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Is Your Child A Drug Addict?

Feb 21, 2008
The thought that one's child may be abusing drugs is not something most parents wish to contemplate. However, it's an unfortunate fact that around twenty eight million Americans have at least one alcoholic or drug-addicted parent, and that by inference, their children are at least 34% more likely to suffer from an addiction than children who don't. If both parents suffer, that figure increases to 400%, an astonishing but true statistic.

If drugs aren't part of your life, don't think for a moment that your child is immune from their influence. Drugs can enter a child's life through many routes and at any age, from simple experimentation or peer pressure, to being unable to cope with feelings of stress or depression. It is not always until children are in their teens that they might experiment with mind or mood altering substances.

Drug abuse and addiction is extremely serious. It devastates the lives of those who fall under its spell, and for those around them. The longer a child remains addicted, the less s/he will be able to develop biologically and mentally. Adolescence in particular is a time of rapid change in both of these areas, when children moving towards adulthood, and seeking out their own identity and independence. The temptation to experiment can be very strong, but comes with the risk of devastating consequences.

Some Facts about Children and Drugs

The human brain does not fully form until around the age of twenty, so if children start abusing drugs it can severely harm their physical, emotional and mental development.

Some drugs can cause children to suffer from panic attacks, seizures, and psychosis. In particular, Ecstasy has been linked to major organ failure, and LSD can cause permanent memory loss. Street drugs are very often impure and contain toxic elements, so ingestion can put a child at risk of overdose, toxic shock, seizures, traffic accidents, and death.

Substance abuse does not go away on its own. As an addict develops a physical tolerance to the substance, dosage must be increased or the drug changed, in order to reach the necessary "high."

So How Can You Tell?

It won't be obvious. Don't expect your child to be staggering about in a daze, or lying on his bed staring at the ceiling with a rope tied around his arm and a discarded needle sitting near the bed. There will be changes, but most of them will be subtle and can easily be misinterpreted as the child "growing up."

Most young substance abusers develop a keen sense of the devious, and will find it increasingly easy to hide their activities. Subtle changes in diet or sleeping patterns may indicate something is wrong, or you may grow concerned that academic development has slowed compared to other children of the same age. Hygiene standards may drop, school grades deteriorate, and personal items or money may disappear from the home. The child might become snappy and irritable, develop a tendency to lie, and plead innocence in an exaggerated fashion.

All of these things describe normal behavior that is expected at some point in a growing child's life, so how can a parent be expected to identify what is natural, and what is drug-related? And if it's the latter, how should you deal with it without alienating the child?

Approaching Your Child

Surveys have shown that most parents are tempted to say nothing, and hope that their child is only going through a phase. The fear of losing a child to something they do not understand, or are unable to control, is what keeps them in silent suffering. Only when the addiction comes to a head and manifests itself in the form of an arrest or a serious accident, or an unplanned pregnancy, do many parents finally step in. But by then it's often too late.

It is for this reason that you should not think of your child's drug use as a disease, but as a method he is using to try to solve his problems. Typical problems of young adults are: Difficulty learning in school or feeling stupid, having a hard time socializing and dealing with groups of people, feeling alone or afraid. Any of these things might be very tough to deal with and taking drugs or alcohol seems to make it easier. Although we all know (including the addict deep down), that using drugs or alcohol only masks and avoids the problems and is not a "solution" to his problems at all, but a much worse problem in itself.

It is in this manner you should approach your child. Treat the child like an adult and express your concerns in a calm manner. Communication is paramount - for parent and child - and this must start as soon as the problem is realized. A child in denial is a tough nut to crack, and all a parent can do is stand by the child, try to understand, and offer help.

Your child may try to convince you s/he can quit any time. He might also claim his friends are all doing it, or that it only happened once or twice. You, as a parent, will want to believe, but you must be strong without being authoritarian.

Only by staying close can a family come to terms with, and root out the problem of, addiction. It may take a drug rehabilitation program but family unity is of the utmost importance if the destructive cycle of drugs is to be beaten.
About the Author
Colin Galbraith writes articles on drug rehabilitation. For more information on the Narconon program, and the New Life Detoxification program, visit the drug rehab treatment site. - if you plan to reproduce this article, please include the link above.
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