Advice For Parents of Addicts

Addiction is never easy, especially as the parent of an addict. Especially because addiction is a disease that changes a person’s brain structure. Parents of addicts may find that their children suffer changes in their decision-making and learning abilities. They may also find addicted individuals are more impulsive than peers or siblings. Addiction is more harmful to children and teens than adults. The rational part of a teen’s brain continues to mature through the age of 25. This is why it is important to learn the advice for parents of addicts listed below.

When children and teens are addicted, the damage to their developing minds can create significant issues into young adulthood. Young adults with addiction might have started using or drinking during childhood. While it’s best to treat these issues early, sometimes, young people don’t realize they need help until adulthood. Fortunately, Phoenix Rising Recovery is here for young adults and their families in need of healing from addiction.

How Substance Use Disorder Affects Parents of AddictsHow Substance Use Disorder Affects Children and Teens

Addiction in children and teens can be harmful because their brains are not fully developed. Studies show that substance use can change the developing brains of children and teens. Altering the brain with substances like drugs and alcohol can harm 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 later in life. Alcohol and drugs cause chemical and neural imbalances that lead to mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety. Therefore, addiction triggers mental health disorders more quickly, especially when one is prone to them through family history. 

Risk Factors for Addiction in Children and Teens

The presence of risk factors for addiction can increase the likelihood of a child developing an addiction. Despite this, understanding risk factors for addiction can help parents of addicts identify the root causes of these issues and get the help that their child needs.


Individuals raised in unhealthy environments might develop addictive behaviors to cope with a stressful upbringing. A child’s environment could include both home life and the community. For example, a child growing up in a community with high rates of drug-related crime or underage drinking is more likely to use substances. Secondly, a home environment with marital strife, lack of financial and emotional security, and little or no structure could also put children at risk of addiction.


Traumatic experiences are another common occurrence in the development of addiction. Often, the root of early substance abuse stems from a traumatic experience faced as a child. Even if raised in a healthy environment, traumatic experiences outside the home can be challenging for young people to manage.

Mental Illness

Addiction can also develop from underlying mental illness. Some children might use substances to cope with mental health symptoms, like anxiety and depression. In addition, children taking prescription drugs for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could develop an addiction to these medications.


Genetics plays a significant role in the development of an addiction. To add, some genes are linked to developing a substance use disorder. Because of these genetic factors, if both parents of an addict have a history of substance abuse in their families, then their children are also at high risk for addictive behaviors. Being the possible parent of a drug addict can be disheartening; however, discovering how addictions develop can prevent future addictive behaviors.

Signs of Substance Abuse in Children and Teens

Addiction is a slow process that doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes weeks or months of drug and alcohol abuse for addiction to take root. Many parents don’t recognize the early signs of addiction. Sometimes, parents can confuse these signs for other issues or assume that they are just “typical teen behaviors.”

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

  • Frequently lying
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Secretive behavior 
  • Rapid speech
  • Missing curfew
  • Decrease in school performance
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Loss of interest in activities 
  • Loss of interest in friendships 
  • Change of primary friend group
  • Reluctant to introduce you to new friends
  • 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 act like themselves

Overall, parents want to look for behaviors that have no other explanations or occur suddenly. Although children go through many changes as they grow up, their parents or guardian should be sure not to write off any extreme or risky behaviors as part of growing up. Significant changes could indicate a substance use disorder or other serious issues.

Advice for Parents of Addicts: Talking to Your Kids About Addiction

Advice for parents of addicts

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

Rather than lecturing or disciplining your child right away, try to understand their behaviors first. Pick a good time and place to sit down with them and have a candid conversation. If they feel comfortable, they should be open and intimate with you. If they feel attacked with questions or accusations, they may be more inclined to lie and become closed off. Instead, try not to accuse your child of addiction without understanding the situation.

If you decide to sit down with your child to discuss addiction, it is best to have an open conversation to ask questions and encourage your child to do the same. Try to remain calm and supportive no matter your child’s approach to you. Explain your feelings from a place of concern rather than a place of correction. 

If you and your child seem to agree that they need help, suggest some rules that could help them decline in their addictive behaviors. As a parent of an addict, assure your child you are there for them no matter the consequences. If your child admits to using drugs or alcohol, the best advice is to not resort to punishment. Parents of addicts must be welcoming and understanding if they want to keep a close relationship with their child. 

Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring mental health disorders can worsen or develop if your child is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some children and teens might have an underlying mental health disorder, and they use substances to self-medicate. When children have substance use and mental health disorders, they might need dual diagnosis treatment.

Common co-occurring mental health disorders include:

  • Mood disorders, such as:
    • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Many addiction treatment facilities offer dual diagnosis treatment to manage both disorders at the same time.

Treatment Options For Children or Teens Facing Substance Abuse

Parents of drug addicts

For parents of 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. Common drug and alcohol 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. Group therapy also allows those who participate 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 the family unit. Additionally, a professional psychologist aims to improve communication, resolve current conflicts, and prevent future issues. 

Teen Rehab Program

For parents of addicts, a teen program can be beneficial as it strives to focus on the psychological and emotional needs of teenagers. Teenagers might need more support and guidance than adults. Because of this, a therapist will focus on critical elements of the recovery process. 

While most recovery sessions follow a set program, therapists 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 during teen rehab programs. Just like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), 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, teens will typically be separated by gender and age. If your child has withdrawal symptoms, for example, inpatient treatment may be the best option. Professional staff can provide medical support during detox for dangerous withdrawal symptoms. While enrolled in an inpatient program, therapists will teach teens healthy coping mechanisms for stress and underlying mental health symptoms.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is available to those teens that can remain under parental supervision and are safe from addiction triggers at home. While participating in outpatient treatment, your child can stay in school and continue daily activities. 

Resources for Parents of Addicts

Resources for parents of addicts

Addiction is a family disease. It is essential to recognize the mental health and recovery of the entire family unit, even if only one person needs active treatment. Parents and siblings of addicted children might struggle below the surface.

When addiction is in the family, most of the attention of parents goes to the child with the addiction. Siblings might worry about their brother or sister, yet they don’t know how to talk about the issues. In addition, siblings of addicts might have their own problems, but they don’t feel seen or heard within the home. Parents might have issues within their romantic relationships when a child is addicted. Often, parenting partners might clash on how they want to deal with the current issue within the home. Parents of addicts might also neglect their own relationships while trying to help their children.

Family resources can help shed light on these issues and heal families, such as:

  • Al-Anon Family Groups
  • Alateen for kids with addiction in the family
  • Family therapy at addiction treatment facilities

Contact Our Addiction Treatment Center in Palm Springs, CA

Young adults with addiction often begin using or drinking during childhood or their teenage years. If your child struggles with addiction in young adulthood, Phoenix Rising Recovery is here to help young adults with addiction and co-occurring mental health issues. Contact us today to learn how to rise above addiction.