How to Deal With a Drug Addict Daughter or Son
In This Article
What Causes Drug Addiction?
Like other mental health problems, many factors contribute to drug addiction. These factors include a variety of genetic and environmental influences, such as:
- Past experiences
- Mental health disorders
- Genetic disposition
- Family history of addiction
- Social pressures
- Domestic situation or environment
- Early exposure to addictive substances
The average age that young people begin using drugs is just 16 years old. Most of the time, parents with drug-addicted children don't know what to do. However, there are steps you can take as a parent to help your child.
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8 Ways to Help A Drug-Addicted Daughter or Son
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. Approach Them the Right Way
Talking to your child about their addiction can be a delicate topic. Remember to express your feelings without judgment when approaching your child about the subject.
It's best to approach your child with empathy and compassion. Addiction is a disease that should be addressed with sympathy, so avoid accusatory language or a confrontational attitude.
2. Confirm the Problem
Talk to your child and pay close attention to any signs of drug abuse. Schedule a check-up with a medical doctor or physician. They 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 different factors of their drug use, including:
- The severity of the substance use disorder (SUD)
- The length of drug use
- The type of drug used
- The amount of damage the drug has caused
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. The parent-child relationship should 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, or deny their addiction. Ignoring the severity of the problem allows your 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. 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 you should let them feel the consequences of their actions. This type of tough love can help them understand the problem and change.
5. Address Underlying Issues in Therapy
Drug abuse is often a consequence of underlying mental health conditions. Because of this, you should encourage your child to attend therapy.
This will help them address any mental health issues contributing to their addiction. Addressing these issues can help decrease your child's dependency on drugs.
Addiction is a family disease, so you should consider attending family therapy programs. An addict's family often has to deal with the consequences of their addiction, causing an unhappy environment. Meeting with a licensed counselor can help families find a way forward.
6. Stage an Intervention
For an addicted child who is resistant to treatment, staging an addiction intervention can be a powerful way to get them into treatment. Professional interventionists can 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 for those who 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. Your child's addiction can significantly impact your life and relationships.
Take actions to support your well-being, such as attending therapy, support groups, or 12-step programs. Having friends who listen to you can provide emotional support. Meanwhile, a therapist can help guide you throughout the process.
Reasons Why Your Daughter is Abusing Drugs
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.
Women commonly initiate substance use during adolescence, often due to the stress and pressures experienced in this transitional period. Young women who are victims of domestic violence are also at an increased risk of substance abuse.
Women also respond to substances differently than men and often get addicted to drugs faster. They tend to have more drug cravings and may be more likely to relapse after treatment.
Factors That Cause Your Daughter's Drug Abuse
There are different reasons why your daughter is abusing drugs. These include:
- Appearance and weight issues
- Conduct disorders
- Exposure to drug abuse at home
- Having low self-esteem
- History of abuse, whether physical or sexual
- Lack of confidence
- Poor relationship with parents
- Pressure from friend
- School or work problems
Sexual or physical abuse can also increase the likelihood of addiction. These women are twice as likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs than those who were not abused in childhood.
Signs Your Child May Be Addicted to Drugs
Depending on the kind of drug your child is using, some signs of drug addiction may not be too obvious. Look for signs and symptoms that seem unusual for your daughter.
Signs that your daughter may be addicted to drugs include:
- Abrupt changes in weight (losing or gaining weight)
- Bloodshot eyes
- Breaking off mid-conversation or difficulty following a conversation
- Frequent, rapid blinking of the eyes
- Money problems
- Poor motor coordination
- Personality changes
- Pupillary dilation
- Slurred speech
Treatment Options for Your Child’s Addiction
2.08 million children between 12 and 17 have reported using drugs. If left untreated, drug use can cause an enormous strain on the family. At worst, it can take a considerable toll on the addicted child's life.
Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available to help your child recover from their addiction. Treatments for drug addiction include:
- Inpatient treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Intensive outpatient treatment
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)
- Dual-diagnosis treatment
- Support groups
- 12-step programs
If you believe your child has an active addiction, contact a professional right away. The longer that substance abuse continues, the more difficult it becomes to kick the habit. Speak with an addiction specialist to help you better understand the best treatment program for your child.
Many factors affect how your child becomes addicted to drugs. Regardless, helping an addicted child can be a stressful ordeal, but there are ways to help them.
It would be best if you confront your child with concern and support. It's important to avoid using accusatory language and blaming them for their addiction. You should also avoid enabling their behavior.
Seeking medical and professional help can help your child recover from their addiction. You should also know that different treatment options can cater to your child's needs.
Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
- “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, 2003.
- NIDA. "Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts," National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018.
- NIDA. "Substance Use in Women DrugFacts," National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.
- “Study Shows Rising Age of First Drug Use in Teens, Young Adults,” Washington State University, 2020.
- “Teen Drug Abuse: 14 Mistakes Parents Make,” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 2011.
- Wallace, Kelly. “Being an Addict's Mom: 'It's Just a Very, Very Sad Place',” CNN, Cable News Network, 2014.
- NIDA. "Genetics and Epigenetics of Addiction DrugFacts." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019.
- NCDAS. "Drug Use Among Youth: Facts & Statistics" National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 2022.