Being the parent of a child who is battling addiction can be very challenging. It can be hard to know the right things to say and to do, especially when seeing your child suffering.
This article may help you to understand addiction, as well as guide you toward ways of supporting son or daughter through their addiction, whatever age they are.
What is Drug Addiction?
Addiction is defined as a relapsing brain disease, characterized by drug seeking and drug use despite harmful consequences. Addiction is the most severe element concerning substance use disorders and is considered a mental illness.
Addiction to any substance has no relation to age, meaning that many individuals can develop a substance use disorder in later life. Many parents may be dealing with addiction in an adult child.
The risk factors that may lead to alcohol or drug addiction include:
- Mental health disorders
- Initial alcohol and drug use at a very young age
- Lack of parental support or supervision during childhood or adolescence
- History of addiction
- Poor social skills/ social isolation
- Experiencing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or trauma
Does my Child Have a Drug or Alcohol Problem?
If you are worried about whether your young or adult child has an addiction problem, there are basic warning signs to look out for.
Signs of Drug Addiction
One of the biggest indicators that someone may be suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, or needs drug addiction treatment, is behavioral changes. These include:
- Spending money that they do not have, or overspending on drugs
- Avoiding work, family, or personal obligations or responsibilities
- Lack of interest in hobbies or activities
- Out-of-character behavior, such as stealing
- Secretive behavior or lying about a substance use disorder
- Impeded social functioning
Among psychological signs, a person suffering from addiction may present mood swings, uninhibited behavior, depression, or emotional aggression.
The Dangers of Substance Abuse
Even though there are many dangers associated with drug addiction and substance abuse, a large number of people suffer from drug use disorders. According to the United Nations’ World Drug Report, 35 million people worldwide suffered from drug use disorders in 2019, while only around 14% receive treatment.
As substance abuse progresses, a person may lose relationships with friends or have strain in relationships with family. A person undergoes changes when they have substance use disorders, and they may no longer attend places or see friends that do not allow them to indulge in their addiction.
They may no longer be invited to gatherings or social settings as their behavior may cause discomfort or harm to others around them.
There are also legal dangers involved with drug addiction. It could be in the form of driving under the influence or engaging in risky or drug-seeking behavior. Legal troubles regarding substance abuse are very real and can take many years to come back from.
Physical Health Dangers
There is no denying that any substance abuse takes a toll on a person’s body. Health dangers could be short or long-term and can range from mild to very severe or fatal.
Short-term effects could include impaired judgment, nausea and vomiting, and slurred speech, while long-term damage includes organ damage and failure, cognitive impairment, and death.
Psychological Health Dangers
A person suffering from addiction may have the same genetic factors that predispose them to mental illness. That is why many people who suffer from substance use disorders are often dually diagnosed with co-occurring mental health disorders.
The World Health Organization estimated that a shocking 280 million people in the world had depression in 2021. When a person experiences signs of a mental illness, like depression, they may use drugs or alcohol to cope, making it difficult to treat the underlying issue. As mental health remains untreated, it becomes worse, which makes it even more challenging to deal with life in general.
In other cases, alcohol or drug use can trigger an underlying mental health issue that has not yet manifested. The most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Other people may have hallucinations or live with paranoia.
Many people that undergo substance abuse face traumatic things, like violence, homelessness, or loss of relationships or jobs. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can easily come about as a result of drug addiction.
How do I Help my Son With Drug Addiction?
As a parent, you may feel helpless or powerless when attempting to deal with your child’s addiction, especially when they are old enough to make their own decisions. You may believe that disciplining them will have no effect and yet have the parental instinct to protect them.
Whether young or an adult child, being consumed by your child’s problem will not improve the situation and may cause problems in your own life.
Drug and alcohol addiction breaks the hearts of family members and loved ones as much as it ruins the lives of those suffering from addiction. Knowing how to help your child is very important, and a parent’s unwavering love and support could give them the push they need to become sober.
Usually, there is an enabler within the family of someone suffering from addiction. Perhaps it is a sibling who is willing to hide someone’s actions. In many cases, it is a parent, who could be financially supporting their addiction or may be in denial of their child’s addiction.
Enabling can destroy any recovery process, and is difficult to spot as there is a fine line between helping a child and supporting their addiction.
Parents mustn’t ignore the problem or make excuses for their child’s behavior. It may be especially tempting to help an adult addict with living expenses or other costs when they are most vulnerable, but actions such as completing basic tasks or smothering an addicted child can hamper any chance for progress. To stop enabling an addiction, a parent has to recognize unhealthy behavior, and evaluate whether your help is preventing them from facing the consequences of their actions.
Don’t Play The Blame Game
Not blaming your child can be very hard. After all, the pain they cause to themselves and their loved ones may seem unfair. But it is important to realize that drugs and alcohol are very powerful substances. They can hijack a person’s brain, rewiring it and its reward system, so that your adult son or daughter’s main focus becomes obtaining a substance and consuming it.
Know that your child’s addiction is most probably causing them feelings of being trapped, discouraged, and helpless. Harsh treatment, like phrases such as “I never taught you to behave like this” may increase their feelings of shame and may cause them to become defensive and isolated. Many times, a son or daughter is very concerned about disappointing a parent.
It is important to always address the behavior instead of the person. Judging a child who is suffering from addiction will not mend your relationship, but it is important to express how their actions affect you.
Instead of blaming them, let your child know that they can confide in you and that you are willing to listen without repercussions. This will enable you to discover the extent of their addiction, and what kind of help is needed. It will also improve the establishment of trust, which is crucial in mending relationships.
The blame should not only be avoided toward your child. As a parent, you should not blame yourself either.
It is vital to see addiction as the disease it is. Try to transfer the understanding of other diseases to your daughter or son’s addiction; if they had cancer, you would not blame them or yourself.
The impact of this disease on family members can not be underemphasized, and a person should not feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.
Understanding addiction, the challenges that come with it, and the recovery process, are crucial in supporting your child or children. The only way to support your child’s battle with addiction is to educate yourself about substance abuse and addiction treatment.
Set Boundaries and Take Care of Mental Health
Creating boundaries may appear very difficult in the beginning, but it will strengthen the relationship you have with your child, which can allow both of you to start healing. Setting boundaries may mean telling your son that he must find his own place to live, or saying no to giving them money. Even an adult child may need to learn new boundaries in their relationship with you.
Practicing self-care is essential. It will enable you to lead by example, and ensure that you take care of your mental health, too. If you ignore your own needs, don’t take space, or can’t give up trying to control the situation, your mental health may be greatly affected.
If you are ever feeling irrational, overly emotional, or upset, setting a boundary may come in the form of walking away. Of course, worrying over a child is normal, so it may be best to talk to someone about your child’s addiction, so that you may process your own emotions better.
What does one do when their son or daughter is addicted to drugs or alcohol but does not want to get treatment?
Many parents struggle with the idea of letting go of their children who suffer from addiction, and rightfully so. The endeavor may seem so painful that it may feel impossible. But it is important to know when it is time to let go, without losing hope for their recovery.
While letting go of a drug addict son or daughter may appear like giving up, it may be better than shielding them or pretending that drugs do not affect them. It is important to express the importance of seeking treatment and emphasize the toll addiction may take on their mental health, physical health, finances, and relationships with others and themselves. After that, giving your child space and allowing them to take care of themselves may allow them to seek treatment in their own time
For both you and your child, seek professional help. The most prominent means of helping someone who is fighting addiction is by showing them available treatment, and counselors at a treatment center can help both parents and their addicted children.
Many parents use leverage to persuade their young children to undergo treatment. They may use an incentive to tie treatment to something that a child wants. A parent has to convey to their child the importance of seeking treatment. A professional treatment program at a drug rehab can, among many other things, helps a person learn coping mechanisms.
By gently persuading your son or daughter to seek professional addiction treatment, they may understand the long-term consequences of continued substance abuse, and know that personalized support is there for them.
Seeking help also means involving other family members. Often, family counseling is a crucial part of addiction therapy and addiction recovery. Support groups exist for both a daughter or son’s addiction recovery, and for parents of children battling addiction. A person may meet other parents that are undergoing similar challenges, and this can be of great help.
Rehabilitation for Drug Addiction
It is important to realize that recovery is a lifelong effort. It requires consistent management and support, which is why professional help is so vital.
Drug or alcohol rehabilitation at a treatment center involves supervised care 24/7. This is how a treatment facility can ensure safety, but also provide a supportive environment. Your child will have round-the-clock help available, as well as therapists and counselors to guide them to health and sobriety during and after treatment.
The type of treatment will vary according to the substance a person has used, the length of their addiction, as well as any co-occurring or underlying mental health disorders. Usually, a person undergoes one month of inpatient care, where they reside at a treatment center, followed by two months of outpatient care.
Inpatient care may consist of detox, whereby the substance is allowed to leave a person’s body. This may require the use of medicine, as withdrawal from drug addiction can be severe both physically and mentally. A person will then undergo various forms of therapy, a crucial one of them being cognitive behavioral therapy.
Here, a therapist will help uncover underlying causes for addiction, while helping someone to identify triggers for starting to use again. The therapy gives a person vital tools and skills so that they may replace drug-seeking with healthy habits as a response to these triggers.
Behavioral therapy often goes hand in hand with group therapy, whereby your child will be surrounded by other people who have experienced addiction. Group therapy can teach empathy, and help a person understand that he or she is not alone in their struggles. A community in support of sobriety is vital in preventing relapse.
In outpatient care, an addicted son or daughter resides at their home and comes to the treatment facility for checkups, to attend support groups, or complete after-care treatment activities. Long-term recovery is emphasized in both inpatient and outpatient programs.
Can I Visit my Adult Child While They are Receiving Drug Rehabilitation Treatment?
During the detox period, parents may reach out to a counselor to ensure that their child is safe and is undergoing treatment well. Most centers offer a comfortable environment where family members are welcome and can be present, and can meet the therapists and doctors.
Sometimes, inpatient programs are designed to allow specific visitation. Parents may be urged to take part in counseling or educational programs while their child undergoes therapy.
Can my Adult Child Lose a Job if an Employer Learns About his or her Drug Addiction?
Your adult son or daughter can not lose their job while in treatment, provided that they have sought treatment voluntarily. An employer may terminate an employee who is abusing drugs while working, but an employee seeking help with a substance abuse problem before it interferes with job duties prohibits them from being fired.
An employee can also not be fired due to undergoing drug addiction treatment.
While undergoing drug addiction treatment, people are protected by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The act entitles employees to an unpaid time of twelve weeks for specified family or medical reasons and this includes drug rehab.
Where Can I Find a Treatment Program for Drug Addiction?
Luckily, there is help for dealing with your child’s addiction. Even if your adult son or daughter is struggling, they do still have time to turn their life around.
Crossroads Centre Antigua is here to help. We are an international treatment center that offers individualized drug treatment and support. Our sublime setting provides a calm environment to support abstinence, while caring therapeutic staff can provide tools for maintaining sobriety beyond our center.