Facts For Parents of Children With Addiction

Parents often have their own struggles associated with their children's addiction. Knowing what signs to look for and how to help your child navigate their addiction and recovery can help relieve these struggles.

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Addiction treatment is difficult, even for the parent of a child living with addiction. Parents may find that their children are suffering from changes in their personality, learning abilities, and other skills.

When teens and young adults become addicted, the damage caused by drugs and alcohol on their developing brains can cause significant issues that continue into adulthood.

It is best to treat addiction as early as possible to prevent long-term complications that could have an adverse effect on a child’s physical and mental health.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a treatable medical condition that involves complex interactions between the brain, genetics, the environment, life experiences, and various risk factors.

Those living with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that are compulsive and continue to do so despite experiencing negative consequences.

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The Warning Signs Of Substance Abuse

There are numerous behavioral and physical warning signs that indicate substance abuse. These signs and the presence of drug paraphernalia often indicate a substance use problem.


The behavioral signs of a substance use disorder may vary based on the substance being used, the duration of use, and other factors.

Behavioral signs of substance abuse include:

  • changes in attitude or personality
  • secretive behaviors
  • neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • changes in friends, hobbies, and hangouts
  • engaging in risky behaviors, such as impaired driving
  • irritability
  • nervousness
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • poor judgment
  • paranoia
  • mood swings
  • hyperactivity

If someone you love is exhibiting one or more of these signs, pay close attention. These could indicate addiction or another health condition that requires your support.


Physical signs of addiction also vary based on the substance being abused, the level of addiction, and other factors.

Physical signs of addiction include:

  • bloodshot eyes
  • pupils that are smaller or larger than usual
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • weight loss or gain
  • impaired coordination
  • slurred speech
  • tremors
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • nausea
  • drowsiness
  • poor muscle control

If your child is exhibiting any of these physical signs, there is a possibility that there is an ongoing health condition, including substance abuse, that requires professional care.


The paraphernalia associated with drug abuse depends on the type of substance being abused.

Examples of drug paraphernalia include:

  • empty pill or alcohol bottles
  • pipes (metal, wood, glass, stone, plastic, ceramic or acrylic)
  • roach clips
  • miniature spoons
  • bongs
  • cigarette papers
  • cocaine freebasing kits
  • aerosol canisters
  • plastic baggies
  • small paper bags
  • glass vials
  • candy or gum wrappers
  • belt buckles
  • felt tip markers
  • makeup bags
  • needles
  • e-cigarettes
  • tin foil
  • plastic pen cases
  • cut up straws
  • razor blades
  • rolled up paper tubes
  • lighters
  • tubes of glue

Items may also be used to cover up drug abuse, including mouthwash and breath sprays, eye drops, and sunglasses.

Some drug paraphernalia can be difficult to distinguish from normal items that a teen would have, so pay attention to other possible indicators of substance use.

Communicating With Your Child About Drug And Alcohol Abuse

When parents create a supportive and nurturing environment, children make healthier decisions. This is why it is important to discuss the risks of alcohol and drug use with your child.

If you talk to your child directly and honestly, they are more likely to respect your rules. It is never too early to talk to your children about drugs and alcohol.

Children as young as nine may already start to view alcohol more positively, and 3,300 children as young as 12 are trying marijuana easy day.

If a parent doesn’t talk to their children about the risks of substance abuse and underage drinking, the child may not see the harm in trying alcohol or various substances.

Having a conversation with your child allows you to set clear rules about what you expect from them when it comes to alcohol and drug use.

Treatment Options For A Substance Use Disorder

There are a variety of treatment options available for substance use disorders, including detoxification, behavioral therapies, medications, counseling, etc.

The most effective treatment option for your child’s substance use disorder depends on the substance being abused, if there are any co-occurring health conditions, and other factors.


Detoxification may be used for both alcohol addiction and drug addiction. The methods of detoxification also vary depending on the specific substance.

With detoxification, co-occurring mental health issues are also considered in the course of treatment.

Detoxification may involve tapering off a substance and prescribing medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and may occur in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

Behavioral Therapy

There are a variety of behavioral therapies used to treat substance abuse problems.

One common form is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which is designed to teach coping skills and the ability to recognize high-risk situations that can lead to drug or alcohol use.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be used to treat co-occurring mental illness. Additionally, CBT allows someone to recognize negative thinking patterns that may lead to drug abuse.

Other forms of behavioral therapy can include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and acceptance and committment therapy (ACT).

Family Therapy

Addiction impacts entire families. One in ten children under the age of 18 experience parental substance abuse.

There are a variety of family therapies, all of which are designed to help improve family-relationship dynamics and support the person in recovery.

Family therapy can take different forms in addiction treatment. In some cases, the whole family or part of the family will meet together with a therapist.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a setting where individuals living with addiction can build interpersonal skills and develop support networks.

Group therapy also gives individuals the ability to practice coping skills with other individuals in recovery. Sessions occur on a regular basis at treatment facilities and other settings.

There is growing evidence that group therapy creates the same level of treatment acceptance, retention, and abstinence rates as individual therapy.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a treatment that combines counseling or behavioral therapies and medications. MAT is especially useful for opioid addiction treatment.

MAT has resulted in increased survival rates, treatment retention rates, a decrease in criminal activity related to drug use, and an increased ability to get or maintain employment.

MAT is a comprehensive treatment that incorporates strategies to address several facets of an individual’s life, including medical and mental illness, family issues, support, and

How To Get Your Child Into Treatment

The first step to getting your child into treatment is to research and contact various treatment facilities and discuss what you believe will be the best option for your child.

Young people are more likely to resist treatment due to a lack of understanding about how much drug abuse can affect their overall well-being.

Legally, in many states, young adults aged 17 or younger can be put into a treatment facility without their consent. While this can seem harsh, in some cases, there isn’t another viable option.

When a teen’s life is at risk due to drug or alcohol use, caregivers may find it necessary to enter the child into treatment.

In the case of an adult child, their consent is necessary unless the legal system or a healthcare provider requires mandatory treatment.

How Long Does Treatment Last?

The treatment period needed for a specific individual varies based on the severity of addiction, the type of substance they are addicted to, if there are any co-occurring issues and other factors.

Detoxification is often the first step to treatment. If detoxification is needed, this phase of treatment may last between three and 14 days.

There are a variety of lengths of stays for rehabilitation after detoxification, including 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months, one-year, and two-year programs.

After initial treatment, many individuals attend aftercare programs such as support groups and other supportive services.

Are There Inpatient Treatment Options For Adolescents?

There are a variety of inpatient treatment options for adolescents. In about half of the states in the United States, parental consent is sufficient for entering a child under 18 into treatment.

Common Challenges During Addiction Treatment

There are a variety of common challenges experienced during addiction treatment.

Common challenges include:

  • lapses in treatment
  • repeated admission and dropouts
  • relapse
  • group therapy issues, such as disruptive individuals
  • the presence of parental addiction
  • social stigma
  • financial issues
  • self-doubt or self-esteem issues

Having a supportive home environment with family members who can hold the individual accountable to attend treatment may help them overcome these common challenges.

How To Help Your Child Work On Relapse Prevention

There are several stages to relapse. Recognizing the signs of each stage of relapse can help you keep your child on the right path.

You can help your child work on relapse prevention by:

As a parent, it is important not to micromanage your child’s addiction treatment but to be a source of support and encouragement when needed.

Additional Resources For Parents

There are a variety of additional resources for parents of children living with addiction.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) national helpline is free and confidential and offers 24/7 services.

This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and other community organizations.

SAMHSA also provides a variety of resources, including information on how to help a loved one living with substance abuse and how to start the conversation that the individual needs to seek help.

Ask About Addiction Treatment In Massachusetts

If your child is living with addiction and needs substance abuse treatment in Massachusetts, we can help.

Contact our team at Bedrock Recovery Center to learn more about the drug addiction treatment programs we offer.

  1. American Psychological Association (APA) https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral/
  2. American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) https://www.asam.org/quality-care/definition-of-addiction/
  3. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/content/how-identify-drug-paraphernalia/
  4. Indian Health Service (IHS) https://www.ihs.gov/asap/familyfriends/warningsignsdrug/
  5. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3399589/
  6. National Library Of Medicine: Bookshelf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64119/
  7. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633201/
  8. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7278292/
  9. National Library Of Medicine: Bookshelf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64101/
  10. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393016/
  11. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761814/#:~:text=If%20the%20detoxification%20program%20is,from%203%20to%2014%20days./
  12. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/
  13. New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) https://oasas.ny.gov/warning-signs/
  14. Substance Abuse And Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/talk-they-hear-you/parent-resources/why-you-should-talk-your-child/
  15. Substance Abuse And Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders/
  16. Substance Abuse And Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2716/ShortReport-2716.html#:~:text=Conversely%2C%20among%20people%20in%20specific,past%20year%20(Figure%203).
  17. Substance Abuse And Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/families/

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: January 9, 2024

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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