How to Deal With a Drug Addict Daughter or Son
In This Article
What Causes Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is influenced by many factors, including gender, ethnicity, past experiences, age, mental health disorders, and environment.
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 1 6 years old. Women commonly initiate substance use during adolescence, often due to the stress and pressures experienced in this transitional period in their lives.
Most of the time, parents with drug-addicted daughters do not know what to do to help their children. This is because they do not understand the reasons behind their child's behavior.
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
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.
Signs Your Daughter May Be Addicted to Drugs
Depending on the kind of drug that your drug-addicted daughter 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
How to Deal With a Drug Addict Daughter (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. 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, 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.
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 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 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.
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 abuse continues, the more difficult it becomes to kick the habit.
Different drug addiction treatment options include inpatient, outpatient, detox, and partial hospitalization programs. These can be done inside or outside a treatment center.
The best treatment option depends on the child’s unique needs and the severity of the addiction. If your daughter has a co-occurring condition, such as a mental illness, seek help immediately.
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 drug and alcohol addiction and the process of recovery. They can 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.
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, Feb. 2003.
- NIDA. "Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts," National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 Jun. 2018.
- NIDA. "Substance Use in Women DrugFacts," National Institute on Drug Abuse, 22 Jan. 2020.
- “Study Shows Rising Age of First Drug Use in Teens, Young Adults,” Washington State University. 2 Mar. 2020.
- “Teen Drug Abuse: 14 Mistakes Parents Make,” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 20 Apr. 2011.
- Wallace, Kelly. “Being an Addict's Mom: 'It's Just a Very, Very Sad Place',” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Aug. 2014.