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Denial is a big part of addiction. When parents have a child who is using drugs, it puts them in an awkward spot. This is particularly true when the child (adult or not) lives at home. It’s very easy to deny your child has a problem, especially when you are being told a lot of lies.

Recognizing the Problem

Parents often find themselves in a difficult position when they suspect or know their child is using drugs. The child might sometimes admit it and even ask for help, but their actions often tell a different story. The initial reaction might be “tough love,” such as threatening to kick the child out. However, the fear of them ending up on the street and potentially dying can be overwhelming. Conversely, allowing them to stay at home may feel like enabling their behavior. The fear of an overdose within the safety of the home can be just as paralyzing.

Taking Care of Your Child

When your teen or adult child is addicted to drugs, guiding them to a solution is often the best you can do. Willingness is a big part of the recovery process. If your loved one wants to get clean and sober, help them get into a rehab program. But what if you are not sure they are addicted to drugs, or what if they don’t want help?

Signs of Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), if your teen or adult child starts behaving differently for no apparent reason––such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile—it could be a sign they are developing a drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of the growing-up process.

Understanding Addiction

Through scientific advances, we know more than ever before about how drugs work in the brain. Addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop abusing drugs and lead productive lives. Jump in early when you first spot signs of drug use.

Why Can’t Some People Stop Using Drugs on Their Own?

Don’t blame yourself. Repeated drug use changes the brain. Brain-imaging studies of people with drug addictions show changes in areas of the brain critical for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control. Quitting is difficult, even for those who feel ready.


If your child refuses to cooperate, should the family conduct an intervention? People of all ages with substance use disorders live in fear of what will happen if their drugs are taken away. Ensure your loved one that professional treatment centers will keep them safe and as comfortable as possible, especially if a detoxification process is needed. Be aware that addicts commonly “change their mind” after a few days of treatment. This is just the disease talking. If considering an intervention, research and plan ahead of time. Preparation is key to the intervention process.

Choosing a Treatment Center

Treatment approaches must be tailored to address each person’s substance abuse issues, including related medical, psychiatric, and social problems. While some treatment centers offer outpatient programs, most people do better in inpatient (residential) treatment. Certain drugs are very dangerous to stop abruptly, requiring medical detox.

Health Insurance

If you have health insurance, your current policy likely provides coverage for addiction treatment. Contact your insurance provider to understand your coverage and any out-of-pocket costs.

Keeping Things Stable

First, talk to your loved one. There are ways to have a conversation about drugs or other sensitive issues that will prevent a fight. Remember, drug addicts are very defensive. Consider having the discussion with someone other than yourself.

Acknowledge your child’s opinions, but know that many people with substance abuse problems are afraid and ashamed and might not tell the truth. This is why you may want to involve a counselor or professional experienced in working with substance abuse issues. If you have a family member who has successfully recovered from addiction, they can be a valuable resource. Addicts are often more willing to listen to someone who understands their plight.


It is possible your child needs treatment for both depression and addiction, a situation known as dual-diagnosis or comorbidity. Encourage your child to tell all their healthcare providers about their symptoms and behaviors. Many non-addictive medications can help with depression or other mental health issues. Ensure all relevant healthcare providers are aware of all health issues. If your child ever feels so depressed that they may hurt themselves, there is a hotline they can call: the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Taking Care of Yourself

As a parent, it’s crucial to take care of yourself. Ask yourself the following questions and answer them as honestly as you can:

  • Do you find yourself making excuses, lying, or covering up for your child/spouse/friend?
  • Do you have a reason not to trust your child/spouse/friend?
  • Is it becoming difficult to believe their explanations?
  • Do you lie awake worrying about them?
  • Is your spouse missing work and the bills piling up?
  • Are the savings mysteriously disappearing?
  • Are unanswered questions causing hostility and undermining your marriage?
  • Are you suspicious and turning into a detective, afraid of what you might find?
  • Are normal family disagreements becoming hostile and violent?
  • Are you canceling social functions with vague excuses?
  • Are you becoming increasingly reluctant to invite friends to your home?
  • Is concern for your spouse, child, or friend causing you headaches, a knotty stomach, or anxiety?
  • Are you unable to discuss the situation with friends or relatives because of embarrassment?
  • Are your attempts at control frustrating?
  • Do you overcompensate and try not to make waves?
  • Do you keep trying to make things better, and nothing helps?
  • Are the lifestyle and friends of the loved one changing?
  • Do you ever think they may be using drugs?

Seeking Help

If you answered “YES” to four or more of these questions, it might be time to seek professional help. Addiction treatment has advanced, and it’s no longer true that someone has to hit “rock bottom” to get help. An intervention might be the solution that starts a lifetime of sobriety. You might feel alone, but many other people are going through the same situation. Talking to someone who understands can make you feel much more empowered.

Supporting a child with an addiction is incredibly challenging, but it’s important to take proactive steps to address the issue. Encourage your child to seek treatment, involve professionals in the conversation, and ensure you take care of your own well-being. Recovery is possible with the right support and resources, and addressing addiction early can lead to better outcomes for your child and your family.