As a parent, you become used to the idea that there are many challenges and difficulties in life that you will have to help your child work through. After all, life is tough, and learning how to operate in it while also working through the challenges of growing up can make it even more so. It is a parent’s undying love for their child that aids them in weathering any storm that arises, and in teaching their child the basic values that will guide them in making the wisest choices they can make. However, despite a parent’s love for their child and willingness to help them through anything they encounter in life, few parents are prepared to cope with the overwhelming and complex problem that is a child’s drug addiction.
Coping With an Addicted Child
While there are some parents who themselves struggle with drug abuse and addiction problems, and who may not, therefore, be incredibly surprised when their child also turns to drug use, most parents are completely surprised by this turn of events. Children who are raised in loving, supportive, calm and happy homes who yet turn to drug use can thoroughly immerse their parents in a state of confusion. It is not unusual for parents to struggle with a range of emotions, including fear and anger, and experience a bunch of pressing questions in the wake of discovering their child’s drug use. They may wonder why and how their child turned to drug use, and if anything they did or failed to do drove this decision. Unfortunately, none of this wondering can change the fact of their child’s drug problems or help their child overcome these problems.
Drug use normally begins in response to some problems in the individual’s life. For a teenager, this problem could be as simple as curiosity and peer pressure or as complex as loneliness and depression. Many teenagers experiment with drug use for a very short period of time and then discard it altogether as worthless. Others, however, struggle with drug abuse and addiction and need help in order to resolve it. Since few teenagers will openly admit to their parents, or anyone else for that matter, that they are struggling with drug use, the first step to helping them is recognizing that they have a problem.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has listed some basic signs and symptoms of drug abuse and addiction. These signs and symptoms include bloodshot eyes or abnormally enlarged pupils, frequent nosebleeds, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, sudden weight loss or weight gain, seizures, unexplained injuries, accidents or bruises, shakiness, tremors, slurred speech, impaired coordination, problems at school, loss of interest in formerly enjoyed extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise, stealing, changes in relationships or friends, dramatic mood changes, irritability or sudden and unexplainable outbursts of anger or laughter and more.
When you suspect that drug abuse or addiction is occurring in your child, it is your right and responsibility to take immediate action. Dealing with the challenges of growing up in a noisy, distracting, dangerous and difficult world is only compounded by drug abuse or addiction, and your quick action can prevent disaster from occurring. The first thing you need to do is have an open and honest discussion with your child about their drug use. It’s important to be calm and non-judgmental so that they recognize your desire to help them. It’s true that they may still become angry about this “intrusion” into their lives and private affairs and unwilling to admit to or talk about their problems, but you must calmly persist until they are willing to do so. You can ask them questions like when they began their drug use, what drugs they have used and are using currently, what they feel like when they are using drugs, what they feel like when they aren’t using drugs and whether they would like to recover from drug use.
Once your child has admitted to their drug problems and their desire for help, you need to enroll them in addiction treatment. While taking into account the fact that different addiction treatment programs bring about different degrees of success in different individuals, you should definitely consider the benefits offered by inpatient treatment. With inpatient treatment, your child would be removed from their normal life environments and routines and placed in a safe and drug-free environment for the duration of their treatment program. This can be wonderfully helpful in allowing them to disconnect from any desire or pressure to use drug substances while they work to take back control of their life and their future. Ultimately, it is their ability to live a healthy, happy and productive life without drug substances that is most important, and eliminating much of the turmoil and noise of adolescence while they address the many causes and effects of drug use can make this possible.
Regardless of whatever recovery path your child chooses to take, it is important to remember that your love, encouragement and support are critical to their success. Obtaining information about drug abuse, addiction and recovery as well as receiving your own encouragement and support can help to make this possible.