Recognizing Addiction in A Child

Every year hundreds of thousands of children fall victim to drug and alcohol addiction, often paying the ultimate price as a result. For each one of these bright, vibrant and promising lives that are threatened by substance abuse, there is usually at least one parent who was completely blind-sided by the addiction and spent far too much time banging their heads against the wall figuring out what they could have done to prevent this nightmare. Most of us don’t ever expect or prepare for addiction to affect our lives. Even if we have a family history or a heightened propensity toward substance abuse in our own lives, we tend to take a leap of faith and just ignore the possibility of being touched by drugs or alcohol in way, shape or form. We often have to learn the hard way, however, just how vulnerable we are to this threat.

Like the Smiths song says: “I’ve seen this happen in other people’s lives, now it’s happening in mine.” By the time a parent realizes that their child is suffering from addiction, it’s incredibly difficult to beat back chemical dependency and get your son or daughter back. This is why it’s so critical that parents recognize the signs of substance abuse before addiction is allowed to take hold and destroy the child’s life. Each person comes starts abusing drugs or alcohol through different circumstances. There are, however, a few prime indicators that your child may be actively engaging in substance abuse.

  • Behavioral Signs – Every parent knows that it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between a real and legitimate behavioral issue and normal adolescent changes in mood. When your child’s entire life starts to change, however, it’s time to take an active interest in what’s driving those changes. It’s common for children who start abusing drugs to abandon their previous social relationships and start associating with others who share an interest in getting high. Other notable behavioral changes include sleeping habits, loss of interest in previous activities, lethargy, aggression and irritability. They may also stay out later and become more and more withdrawn.
  • Physical Signs – These signs will vary depending upon the type of drug they’re using, but common indicators include sunken or bloodshot eyes, track marks on the skin, nasal irritation, abnormally frequent sickness and flu-like symptoms and others. Withdrawal can occur very quickly after a child stops using and it’s imperative that their symptoms be assessed and monitored to avoid a potential life threatening situation.

What Can I Do If My Worst Fears Are Realized?

There are several steps we can take to help our children quit drugs or alcohol before the onset of addiction. Simply talking to them like human beings and letting them know that we are there to help them will go a long way to gain their respect and trust. In the more difficult cases, particularly when our children reach adulthood, more extreme measures such as an intervention may very well be warranted.

One of the best weapons we can use in the fight to keep drug and alcohol abuse out of our households is to maintain an active interest in our kids’ lives and make sure we know we’re there for them. While we can’t watch them 24 hours a day, providing a loving and trusting environment in the home can prevent them from seeking an escape via substance abuse. Parents have more power than they think over these situations and involvement can make all the difference between a healthy and well-adjusted child and one that is consumed by drug or alcohol dependency.