Is My Child Struggling With Addiction?

February 1, 2023

Written By: Buena Vista Recovery

Addiction is a disease that affects entire families. However, for parents concerned about their child’s engagement in such destructive and addictive substances, the prospect of addiction can be wholly terrifying. A child’s use of drugs or alcohol can be detrimental to not only the child’s physical and mental health but also to the entire family unit. Identifying the signs and symptoms of substance use in a child is the first step toward effective treatment and recovery. 

Even if a parent suspects that their child needs to pursue professional treatment and detox to overcome their use of drugs or alcohol, approaching the situation in a calm and educated manner is essential for beginning an effective dialogue around change. 

The Physical Warning Signs of Addiction in Children

Before jumping to any conclusions or acting on suspicions of substance use, it is important to gather evidence surrounding any direct signs of substance use. Approaching a child about substance use without evidence of why the topic needs to be discussed can create a very antagonistic atmosphere which can compromise future support efforts. By identifying specific signs of addiction, conversations about addiction and recovery can focus more on the evidence provided and ensure that the tone of such conversations is about addiction being a disease to be overcome rather than simply accusations between two opposite parties. 

Identifying the physical signs of addiction is the first and most overt way of identifying substance use in a child. Noticing any of the following symptoms consistently can indicate that further scrutiny or action may be needed:

  • Redness of eyes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive shaking, sniveling, or sweating
  • Inability to regulate body temperature, such as feeling hot to the touch or cold and wearing out-of-season clothing
  • Excessive nausea or vomiting
  • Shifts between high levels of energy and lethargy
  • Increase in risk-taking behavior

There are also other immediate signs that a child is currently under the effects of addictive substances. Slurred speech, compromised coordination, slowed reaction time, or disconnected thoughts can all indicate the use of addictive substances. Noticing the persistence of any of these symptoms or a combination of symptoms can indicate the need for professional addiction treatment. 

The Emotional Effects of Addiction on Children

A parent does not need to actively view a child engaging with drugs or alcohol to be privy to the presence of addiction or substance use. Addictive substances can produce many emotional effects, regardless of whether when a child is under the direct influence of drugs or alcohol or is experiencing emotional consequences long after use.

Feelings of anxiety and depression are incredibly prevalent in those who regularly engage in drugs or alcohol. For many, these underlying feelings may inform the use of drugs or alcohol to begin with. However, the use of addictive substances can also become cyclic, as these feelings are also common side effects that may remain prevalent in the long term. 

Sadness, guilt, shame, or an increase in frustration and anger can all indicate that addictive substances are having detrimental effects on a child’s health. Addressing the use of addictive substances in tandem with these emotional effects of addiction is paramount for an effective recovery. Engaging with professional detox and treatment programs is necessary to address each of these effects in tandem and to better understand how they inform one another.

Identifying Changes in a Child’s Behavior

Behavioral changes can also indicate the presence of addiction in a child. It is common for those with an unhealthy relationship with drugs or alcohol to experience sudden behavioral changes. For many, this can result from mood swings and difficult emotions common as a result of addiction. However, a child may also adopt additional behavioral changes that can be signs of drug or alcohol use. These signs may include:

  • Adopting a more secretive lifestyle, such as not sharing important life details with parents or locking their door at home
  • Lying or deflecting questions or adopting an antagonistic attitude 
  • Pervasive feelings of fear or paranoia, even in otherwise non-stressful situations
  • Making assumptions about events without evidence
  • Perceiving criticism as personal attacks
  • Decrease in motivation
  • Disinterest in personal hobbies or activities
  • Increasing physical or emotional distance from family or friends
  • Inconsistent attendance at school or work or a sudden decrease in academic or workplace performance
  • Sudden financial challenges
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene routines

A growing distance from supportive social groups or the development of new social groups can also be indicative of substance use. 

Initiating the Conversation

While recognizing the signs of addiction in a child is incredibly difficult to process, opening a dialogue is necessary. Talking about the signs of addiction with a dedicated treatment facility can guide parents through difficult conversations with their children. Further, speaking with staff at facilities allow parents to explore specific programs and family plans available to help their child overcome the use of drugs or alcohol. 

Identifying the signs of addiction in a child is just the first step. It is important to understand that recovery is always possible. Parents must recognize that they are the most profound support system for their children’s recovery.

Addressing the use of drugs or alcohol in your child is complicated, and it is normal to feel overwhelmed by the effects of addiction on your child and your family. At Buena Vista Recovery, we understand the familial nature of habit, and the challenges faced by parents when finding treatment for their child. We are committed to personalizing each recovery journey with specialized case management and proven therapeutic techniques, all available for you or your child to find the most effective recovery practices unique to the recovery journey. Detox, residential, and outpatient care, along with a comprehensive approach to family education and therapy, allow us to help your child overcome addiction today. To learn more, call us at (480) 741-9414 or start to verify your insurance.