The signs and symptoms may be there, but there isn’t much you can do to prepare yourself for the fear, anger and hurt that accompanies learning your child has or may have a drug or alcohol addiction. He may be of legal age, but he’s still your child, and despite your frustration, you’re going to do everything in your power to make sure he gets the help he needs to recover.
The best way to do just that, whether or not your child wants your help at this point, is to thoroughly educate yourself about the particular substances your child abuses and learn the mechanics of—and the differences between—abuse, addiction and dependence, collectively known as substance use disorders, or SUDs. The best place to start is to understand the signs and symptoms of abuse.
Addiction affects the whole family, and the more you know about it, the better you can help your child come to terms with her addiction, find helpful resources for your child and other family members, choose the right treatment program and become involved in your child’s treatment and aftercare in the most effective ways possible.
Abuse, Addiction and Dependence Are Not the Same Thing
The most fundamental aspect of determining how you can best help your child is to understand the terminology surrounding substance use disorders. While “addiction” is a term that is widely used as a synonym for substance abuse and dependence, even among professionals, it’s important to understand that these are not the same thing. Each has its own definition, signs, symptoms and treatment protocol.
The University of Maryland Medical Center defines drug abuse as repeatedly using any illegal substance, prescription medication or legal substance in a way that results in negative consequences, such as family, financial, health or legal problems or problems at home, work or school. Those who abuse drugs or alcohol typically engage in risky behaviors while they’re under the influence, including driving and having unprotected sex.
Substance Abuse Among Young Adults
Drug abuse is very common among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the rate of prescription drug abuse is highest among that age group, with nearly six percent reporting using prescription medications for non-medical purposes in the past month.
Daily marijuana abuse is at its highest rate in 30 years among those of college age, and heroin abuse has more than doubled for that demographic in the past ten years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Substance Abuse: The First Step Toward Developing an Addiction
While drug abuse doesn’t always lead to addiction or dependence, it greatly increases the risk of developing either or both. Treating drug abuse before it causes devastating consequences can help prevent more serious trouble down the road. High-quality treatment centers like Gracious Care use research-based protocol and licensed professionals to help those who abuse drugs identify the issues behind the abuse and replace self-destructive attitudes, beliefs and behaviors with those that are healthier.
“When Your Child Has an Addiction” Continues
In the next entry in this series, learn about what constitutes addiction and dependence and why hope is essential to recovery. Continued in “My Child Has an Addiction, Part 2: Signs and Symptoms of Addiction and Dependence”.