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How to Help My Child
with Drug Addiction

Table of Contents

For many people wondering how to deal with a drug addict son or daughter, it can be challenging to know where to begin. 

NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that almost 25% of U.S. 18 to 20-year-olds abuse illicit substances. With data from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) showing that over 40 million people in the United States were diagnosed with substance use disorders in 2020, addiction does not discriminate. 

Today’s guide is intended to 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. 

First thing’s first, how can you establish whether your son or daughter might be using drugs?

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Signs Your Child is Using Drugs

Oftentimes, it can be challenging getting a young adult to admit that they have a problem with alcohol or drugs. It can be even more demanding to encourage them to engage with outpatient rehab treatment 

You first need to establish that your teen’s shifting moods are not a normal part of growing up. If pronounced mood swings are accompanied by the following signs, it could be time to initiate a conversation about substance abuse: 

  • Reddened eyes
  • Diminished interest in appearance
  • Drop in personal hygiene
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Outbursts of anger or aggression
  • Reduced interest in hobbies and activities
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Socializing with new friends
  • Runny nose or nosebleeds
  • Scabs or bruises on arms 

Teens abusing alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs often suffer from co-occurring mental health conditions, including: 

  • ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders like major depressive disorder 

In the case of dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorder, the most effective approach to treatment involves simultaneously treating both conditions, whether at an inpatient or outpatient teen rehab. 

What Do You Do When You Find Out Your Child is On Drugs?

If you are wondering, “How do I help my drug addicted child”, consider starting by 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 three nights. 

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 middle 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, 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 

Dealing with Son with Drug Addiction

If you are still pondering, “How do I help my son with drug addiction?”, you should ensure that you are not enabling your child. 

Enabling is a concept that is detrimental to the overall recovery process. Enabling often stems from establishing poor boundaries and assuming too much

responsibility for your son’s actions. 

The following are all examples of enabling behaviors:  

  • Making excuses for the way your son behaves.
  • Blaming yourself for your son’s drug addiction.
  • Utilizing a short-term approach by reducing short-term pain instead
  • of focusing on isolating the underpinning causes and identifying a workable
  • solution.
  • Reinforcing your son’s drug abuse, even if this is not deliberate. 

The issue of “How do I help my drug addicted child” can become so all-consuming that you neglect your own self-care. Make sure that you eat a healthy diet, exercise daily, and prioritize sleep health. If you require external support during these challenging times, consider reaching out to a support group for the loved ones of those with addictions. 

Your primary goal, once you have determined that your son is addicted to drugs, should be to get him into rehab. Research shows that many mild or moderate addictions can be treated effectively with outpatient rehab, and we can help you with that here at California Detox. 

Dealing with Daughter with Drug Addiction

How to deal with a drug addict daughter is similar in most ways to dealing with a drug addict son. 

The main additional concern you might have if your daughter is abusing substances is the risk of drug abuse triggering risky sexual behaviors and pregnancy. 

Regardless of the sex of your offspring, if you feel that your child has a diagnosable substance use disorder, you should do everything possible to connect them with professional treatment.

Getting Help for a Drug-Addicted Child at California Detox

If you are worried about packing your child’s bags and driving them for a month or more in a residential treatment center, you don’t necessarily need to do this. Here at California Detox, we provide IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) as well as residential rehab. 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 MAT (medication-assisted treatment), counseling,  and psychotherapy like CBT or 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. 

To help your child take the first tentative steps to recovery, call the friendly California Detox team today at 949.390.5377.


If you notice that your child has much less energy when performing their daily tasks, this could indicate that they are abusing substances. The same applies if they are spending more money than usual. Many children abusing drugs experience appetite changes, weight loss, and other physical changes. You may also find that your child is becoming socially withdrawn or spending more time with a new group of friends. None of these signs are definitive evidence of drug abuse, but if you spot many of these signs, you should initiate a dialogue with your son or daughter about drug addiction.

Physicians prescribe Adderall for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. In patients with Parents should discuss the issue of drugs openly with their children and educate them about the dangers associated with substance abuse. Parents should consider monitoring the company their child keeps and modeling good behaviors themselves., Adderall decreases fatigue. When prescribed for those with ADHD, Adderall reduces impulsive behaviors and hyperactivity, while also improving attention and focus.


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