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August 1980

Family Ties of Heroin Addicts

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(8):889-894. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780210047004

• Families of black, male heroin addicts of low socioeconomic class were compared with families of schizophrenics and highachieving normal controls. The hypothesis was that heroin addicts are enmeshed with their parents or parental surrogates in alliances across generational lines and in reversals of the hierarchical organization of their families that, clinically, appear to perpetuate the addictive behavior. Family members chose representations of their hierarchical relations to show closeness and distance between family members. There were significant differences among the three groups. Heroin addicts' families had the highest number of representations in which offspring were equal to or higher in the hierarchy than the parental generation and in which closeness was represented between two family members across generational lines. High achievers' families had the lowest scores; schizophrenics' families were in the middle. The results support clinical observations of heroin addicts' families and offer a guide for therapy.

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