It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, but there is support out there to navigate this rocky road.
How can you tell if your child is abusing drugs or alcohol? Look out for the following if you’re worried that your child may be using illegal drugs.
What Can I Do If My Child Is An Addict?
Change In Appearance
Take a careful look at your child after a night out socialising with friends. Do they have heavy-lidded, red eyes with diluted pupils? Does their face look flushed or puffy? Do they reek of smoke? Are they sniffing incessantly? These are all signs that it may be more than just alcohol that they consumed.
Changes In Behaviour
Do they lash out with extreme anger or argue with siblings? If normally stable relationships with other family members are being affected, then your child could be under the influence. Look out for other warning signs, such as staying out all night, asking for money, stealing your credit card, disappearing for long periods of time, or reckless driving. You may notice unstable moods, such as sudden excitability or restless behaviour, poor coordination, very fast or slow speech and a drastic change in appetite.
Ways To Cope
It can be very distressing if your child is addicted to drugs or alcohol, but resist the temptation to live in denial or blame yourself. What’s essential is putting in place coping strategies for you, and setting clear boundaries for yourself and your child.
Here are some ways to help:
Seek Professional Help
Talk to your child about the possibility of recovery using addiction treatment. If you’re based in the US, take a look at New Life House Recovery Community which helps teenage boys of 18 and upwards develop healthy strategies for sober living in South California. There will be drug rehabilitation services wherever you live, so do not hesitate to contact them.
Set Clear Expectations
Be clear and consistent with your expectations, including what you will and won’t tolerate from your child. Make sure you follow through with consequences if those boundaries are crossed. You may need to show your child tough love, for example, asking them to leave or changing the locks if they continue to use drugs in the house.
Stop Enabling Them
You may be protecting your child from the consequences of their actions, or taking on the burden of their actions yourself. Instead focus on what you want, which is their long-term recovery, rather than make excuses for your child or seek their short-term comfort.
Arrange An Intervention
An intervention is a carefully planned process undertaken by family and friends, and a trained drug or alcohol counselor. The process of intervention involves confronting your child with the consequences of their addiction, and asking them to accept treatment right away. If you’re considering an intervention, you could include the following points for your child:
Outlining specific examples of your child’s destructive behaviors and the effects on your family and friends
Providing a previously arranged treatment plan with clear guidelines and outcomes
Spelling out what each person will do if your child refuses treatment
Planning An Intervention
You will need to involve various professionals as well as a trusted family member or friend. Relevant experts will include a professional counselor, addiction professional, psychologist, mental health counselor and social worker.
It’s best to research the specific condition of your child and appropriate treatment programs, including initiating contact to enrol your child. Then set a time, date and location for the intervention and rehearse a consistent message and structured plan which focuses on facts, rather than emotional responses. Be prepared to get your child started immediately with treatment if they agree to the plan.