of which 17 were women, and four were men of which there had a sister, four had a brother, eight had a parent, six had a dependent, and one participant had a grandparent with a SUD. Four themes, whose overarching focus is the pains of living and caring for a family with a SUD, caused the participants and how the participants mitigated these experiences CONCLUSION: The stress associated with caring for individuals with a SUD impacts the caregiver's physical and mental health. Specific care modalities targeting caregivers need to be developed to address the health impact and to support self-care.

Keywords: Caregiver distress; Self-care; Substance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Qualitative Research
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / therapy