What Causes Drug Addiction?

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Drug addiction is influenced by many factors, including gender, ethnicity, past experiences, age, mental health disorders, and environment.

AG Girl Addicted to exercising

Women respond to substances differently than men and often get addicted to drugs faster than men. They tend to have more drug cravings and may be more likely to relapse after treatment. Women who are victims of domestic violence are at increased risk of substance use, and young women are at greater risk of drug use and addiction than older women.

The earlier an individual starts using drugs, the more likely it will progress to addiction. Drug use is a particular risk for young adults because their brains are still developing, and they are more prone to risky behaviors, including trying drugs.

The average age that young people begin using drugs is just 16 years old. Women commonly initiate substance use during adolescence, often due to the stress and pressures experienced in this transitional period in their lives.

Common reasons that women start taking drugs during young womanhood include:

  • Depression and mental illnesses
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Stress and inability to cope
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social pressures
  • Academic pressures
  • Lack of parent-child communication

Girls who have been victims of abuse are more likely to use or misuse drugs. Among all young people in drug addiction treatment, nearly twice as many girls as boys report sexual or physical abuse in their lifetime. Girls who have experienced physical or sexual abuse are also twice as likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs than those who were not abused in childhood.

How to Deal With a Drug Addict Daughter or Son (8 Tips for Parents of Adult Drug Addicts)

Dealing with an addicted child is one of the most challenging situations any parent can face. If your child is addicted to drugs, here are some steps you can take:

1. Confirm the problem

Confirm that your child has an active drug addiction. Pay close attention to any telltale signs of drug abuse. Schedule a check-up for them with a medical doctor or physician, who can evaluate your child on a physical and psychological basis. A physician can run tests and determine whether your child has been using drugs. These tests can reveal the severity of the substance use disorder (SUD), the length of drug use, which drugs they are using, and how much damage has occurred.

2. Approach them the right way

When you decide to approach your child about their drug use, remember to express your feelings without judgment. Avoid a confrontation; instead, approach them with empathy and compassion. The disease of addiction should be addressed as such, rather than something that is worthy of blame or guilt.

3. Encourage them to seek treatment

Encourage your loved one to address their addiction and attend treatment. If they are unwilling to participate in therapy or treatment alone, offer support by attending sessions or treatment with them. It’s better for the parent-child relationship to encourage the child to make their own decisions, rather than threaten them. 

4. Don’t enable them

Make your stance on their drug abuse loud and clear. Don’t excuse, justify, ignore, deny, and smooth over the addiction, which allows your addicted son or daughter to avoid facing the full consequences of their addiction. Set boundaries with them and let them know that you do not support their drug abuse through your words and actions.

Some actions you can do to discourage drug use include:

  • Withholding money (to avoid financing drug purchases)
  • Not bailing them out of school or work problems or even jail
  • Drug testing

While many parents want to protect their children from everything, sometimes letting them feel the repercussions of their actions is precisely the type of tough love that will compel them to change. 

5. Address underlying issues in therapy

Your son or daughter’s addiction will have an impact on the rest of your family. Family members of addicts absorb many of the consequences of their loved one’s substance use. Family members can also become distant and blame themselves when the addiction persists or blame the addicted person for their unhappiness.


Drug abuse impacts the whole family, and meeting with a licensed counselor can help families find a path forward. Family therapy programs can help family members understand themselves and each other and work through conflict in a healthy way. 

Because mental health is a major contributing factor to drug use or misuse, parents should encourage their children to attend treatment to address any underlying mental health issues contributing to their addiction. Addressing underlying mental health issues such as depression may help decrease dependency on drugs and help the addicted person learn healthier coping skills.

6. Stage an Intervention

For an addicted child who is resistant to getting treatment, staging an addiction intervention can be a powerful way to get them into treatment. Professional interventionists help create a psychologically and physically safe environment to convince a son or daughter to accept drug or alcohol treatment.

7. Prepare for emergencies

Narcan (or naloxone) is a powerful medication that reverses an opioid overdose’s effects and prevents death. The medication typically works quickly to restore normal respiratory function to those who have overdosed on opioids. However, sometimes it takes longer, depending on which opioid was consumed. Obtaining this life-saving medicine and learning how to use it is vital to protecting your loved one.

8. Practice self-care

Helping a loved one with active drug addiction is a battle that can go on for a prolonged period and can have a significant impact on your own life. Take actions to support your well-being, including attending therapy, support groups, and 12-step groups like Nar-Anon or Al-Anon. It will also help to have a friend who can listen and provide emotional support and a therapist to guide you during this difficult time.

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Treatment Options for Your Child’s Addiction

Two million children between the ages of 12 and 17 need treatment for a substance use problem, but only about 150,000 get the help they need.

If left untreated, drug use can cause an enormous strain on the family and take a considerable toll on the addicted person’s life. Many individuals who are addicted to drugs are experiencing homelessness and severe health problems. An individual with an active addiction is at a greater risk for depression and suicide.

If you believe your child has an active addiction, contact a professional right away. The longer that substance use continues, the more difficult it becomes to kick the habit. Different drug addiction treatment options include inpatient, outpatient, detox, and partial hospitalization programs. The best treatment option depends on the child’s unique needs and the severity of the addiction. The best way to understand the best treatment programs or drug rehab for your child is to speak with an addiction specialist. 

Support for Family Members of Drug Addicts 

One individual’s addiction affects the whole family. Support groups such as Al-Anon, Ala-Teen, and Nar-Anon offer 12-step programs for the families and friends of alcoholics and addicts. These programs provide a support system to help you understand addiction and recovery and help you recover from the emotional toll of the relationship with an active addict.

Questions About Treatment?

When you’re considering which addiction treatment option would be best for your loved one, speak with a professional who is experienced in addiction recovery. For questions about addiction treatment, reach out to a specialist by calling Addiction Group.

Find Help For Your Addiction

You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.

Resources +

“The Formative Years: Pathways to Substance Abuse Among Girls And Young Women Ages 8-22 .” Drugfree.org, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University , Feb. 2003, https://drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/drupal/The-formative-years-pathways-to-substance-abuse-among-girls-and-young-women-ages-8-22_0.pdf

NIDA. "Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 Jun. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction

NIDA. "Substance Use in Women DrugFacts." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 22 Jan. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/substance-use-in-women

“Study Shows Rising Age of First Drug Use in Teens, Young Adults”. Washington State University. 2 Mar. 2020, https://news.wsu.edu/2020/03/02/study-shows-rising-age-first-drug-use-teens-young-adults/

“Teen Drug Abuse: 14 Mistakes Parents Make.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 20 Apr. 2011, www.cbsnews.com/pictures/teen-drug-abuse-14-mistakes-parents-make/

Wallace, Kelly. “Being an Addict's Mom: 'It's Just a Very, Very Sad Place'.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Aug. 2014, www.cnn.com/2014/08/26/living/addiction-parents/index.html

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