Drug addiction does not respect any sort of boundary, including age. Teenagers and young adults alike struggle with this disease for several reasons. Abusing drugs of any kind at any age is extremely dangerous, but some would argue that abusing drugs while a young adult is riskier. That is because the brain is not fully developed just yet, meaning that the ability to make good decisions, exercise self-control, and utilize effective reasoning techniques is not in full effect. As a result, this can lead to an increased risk of experimenting with drugs, using drugs in dangerous situations, and continuing to use drugs despite the consequences of doing so. Plus, abusing drugs while the brain is still developing can damage certain areas of the brain permanently.
There is no doubt that if your son is one of the many people abusing drugs, you are extremely concerned and wanting to help. The good news is that you can help both by learning about addiction and taking appropriate action.
Signs of Drug Addiction in Your Son
No matter the severity of your son’s drug addiction, he or she will show signs of his drug use. Some signs can be clear as day, while others can easily be excused away or even go unnoticed. The best thing you can do to help better determine if your son is addicted to drugs is to be aware of what the signs of drug addiction are in teenagers and young adults. Even though addiction impacts people of all ages, races, and backgrounds, the signs that a drug addict shows are often reflective of the stage of life he is in. Therefore, if your son is dealing with drug addiction, he may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Makes attempts to hide physical signs of drug use (e.g. using eye drops to reduce redness)
- Ignores curfew regularly
- Is constantly running out of money but not having an obvious reason as to why
- Becomes secretive, such as by locking his bedroom door or making suspicious phone calls
- Is going out every single night
- Develops sudden hunger (“the munchies”)
- Avoids eye contact
- Exhibits loud, obnoxious behavior that is not consistent with his regular personality
- Experiences bouts of sleeping too much/not at all or excessively high energy/extreme lethargy
- Drives irresponsibly (e.g. getting tickets, getting into accidents)
- Changes in circle of friends
- Failure to uphold responsibilities at work, home, and/or school
- Lacks attention to good hygiene
- Sudden, unexplained mood swings
- Feeling sad and/or depressed
- Becoming withdrawn or uncommunicative
- Is angry or aggressive
- Becoming unmotivated
- Problems focusing
- Loss of inhibitions
- Excessive euphoria and/or hyperactivity
- Disheveled appearance
- Bad hygiene
- Clothing, car, and his own physical person smelling of smoke or other chemicals
- Flushed cheeks or pale skin (depending on the type of drug being abused)
- Track marks on arms or other parts of the body (and wearing layers of clothing to hide those marks, even when warm outside)
- Burns on the body, especially on the fingers or lips
- Nosebleeds or runny nose with no other explanation
- General ill feeling not caused by another ailment
- Excessive thirst
- Sudden changes in weight (loss or gain)
- Sores on the skin
If your son is addicted to drugs, he may also steal prescription medications that are not his, cigarettes, alcohol, or other mind-altering substances from you, other family members, or friends. You may also spot drug paraphernalia in his room, car or other personal spaces. Keep in mind that the signs your son may show when addicted to drugs will likely be reflective of the type of drug he is using as well as the severity of his drug addiction.
Why is My Son a Drug Addict?
There is no doubt that when your son is a drug addict, you are feeling responsible for his addiction in one way or another. You may blame yourself, your actions, or your parenting techniques for his addiction. You may even struggle with feeling like you’ve failed as a parent by failing your son. These are feelings that parents all over the world share when one of their children becomes addicted to drugs. But it is important to try and look at the bigger picture and learn about addiction as a disease to better understand why your son is addicted to drugs. Not only can this help you sort out those thoughts of guilt and blame, but also help you pinpoint the root causes of your son’s addiction.
So, why does your son have a drug addiction? The specifics behind that are best uncovered with personalized therapeutic care, but if your son is a drug addict, chances are it is a result of genetics, environment, or a combination of both.
If your son is addicted to drugs, there is a large chance that you have a history of addiction within your family. That’s because there is a strong genetic tie between addiction and your family history. For example, certain structural aspects of the brain can be passed from generation to generation, impacting one’s vulnerability of becoming an addict. Traits such as novelty-seeking behavior and impulsivity can also be inherited, both of which increase the risk of drug abuse. Also, the presence of mental illness (which is usually genetic) can influence your son’s drug use. He may turn to the use of drugs to cope with symptoms of a mental illness.
The environment in which your son has grown up in or is currently living can play a major role in their likelihood of abusing drugs at some point in his life. Studies show that individuals exposed to environments where violence, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, and/or neglect occur increase a person’s chances of abusing drugs. Experiencing one or several traumatic events at a young age can also add to a person’s desire to experiment with drugs. The draw to drug use for teenagers and young adults is that using them can help dull physical, mental, and emotional pain that remains from trauma.
The most important thing you can do is to not blame yourself, especially if you have tried your absolute best in raising your son. What you can do, however, is get him the help that he needs in order to go on and live a happy, successful life.
How Can I Help My Drug Addicted Son?
As a parent, your natural instinct is to do whatever it takes to protect your child at all costs. This is especially true when you realize that your son is addicted to drugs. Chances are you have already made several efforts to get your son to stop doing drugs. For example, you may have threatened to stop paying for his cell phone or told him he would be kicked out if caught using at home. You may have even gone blue in the face begging your son to get help. Conversely, you may not have tried much of anything in regards to getting your son the drug addiction treatment he needs because you do not know how to help. Either way, it is important to know that you can help your son, even if you feel as though nothing will ever work.
Your son ending his active addiction to drugs is your ultimate goal. In order to achieve your goal, there are several things that you can do. If you want to help your son get treatment for his drug addiction, consider the following:
- Communicate — No matter what, communicating with your son is vital during this time. If every interaction you have with your son includes negative talk and disrespect, then you will struggle to get him to trust you when it comes time to get help. So, work to communicate effectively with him. This includes staying engaged in conversations, being compassionate rather than judgmental, showing respect and kindness, and listening. You want your son to feel supported in ways that encourage his growth, not his addiction.
- Create and uphold boundaries — Set clear boundaries with your son regarding what is and is not allowed, as well as what behaviors will not be tolerated. Whatever your boundaries are, you must uphold them in order for them to be effective. If you lay out boundaries but do not keep them, you are signaling your son to continue engaging in his use because he knows there will be no repercussions for it.
- Encourage treatment — Depending on the age of your son, you may be able to encourage him to obtain treatment on his own rather than admit him into a program utilizing your parental powers (which is allowed in some states, but not all). When you realize that your son is addicted to drugs, you should immediately begin encouraging him to get professional help. When you do this, however, remember your communication skills. Be kind and non-judgmental. Tell your son you will help him locate a treatment center and that you will be as supportive as possible. Let him know that you believe in him and you are rooting for him.
If your son is addicted to drugs and is absolutely refusing treatment but is under age 18, you may be able to admit him into a program depending on where you live. If this is the case, it is highly recommended to get professional help involved, such an interventionist or mental health specialist. Working with a lawyer can also be beneficial but is not always necessary.
How Do I Cope With My Son’s Drug Addiction?
Addiction is a disease that affects the entire family, regardless of if there is only one person using. If your son is addicted to drugs, there is no doubt that you have suffered in one way or another. And while your main focus may be on helping your son get the help that he needs, it is also imperative that you develop appropriate, healthy ways of coping so that you can be healthy, too. You can do this by focusing on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Consider the following:
- Physical — Stress of any kind can put a major strain on the body, causing a weakened immune system, problems sleeping, and increased risk for cardiovascular complications (e.g. high blood pressure, heart attack, etc.). To combat these and other consequences related to stress, make sure you continue to exercise regularly. Take care of your body by eating well and getting enough sleep.
- Mental — Watching a loved one struggle with drug addiction can be mind-boggling, especially when all you want them to do is stop. Your son’s addiction can be traumatic for you, as can be the repercussions caused by his drug abuse. Seeking help from a mental health professional like a therapist or counselor can help you manage the big feelings you are having so they do not get worse and threaten your wellbeing.
- Emotional – Talking about your emotions during this time is critical, as bottling them up can lead to further problems down the line. Now is the time to strengthen your support network. When you are struggling with your emotions, talk with a friend or trusted family member. Consider attending a local support group meeting. Acknowledge your emotions, allow yourself to feel them, and work to manage them effectively.
- Spiritually — While the majority of your time may feel like it is consumed by your son’s addiction, the truth of the matter is you are important, too. Consider engaging in activities like yoga or meditation. Spend time outdoors or do something that fuels your soul. Protecting and caring for your spirit at this time is just as imperative as anything else.
Remember, you cannot help your son if you do not help yourself first. Taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do to help your son. When the parent is in a healthy state of mind, is not experiencing high levels of stress, and is still finding ways to bring enjoyment into their lives, the child will undoubtedly benefit. This not only goes for general parenting but also for helping a drug-addicted child.
Does Your Son Need Help? Call JourneyPure Right Now.
If your son is struggling with drug addiction, we can help. At JourneyPure, we develop individualized treatment plans for each client so that he or she can get the most from treatment. Do not hesitate to pick up the phone and call us today. Our team of compassionate and skilled professionals can help your son overcome his active addiction all while providing you and your family the support you need to get through this transformative time.
So, do not wait another second. Call us right now to learn more about how we can help you and your son.
Michelle Rosenker is a content writer for JourneyPure where she gets to exercise her journalistic skills by working with different addiction treatment centers nationwide. She has 10 years of experience in the field of addiction treatment and mental health and has written content for some of the country’s most prominent treatment centers and behavioral hospitals. Through her writing, Michelle is proud to continually raise awareness about the disease of addiction and share hope for the future. She lives next to the ocean in Massachusetts with her husband, two young children, and faithful dog.