Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 9/7/2021
Child drug addiction is one of the scariest situations a parent can deal with. Once addiction sets in, it takes a long time to overcome. It also carries severe consequences to both mental and physical health, especially for youths. Knowing how to help your child avoid substance use is crucial. However, knowing how to help a child overcome drug addiction is critical if your child is struggling.
Find The Answers You Need Quickly
- Understanding Drug Experimentation in Children and Teens
- Warning Signs of Addiction in Children and Teens
- How to Strengthen the Relationship With Your Child or Teen and Open the Door to Discussion
- Common Drugs Used by Children and Teens
- How to Help an Addicted Child or Teen
- Parents and Loved Ones, Don’t Despair if Your Child or Teen is Using Drugs
Talking to your kids about drugs can be difficult and awkward, but the challenge of getting your son or daughter clean again is much harder. Of course, you’ll want to do whatever you can to ensure the health and wellbeing of your child.
If you are ready to get your child the help they deserve, call us at 1-888-906-0952 today. We can refer you to rehab centers that can provide a personalized treatment program. We do not want addiction to take away anyone’s life. Treatment is the best option for ensuring children have the best possible future.
Understanding Drug Experimentation in Children and Teens
There are many reasons young people begin using addictive substances. Peer pressure is a common reason, but you, as a parent, can limit its influence with the correct conversation. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are five common reasons that teens will pick up drugs.
- Attempt to fit in – Social influence can be a nasty push towards substance use. Many teens who begin using addictive substances do so because their peers are using them or think that their peers are using them.
- To try and feel good – Once your child has used an addictive substance, their brain is not the same. Drugs chemically rewire the brain crave the euphoric feeling that drugs create. They will likely seek out the drug to continue those feel-good feelings.
- Feel better about certain feelings – It is common for young adults to face mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or just become overwhelmed with stress. For some, drugs are an escape from those feelings. Additionally, if home life is not so safe, they will begin using drugs. There is a clear connection between child abuse and addiction.
- Attempt to do better in school – Stimulant drugs are notorious for engaging your focus, so many children will use them to help them in school. If they are striving for better grades, some prescription drugs are very tempting to begin using.
- To try it – Boredom is a dangerous thing, especially for kids. Many children will begin using addictive drugs because they are bored and want to see what it feels like. Experimentation often leads to addiction for a lot of those just experimenting for fun.
Many Signs May Present
There is no single reason a child will pick up addictive substances, rather a combination of reasons. Usually, home life will lead a child to consider substance use to overcome certain obstacles. If your child feels like they cannot talk to you about their problems, they may begin using substances to calm their nerves. Ensure you have created a safe home for discussion – without immediate judgment. If your child has begun using addictive drugs, what are the warning signs to watch for?
Warning Signs of Addiction in Children and Teens
To lessen child drug addiction, the role of parents in preventing substance abuse is crucial. A key tool for you is to know the signs and talk with your kids about the harms of addiction. Opening up the conversation about addiction can be similar to talking about the “birds and the bees.” It is unwise to avoid this conversation, though, as your child could have already started experimenting with substances. If you are unsure if your child has begun using drugs, the Mayo Clinic found several signs to watch for, which include:
- Overall behavior changes – New friends that are not good influences, eating habits increase or decrease dramatically, different sleeping patterns, physical appearance changes, school attendance drops.
- Increase in irresponsible behavior – Lack of interest in life or hobbies, lack of judgment before committing an act.
- Breaking rules
- Distancing themselves from the family
- Medicine containers appear in your home – Prescriptions are addictive substances so that containers can appear even without prescriptions in the household.
If you are ready to address the problem of addiction with your child, there are some steps worth taking. Becoming more involved in their life can make a huge change in their behaviors. For some, this alteration in behavior is all they need.
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How to Strengthen the Relationship With Your Child or Teen and Open the Door to Discussion
Do not open the discussion about addiction with judgment. You must be open and willing to listen to your child. It does no good to become angry with them, so remain calm if they admit to using substances. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are ways to engage with your child about addiction.
- Talk to them about addiction – It is never too late to open up a dialogue about addiction. Remember to talk about the harms of addiction but do not enter the conversation already angry about it, especially if they admit to using drugs.
- Encourage them to be honest with you – Building trust goes back before this conversation, so convincing them to be open and honest with you means they should not have to worry about the consequences. Also, make sure they understand the reason for the conversation is due to concern for their health.
- Discuss their behavior, not them – It is vital to explain that their behavior is in question, not them as a person. They need to understand that you are upset with their actions and not them.
- Check-in with them regularly – Daily check-ins go a long way. Getting involved in their lives and talking to them about the world around them will lessen the chance for substance use. Becoming interested in their life will show that they do not have a reason to try drugs.
- Consider professional help – If there is a chance your child is addicted to drugs, it might be time to seek medical help. Research professional treatment that can help them overcome their addiction. It does not have to be a facility dedicated to recovery, but engaging with a doctor, counselor, or other healthcare professionals can help.
Common Drugs That Children or Teens Use
Addictive substances are everywhere. They come in both illegal and legal substances. If desperate enough, kids will also use household items as a drug by inhaling the chemicals. As a parent, it is important to be aware of what drugs are commonly used so you can best discuss those harms. The NIDA found that the most common substances to abuse are alcohol and tobacco products, but marijuana is also rising. Different age groups are drawn to different substances for a variety of reasons, primarily price and accessibility.
The Influence of Age
According to the NIDA, middle school to early high school, younger people tend to use inhalant drugs. While there are hundreds if not thousands of chemically created substances, some of the most common inhalants to be aware of include:
- Household cleaners
- Paint thinner
- Nail polish remover
- Hair spray
- Spray paint
As children grow up, they will begin using other kinds of substances. The NIDA recorded that older teens tend to be drawn to more serious substances.
- Synthetic marijuana (Spice)
- Prescription medication
Research shows that opioids are the most common drugs used by high school seniors. A survey conducted by Monitoring the Future found that high schoolers most abuse prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Specifically, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Adderall are shown to be the most abused substances of high school seniors. If you begin to notice unprescribed medication bottles appearing in your child’s room, it is time to consider medical help and talking with them.
How to Help an Addicted Child or Teen
Beginning the treatment process can be a difficult process for a child. You do not want to continue enabling a drug-addicted child by not helping them. Letting them continue to use only makes the problem worse. News in Health (NIH) discusses teen health concerns since substances impact their brain much differently than a developed adult. They point out that the brain’s frontal lobes are not fully developed in children, so drugs create even more euphoric feelings, causing longer-lasting addiction. If you want to truly decrease your child’s chances of getting involved with addictive substances, you must get involved with their life first.
“Childhood and adolescence are times when parents can get involved and teach their kids about a healthy lifestyle and activities that can protect against the use of drugs,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. She also stressed the importance of physical activity, getting engaged in work, science projects, art, or social networks that don’t promote drug use.
Getting Professional Help
If your child has already begun using substances, then it is time to consider professional medical help. Since children still need the socialization and education of school, inpatient programs are not recommended. Rather, outpatient treatment can show promising results – it is also significantly cheaper than inpatient programs. Outpatient treatment often revolves around individual or group therapy that occurs daily or weekly, depending on the severity of the addiction. They will work with professional counselors or therapists to change negative behavior and become more educated on their triggers.
Medication can also be a useful tool, so long as the medication is available. The NIH says that not all addictive substances have medication that can work toward recovery. Rather, therapy works very well for these kinds of recoveries.
“Treatment depends to a large extent on the severity of addiction and the individual person,” says Dr. George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He said that while some people can stop cigarette smoking and alcohol use disorders independently, others require months or even years of treatment and follow-up.
Parents and Loved Ones, Don’t Despair if Your Child or Teen is Using Drugs?
There’s no such thing as a perfect parent – everyone does the best they can. You want your child to develop properly and live the most productive life possible. As with all things worth doing, raising a child comes with challenges. Your kids will face opportunities to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Parents should get and stay involved in the lives of their children and teens. Close involvement gives children the best chance to avoid drug and alcohol addiction.
Many children fall onto drugs because of issues in their home life, and substance use makes them feel better. If you create a safe and caring environment for them, they’ll be more likely to stay clear from drugs. Regardless of why they use, you need to understand why they started. This requires mature communication from you, but having as much information as possible will give you the best chance to help them stop.
If you’re ready to get your child started on addiction recovery, call us at 1-888-906-0952 today. With a professionally designed recovery program, your child can overcome addiction and be able to live a full productive life. It takes time and effort, but they will be grateful for your care and love in the end.
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