Support for Parents of Addiction

Every parent looks at their new baby and envisions a bright future. So, parents may feel lost on how to help when their child begins using drugs or alcohol. But, this guide provides help for parents of drug addicts.

Is Addiction a Choice? Help for Parents of Drug Addicts

When seeking help for parents of drug addicts, some are shocked to find addiction is not a choice. In fact, it is a chronic disease that can have long-term effects on the brain. The more a child consumes and the longer they struggle with addiction, the more the brain changes. The areas most commonly affected are responsible for learning, impulse control, decision-making, and more. 

Substance use disorder or addiction rewires and changes the brain. And, when young children struggle with addiction, the effects are even more severe. Because the brain of children and teens is still maturing, this damage can be permanent. 

Addiction

Effects of Substance Use Disorder on the Young Brain

For example, substance use at a young age can physically change the brain. Addiction can alter various cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and spatial skills. Learning skills, for instance, are limited with marijuana use at a young age.

Using drugs or alcohol at a young age can also accelerate mental disorder development. Addiction causes chemical and neural imbalances. These same imbalances are also inherent to mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. For this reason, addiction can trigger mental disorders if a person is prone to them.

What Causes Addiction in Children and Teens?

Help for a parent of a drug addict explains that there is typically more than one reason for the addiction. Many factors play a role in the development of addiction. Above all, each child’s substance use disorder is unique. 

Many parents want to blame the “bad crowd” their child is hanging out with. And, yes, that could play a factor. However, that generally isn’t the only reason.

Family History and Genetics

Studies and research by the NIH prove that family history and genetics play a role in a person’s predisposition to addiction. In fact, specific genes are linked to addiction. For this reason, a child with parents struggling with substance use disorder is at a higher risk.

Home Environment

addiction support

A child’s home environment can also play a role in substance use. For instance, an unhealthy home can lead to emotional instability, constant insecurity, and the feeling of no control. At the same time, these feelings can lead to self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.

Trauma

Substance misuse at a young age is often because of traumatic experiences. Even in healthy households, any level of abuse or witnessing a tragic event can cause trauma. These experiences can trigger mental health disorders, including substance use disorder. The lack of treatment for any mental illness increases the risk of misusing drugs or alcohol.

Mental Health Issues

A child’s or teen’s mental health is a significant factor in the development of addiction. Some children are given medications to treat these disorders. And while it isn’t always the case, some medicines can lead to dependence and addiction. 

Common co-occurring mental health disorders include:

  • Depression
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Medications and Alcohol

Ritalin, for example, is often prescribed to children with ADHD. When it is not taken correctly, it can quickly lead to addiction. Drinking alcohol is another substance many children and teens use to cope with anxiety or depression. Substance use disorder, along with another mental health disorder, is called a dual diagnosis.

Signs of Addiction: Help for Parent of Drug Addict

If parents start to suspect their child is struggling with addiction, there are signs to look for. Addiction doesn’t happen overnight; it is a process. So, some of these signs may have nothing to do with addiction. However, symptoms of substance misuse may include:

  • Lack of hygiene and diminished personal appearance
  • Loss of interest in friends and activities
  • Grades dropping
  • Getting in trouble at school
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Smells like smoke/alcohol
  • Overtly secretive most of the time
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Lying and manipulating
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Emotional instability
  • Lack of concentration and memory

Some of these signs and behaviors, such as rapid speech and missing curfew, can be signs of a substance use disorder. However, they can also be normal teenage behaviors. So, before approaching your child, make sure to contextualize the actions.

Most help for parents of drug addicts says the same thing – if you want to confirm suspicions, ask your child directly. Furthermore, it is essential to keep an open dialogue with your child. Discuss the hard to talk about issues, but keep it age-appropriate. But above all, if you suspect your child is already experimenting, it is crucial to have that talk now. 

Talking to Your Child about Substance Use Disorder

It is essential to understand your child’s mindset when talking to them. Social influences are particularly challenging when talking to teens. First, many teens’ self-image and identity are based on “fitting in” and social approval. At the same time, they may be exploring their independence and don’t want to be treated like a child. 

Pick a Good Time and Place

Picking the right time and place to talk to your child or teen about addiction is vital. Trying to have a conversation between appointments can cut the conversation short. So, have the talk after dinner or during family time. If your child feels comfortable and not ambushed, they are more willing to open up. 

Do Not Make Accusations or Threats

Crucial advice in help for parents of addicts is never to make threats or accuse your child of using drugs or alcohol. The accusations will make them less willing to be open. Therefore, parents should remain calm, be supportive, and remind them you’re always there for them.

Explain the thoughts and feelings behind why you are skiing them about substance use. For instance, If you give them rules, explain why and they are more likely to listen. So if you ask them if they are using, explaining why you’re asking allows them to be open about why they are using. 

Encourage Open Dialogue

addicts and support

Encourage your children and teens to speak to you. And, not just when you ask them too. Don’t ask “yes” or “no” questions but ones that require further explanation. In the same way, parents must be honest with their children. 

Now is a perfect time to discuss a family history of addiction, if there is one. Parents should also talk about the experience to show the struggles of addiction on the family. By knowing the truth about how bad life can be, children are more likely to make positive choices. 

Use “I” Statements

Another way to keep your children and teenagers talking is to use “I” statements. For instance, “when you don’t tell me what you’re doing, I can’t help you if you need something.” Making the topic of addiction the same it provides help for parent of a drug addict. 

Using “I” statements also lets them know you are listening and not just talking. By saying “ I feel like..” and “What I understand is…” it shows you are listening. Moreover, make the conversation a dialogue and not a monologue.

Explain the Dangers

Parents should explain why substance misuse is dangerous, not just why it is wrong. Children and teens already know drugs are illegal. So, explain why they are bad for them. Also, make sure they understand your concerns.

Don’t Punish

If your child or teen admits to any substance use, do not punish them. Instead, parents should explain why their child should seek treatment. But, above all, parents need to reassure their children they always have their support.

Seeking Treatment for Substance Use Disorder

No matter the cause, addiction at an early age is a delicate situation and needs to be addressed. However, seeking treatment as soon as possible can improve your child’s chance of becoming healthy adults free from addiction. It’s essential for parents and their children to understand there is help available.

Children and teens require different treatment than adults. For this reason, it’s crucial to find a program that addresses their unique needs. While some addictions need the supervision of inpatient treatment, others can see benefits in outpatient treatment.

Furthermore, you may have an adult child struggling with substance use disorder. And, as a parent, of course, you are concerned about their health and wellness. Addiction at any age affects the entire family. For this reason, support groups provide help for parents of addicts of any age. 

Seeking Treatment at Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center

Our team at Sana Lake BWC is committed to providing children and teens struggling with addiction with the best care and recovery journey. But, addiction also affects the whole family. So, our family program works to rebuild the trust and harmony within the family. Contact us today to find out more. 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2827693/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4297729/

https://drugfree.org/how-to-confront-your-child-about-drug-use-understand-reasons-why-help-them-get-support/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preventing-drug-misuse-addiction-best-strategy