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My Child is an Addict

Addiction is never easy, especially when dealing with a loved one such as your children. In the event of being labeled an addict or the parent of one, there are many steps one can take to prevent the decline into addiction.

parents of addicts

Addiction is classified as a disease that causes changes in one’s brain structure. Parents of addicts may find that their children suffer changes to their decision making and learning abilities. They may also find that addicted individuals are less aware of their common sense and have become more impulsive.

Due to addictive properties, alcohol and drugs are the main driving factor; once a person becomes addicted, their brain suffers changes because it is constantly being exposed.

Addictive substances actually have the ability to rewire how the brain functions. Therefore, addiction in children and teens is more harmful than it would be to a fully developed adult. The rational part of a teen’s brain is thought to mature through the age of twenty-five. When addictive substances are involved in teens and children, the damage they suffer to their brain can be permanent. 

How Substance Use Disorder Affects Children and Teens

Addiction in children and teens can be harmful to their development as their brains are not fully developed. Studies show that physical changes to the brain have occurred due to alcohol and drugs in teens. 

Altering the brain with substances like drugs and alcohol can cause harm to cognitive functions. Cognitive functions include memory, observation, feeling or sensing, spatial skills, and functioning abilities. 

The early development of addiction in children can also increase the chances of being diagnosed with mental health disorders. 

Alcohol and narcotic substances cause chemical and neural imbalances that lead to mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety. Addiction triggers mental health disorders more quickly, especially when one is prone to them through family history. 

There are many factors that can play into the development of addiction in one individual, and each case is different. Some parents think the sole reason for developing these behaviors is due to bad company, but there are many other influences. 

Some advice for parents of addicts is to closely monitor their child’s development in and out of school.

How Addiction Occurs

There are many links to addiction, however, only a few have been proven to play a key role in the development.


Research and various studies found that individuals raised in unhealthy environments are a factor in developing addictive behaviors. The lack of a healthy home environment can lead to feelings of instability, insecurity, and lack of control. Establishing these characteristics does not mean one faces the dark hole of addiction because there are other telling factors. 


Traumatic experiences are another common occurrence in the development of addiction. Oftentimes, the root of early substance abuse stems from a traumatic experience faced as a child. Even if raised in a healthy environment, individuals are subject to witnessing violence or tragic events that can lead to trauma. 

Mental Illness

Addiction can also develop from mental illness. The idea of developing addiction from a mental illness has never been proven, but it can trigger substance abuse ideations. For example, taking a substance like Ritalin for mental illness can lead to addiction if not taken properly. Those that suffer from mental illness such as anxiety or depression may try and self-medicate with the idea of addictive substances or alcohol. 


parents of addictsAlthough there can be so many factors, there is one link that remains the most effective in the development of addictive behaviors: genetics. If your child does not fall under the above categories, it could be due to genetics. 

Many studies and researches have proven the link between genetics and family history and the role in addiction development; there have been specific genes linked to the development. 

For example, if both parents of an addict have a history of abuse on their side, their children are immediately put at risk for addictive behaviors. 

A study conducted on twins revealed that genes are 50% to 60% responsible for the development of substance use disorders. This statistic proves that genetics are not the only variant responsible for addictive behaviors, but the above-mentioned variants will also play a factor. This means that it most likely takes more than one variant to develop addictive behaviors. 

Being the possible parent of a drug addict can be disheartening, but discovering how these properties developed can prevent future addictive behaviors.

Signs of Addiction

Addiction is a slow process that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks or months of drug and alcohol abuse to build an addictive cycle. Many children and teens can get away with addiction to alcohol and drugs because parents don’t realize the early signs of addiction. 

For possible parents of addicts, some common signs in children and teenage addiction can be:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Acting extra secretive in their behavior 
  • Acting manipulative or lying more
  • Rapid speech
  • Missing curfew
  • Performance issues in school that cause grades to drop
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Loss of interest in activities 
  • Loss of interest in friendships 
  • Changes to sleeping habits
  • Changes to eating habits
  • Lack of proper hygiene
  • The smell of alcohol on breath or clothes
  • The smell of smoke on breath or clothes 
  • Doesn’t look or act like themselves

Some advice for parents of addicts is to monitor their child for early signs of addiction. It is important to note that some of these behaviors are common as your child is still a teenager. 

How to Address Addiction Issues In Your Children

For parents of addicts, it can be hard to communicate with your children and teenagers. Trying to understand their mindset and behavior can be even more difficult.

parents of addicts

For starters, take into account what your child might be feeling. Pick a good time and place to sit down with them and have a candid conversation. If they’re feeling comfortable, they should be open and intimate with you. 

If they are attacked with questions or accusations, they may be more inclined to lie and become closed off. Try not to accuse your child of addiction without understanding their reasoning. They could be declining due to social influence and the image of fitting in; it could also be the result of your child wanting to explore a more independent side where they’re treated as more of an adult. 

If you decide to sit down with your child to ultimately discuss addiction, it should be focused on dialogue and not a mini monologue. Try to remain calm and supportive no matter your child’s approach to you. Explain your feelings and concerns as a parent with addictive behaviors. 

If you and your child seem to be in agreement, suggest some rules that could help them decline in their addictive behaviors. As a parent, you should assure your child you are there for them no matter the consequences. You should be open to their questions and concerns as well. 

Family History

Furthermore, if you are asking them about their alcohol and drug history, they also have the right to know about family history. 

As a possible parent of an addict, opening up about family history and personal stories could make your child aware of the risks associated with addiction. If your child is aware of the risks, they may be more inclined to make better life decisions. 

If your child admits to using drugs or alcohol, the best advice is to not resort to punishment; parents of addicts must work to be welcoming and understanding if they want to keep a close relationship with their child. 

Parents can also ask themselves:

  • Will my child be able to work through their issues without guidance from professionals?
  • Will my child be able to concentrate on school and personal activities while staying active in home life?
  • Can they become sober individuals while surrounded by other teenage peers?
  • Can my child live a full life while still addicted to alcohol or drugs?

Common Advice From Other Parents of Addicts

Previous families that have overcome the disease of addiction recommend using “I” statements. An “I” statement is one that forces an individual to reveal what they are feeling in a non-assertive way. Some use these statements to take responsibility for how they feel or what they think without placing blame. In some cases, an “I” statement can be assertive but hold a less-hostile and compassionate undertone. 

Choosing the correct words in an “I” statement can be challenging, but it can also be the difference in having a talk or an argument. 

In the case of parents with addicted children, they can use this tactic to let their children know they are listening. They can also use this to create a form of trust by saying something like, “If you don’t tell me where you go at night, I can’t be there to help if something goes wrong.”

Parents of addicts can use this advice in many case scenarios such as when they are trying to communicate with their children, they could start with “I feel like…” or “So what I’m understanding is…” By doing this, even in any conversation, the individual should feel as if they are being heard. 

Treatment Options

For parents of drug addicts, the best advice is to seek treatment with or for them as soon as possible. Seeking help in the early stages of addiction can be beneficial as it will improve the chances of your child becoming happy and healthy again.

Some common rehab options may include group therapy, family counseling, a teen rehab program, and inpatient or outpatient rehab. 

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a common form of psychotherapy offered at private therapeutic practices, hospitals, mental health clinics, and community centers. Directed by one or more therapists, this therapy is popular among those who need help with communication and socialization skills. It also allows those who participate in this therapy to learn how to express their issues and accept criticism. Also, by listening to others one can become more self-aware.

Family Counseling

Family counseling is designed specifically for families or couples that face difficulties in their home and personal relationships. A family counseling session will work to nurture change and development within that family unit. A professional psychologist aims to improve communication, resolve current conflicts, and prevent future breakouts. 

Teen Rehab Program

parents of addictsFor parents of addicts, a teen program can be beneficial as it strives to focus on the psychological and emotional needs of teenagers. The amount of guidance needed in teenagers compared to adults is more extreme. Due to this, a therapist will focus on critical elements of the recovery process. 

While most recovery sessions follow a set program, therapists will tailor sessions to specific needs. Teen rehab programs that recognize the difference between adult and teenage addiction will help your child get the most effective treatment. 

Clients will be surrounded by like-individuals in a controlled environment. Just like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, this community setting gives teens a place to share their experiences.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment programs for teens offer 24-hour care to families facing drug and alcohol addiction. During an inpatient treatment stay, the client will typically be separated by gender and age from others. 

If your child is facing withdrawal symptoms this may be the best option; a doctor will be able to treat a life-threatening withdrawal episode. While enrolled in an inpatient program, therapists will teach teens how to quit being dependent upon drugs or alcohol. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is available to those teens that can remain under parental supervision. While participating in outpatient treatment, one can stay in school and continue daily activities. 

As long as they receive emotional support while undergoing treatment, the addicted individual is usually responsive to treatment.  

Before the option of rehab for teens, they were treated as adults with techniques tailored to adults. Now, it’s understood that teens face a better option for rehab as they need treatment with a different focus. 

Let Phoenix Rising Help You Today

For parents with addicted children, it may be difficult to see the old version of your child, but with the correct guidance and rehab facility, they can become the child you once knew and raised. Contact us for help with addictive behaviors in your children today.