Drug addiction is a potentially life-threatening problem with suicidal ramifications. Within the family of the addict, the addiction takes on a special, participatory meaning; the addicted member is treated as one undergoing a slow death. These families attach special significance to death and give it considerable emphasis. This appears to arise from unresolved and premature deaths experienced by the family, particularly the parents. The addict is substituted for the deceased member. Treatment can deal with these issues directly through making the mourning explicit. The death issue can also serve as a vehicle for family change.