Love is blinding — especially when it comes to your child. Children are seen as a parent’s greatest accomplishment, and virtually every parent will have no qualms with boasting about their children when prompted. That steadfast love is what drives us to attend every soccer game and dance recital, work three jobs to buy the best gifts for Christmas, or even lift cars for our children. It’s also what causes us to gloss over the fact that our child is struggling with substance abuse.
In many cases, it can be difficult to tell if your child is struggling with substance abuse. If college or work keeps them away more often than not, you may not have the opportunity to even look for signs. Or perhaps you don’t even know what signs to look for. Our lives are nuanced, after all. Who’s to say it’s drugs or alcohol that your son or daughter is struggling with and not stress from work, school, or relationships?
However, seeing the signs and symptoms of substance abuse is crucial. Confusion, reluctance, or inability to recognize your child’s struggle clears the path for enabling, addiction, and, in the worst cases, death.
Recognizing Signs / Symptoms of Substance Abuse in Your Son or Daughter
Physical indicators are typically the easiest way to notice if your child is struggling with substance abuse. Depending on the drug your child is abusing, they’ll show certain physical signs of that dependency.
Symptoms of commonly abused drugs:
- Improved alertness
- Physical agitation
- Appearing sedated
- Pinpoint pupils
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive sniffling
- Paranoia (after extended use)
- Sores / scabs
- Decreased appetite
- Appearing sedated
- Unusual confusion
Specific drugs will show different symptoms in your son or daughter. See our full list of addictive drugs for more info on signs and symptoms.
Emotional and Social Signs
Substance abuse causes emotional and social changes that can turn our loved ones into strangers. Finding that your son or daughter’s character is unrecognizable is a good indicator that your child is struggling with substance abuse.
These changes manifest in problematic behavior, such as lying and stealing. Maintaining a substance abuse habit is expensive. Your child may consistently ask for money or even resort to stealing money from you or other loved ones. They may also lie or manipulate to get that money, as it’s not realistic that they’ll confess to needing it to fuel a substance habit.
Some drugs will also cause a person to isolate themselves and withdraw from normal social situations. You may also notice decreased motivation or an onset of anxiety or depression. If your son or daughter is struggling with substance abuse, they may exist in a state of constant irritability or agitation, lashing out at loved ones. These are all signs that something toxic has a hold of your child.
If your child is struggling with substance abuse, they’ll eventually become physically dependent to that substance. Even if your son or daughter has a desire to quit using, their body will say otherwise. Once a person is physically dependent on a drug, their body will struggle to adapt without it. That’s withdrawal. The body’s struggle to adapt will appear in certain withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are telltale signs that your child is suffering.
Different substances will cause different withdrawal symptoms, but some signs to look out for include:
- Severe headaches
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Rapid heart rate
How to Help Your Child
If you suspect your child is struggling with substance abuse and/or addiction, there are plenty of resources you can utilize for help. It’s important to remember that if your child is harboring an addiction, forcing them to quit certain substances (such as alcohol or opiates) cold turkey can be lethal. The safest option is admitting into a supervised detox program where your child can best be tapered off of their drug of choice.
That intense, pure love that we feel for our children can unfortunately hurt them in the long run when dealing with addiction. Parents are very susceptible to enabling their child’s addiction because of that bond.
Examples of Enabling Behaviors:
- Making threats / creating ultimatums without any follow-through
- Allowing your child to use in your house
- Lying to friends / family members about your child’s addiction
- Making excuses for problematic behavior
- Bailing your child out of trouble that arises from their substance abuse habits
Enabling hurts both parent and child. It essentially prolongs addiction. And the longer an addiction is allowed to last, the more damage it does on your child’s body, mind, and life. Meanwhile, you’re suffering as you watch your child suffer.
If your child is struggling with substance abuse, it’s not enough to slap them on the wrist and tell them you’re disappointed. They need help. The best combatant to addiction is a comprehensive treatment program. New Start Recovery offers a full continuum of care, from detox to residential and outpatient. Our small bed count and high staff to client ratio allows us to give detailed and individualized care to each of our clients.