If you have children, you might ask yourself, “How do I help my kids avoid drug and alcohol addiction?”
First, probably one of the most important things to remember as a parent is this: We only have so much control over our children; there comes a time when they will make their own decisions, despite what we have taught them or expect of them. That is not only normal, it is healthy! At the same time, there are intentional steps you can take to care for your child or teenager’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
But what factors might lead youth, whether teenagers or children, to abuse substances like drugs and alcohol in the first place?
Risk Factors for Drug Addiction
- The substance itself
- Method of delivery
- Mental health conditions
For generations, many considered addiction a moral failing or a lack of willpower. Now, addiction is more widely recognized as a disease, and it is treatable. Similarly, just like your doctor might ask about whether or not heart disease, cancer, or diabetes runs in your family, whether or not addiction runs in your family is also an important factor to consider.
The current conclusion scientists have come to is that “the risk of addiction is a complex combination of both genes and environmental influences.” This statement came after 100 international scientists studied the behaviors of 1.2 million people who displayed substance abuse behaviors, whether smoking or abusing alcohol. They then cross-checked their findings with life events, physical characteristics, and diseases they suffered, and went on to find there were more than 400 locations on specific genes that could influence smoking or alcohol use.
In short, knowing your family’s history of substance abuse could help assess your child’s risk of being inclined to be adversely affected by drugs or alcohol.
Peer pressure is perhaps the most pivotal environmental factor among teens that can prompt the misuse or abuse of drugs. When drugs are readily available within a social group, this raises the risk your teen may experiment. The risk of first-time drug use increases even more in the summer months.
Another environmental factor that can contribute to drug and alcohol addiction is neglect or abuse, including physical or emotional abuse. Both abuse and neglect can lead to self-medicating.
If you suspect the neglect or abuse of your child, whether it is in your own home or in their external relationships, the most important thing you can do is talk to them and create a safe place to be honest about what is happening in their life. Building an environment of acceptance and love without judgment, but with healthy expectations and boundaries, your child is more likely to open up to you even if they are initially embarrassed about what might be taking place.
The Substance Itself
The drug in question dictates the risk of addiction to a large extent. As an example, alcohol and marijuana are not immediately as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or meth. With drugs like heroin and cocaine, the withdrawal phase is often acutely uncomfortable, triggering users to take more of these drugs and in increasingly higher doses. This only feeds the vicious cycle and can quickly lead to dependence and addiction.
The number one way to push back on this risk is to educate your kids. It is incredibly likely that your child will experiment, so plan accordingly. Equip them with knowledge of the dangers and to consider for themselves the possible consequences of their choices.
Method of Delivery
Not only are some drugs more addictive, but also some delivery methods increase the risk of addiction and even overdose.
If you smoke or inject drugs – like crack cocaine or heroin, for example – the substances hit the brain and bloodstream almost instantly. Again, in this case, educate your kids.
Mental Health Conditions
Your child’s mental health is incredibly important on its own and as it relates to problematic substance abuse. When a substance abuse disorder (SUD) co-occurs with a mental health condition, it is known as a dual diagnosis, and dual diagnosis treatment is recommended to tackle both issues simultaneously. Currently, 45% of Americans suffer from a dual diagnosis, and it is estimated that 23% of young adults have a dual diagnosis.
Common mental health conditions include: ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, and panic disorder. If you notice indicators of any of these conditions and also suspect drug abuse, it is incredibly important to not only treat the drug or alcohol problem but also their mental health condition.
What Comes Next
As your child’s parent or guardian, remember that you are the most significant influence in their life. Make it count! And if your teen is abusing alcohol or drugs and you are ready to ask for help, Landmark Recovery specializes in treating substance use disorders. Whether your teen needs medically-assisted detox and inpatient rehab, or a less intensive outpatient program, we can help.
Helping a child with addiction and preventing future drug addiction starts with you. But you don’t have to do this alone! For support, contact our team of recovery specialists at 888-448-0302.
Choose Recovery Over Addiction
We're here 24/7 to help you get the care you need to live life on your terms, without drugs or alcohol. Talk to our recovery specialists today and learn about our integrated treatment programs.