For many people wondering how to help a child with drug addiction, just knowing where to start is perhaps the biggest barrier.
With NIDA reporting that almost 25% of 18 to 20-year-olds abuse illicit substances, and SAMHSA data showing over 20 million people in the United States with substance use disorder, addiction does not discriminate.
Today, we’ll give you some pointers on starting and maintaining a dialogue with your son or daughter if they are abusing drugs to the point of substance use disorder. If you feel like you’re facing an impossible struggle right now, we’ll show you how to break through the barrier.
For those who need help immediately, please call our treatment center today to learn more about how The District’s addiction treatment programs and sober living community can help you or your loved one conquer addiction problems.
What to Do if You Have a Son or Daughter with Addiction
How to help your child with addiction effectively should start with you establishing some firm guidelines.
Set guidelines regarding your child’s behavior
Your initial goal is to make it clear to your child which behaviors are acceptable, and which are unacceptable under any circumstances.
The best way to create guidelines is not to simply bark out orders. Instead, collaborate with your son or daughter to develop a workable framework where you are both happy, but you are not enabling your child’s addiction in any way.
While you won’t be able to cater for every eventuality when you’re planning, consider most of the typical scenarios that unfold – driving after using drugs or staying out beyond curfew, for instance. You can then create some simple cause and effect statements:
- If you drive after smoking weed, you lose use of the car for one week
- If you stay out beyond curfew, you are grounded for a night
If you implement and maintain clear guidelines, you should start noticing an improvement in your child’s behavior. At this stage, you are not addressing the underlying addiction, but you’re creating an environment conducive to this. Recovery is a process rather than an event, so don’t be tempted to rush things.
Move from guidelines to boundaries
When you’re setting guidelines, you are laying down rules based on your child’s behaviors.
Your boundaries, by contrast, will stipulate precisely what you will or won’t do for your child when it comes to their substance abuse.
Think of your boundaries as representative of what you feel is a reasonable way for others to treat you.
If you’ve been dealing with a son or daughter addicted to drugs, you’ll already know how well people with drug addictions can push boundaries, whether that’s directly, or more manipulatively and indirectly.
It’s a smart move to set your boundaries during a calm period. This will give you the chance to think rationally and objectively, rather than in the midst of a turbulent emotional confrontation with your child.
Avoid arguments and avoid blame
Where drug addiction was once viewed as a moral failing, addiction is now widely viewed as a disease. With at least half of your child’s potential for addiction being genetic, blaming them is hardly appropriate, and it’s certainly not likely to produce worthwhile results.
If you have addiction running in your family and you feel guilty because your son or daughter is now experiencing problems with substance abuse, refrain from blaming yourself, too.
With blame set firmly to one side, you should also minimize confrontation and try to keep all discussions about substance use as focused and calm as possible. We appreciate this is often easier said than done, but it’s worth making a continuous effort in this area.
Sharpen your communication skills
Learning how to communicate assertively can help you more confidently deal with an addicted child.
You should not communicate when you feel your emotions are getting out of control. When you find sarcasm creeping in, or if you feel your heart racing and your voice rising, it’s time to set the discussion aside. Make sure you return to the issue at hand as soon as it’s practical. The ostrich approach does not work when you’re dealing with an addicted child.
According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), consider the following when communicating with your addicted son or daughter:
- Show that you understand and accept the situation
- Remain focused and engaged
- Ensure you are kind and respectful to your child
- Emphasize the positives
- Minimize negative reactions
- Reduce all distractions
The more you focus on the flawed decisions and the mistakes your child is making, the more you will chip away at their self-esteem and confidence, while also reducing their sense of personal power. Resultantly, they might even start using more substances than before.
Instead, shine a light on the positives and strongly encourage healthy and desirable behaviors, incentivizing them if you feel this would work. By remaining optimistic and encouraging, you should reduce conflict, foster a more positive and can-do attitude – this will be vital for recovery – and you can also help your child to:
- Face up to challenges enthusiastically
- Try engaging in new activities
- Build healthier coping skills
How to Help a Drug Addicted Son or Daughter
Learning how to help a drug addicted son or daughter is challenging.
One of the most common mistakes you should avoid is trying to wear too many hats. Getting too firmly caught up in your son or daughter’s situation is unlikely to improve it. Resist the urge to assume the roles of friend, therapist, or doctor.
Instead, the best way you can help your son or daughter with substance use disorder is to become an expert on the subject of addiction. You don’t need to start writing scientific papers, but the more you understand about this nuanced disease, the more effectively you can help your child fight back.
Ongoing substance use causes changes to the structure and function of the brain, rewiring the reward system. Once you understand more clearly why your son or daughter is continuing to use substances despite obviously negative outcomes, you’ll be better placed to help them address the problem effectively, and to initiate sustained recovery.
And this is the next step you should take, something we can help you with here at The District Recovery Community.
Helping Your Addicted Child at The District Recovery
You don’t need to worry about packing your child’s bags and driving them for a month or more in a residential treatment center. Instead, consider one of our outpatient rehab programs for substance use disorder here at TDRC. We offer both intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). An IOP is a part-time outpatient program, while a PHP is a full-time outpatient program.
Our team of experienced medical professionals will help your son or daughter beat drug addiction using a combination of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and psychotherapy like CBT and DBT. Your son or daughter will also have access to a range of holistic therapies and vocational development programs.
Our dual diagnosis treatment programs offer integrated treatment accounting for any co-occurring mental health disorders, so your child is in the safest of hands.