Addiction Helpline and Resource Center

How Can I Educate Myself About My Child’s Addiction?

How Can I Educate Myself About My Child’s Addiction?

To learn about a child’s addiction, educate yourself about the nature of the disease and the paths to recovery

My child is an addict. What happens next? Unfortunately, many parents utter these words after discovering their son or daughter suffers from addiction. Professional rehabilitation offers the best treatment options for recovery, but parents can help the situation by educating themselves about the addiction and ways they can help.

What Is Addiction?

Few conditions involve as many misconceptions as addiction, and parents need to utilize books, websites and professionals to educate themselves on what addiction really involves. From a medical perspective, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) worked with more than 80 experts over several years to publish one of the best long-form definitions in 2011. Per ASAM, addiction is a disease of the brain reward system with frontal cortex changes that affect judgment, cognition and impulse control and alternations in neural circuitry that distort motivational priorities. Substance abuse is inherently dangerous, but it is not the same as addiction. A substance abuser becomes an addict when the neurobiological changes take place.

In layperson’s terms, addiction involves numerous issues, including the following:

  • Basic decision-making skills, perception and self-awareness significantly diminish
  • The substance dominates the reward system stripping joy from previously loved activities
  • Denying substance-use cravings produces neural stress that can manifest as physical pain
  • The compulsions trigger obsessive thoughts and a survival-like need to drink or use
  • Genetic predisposition makes people significantly more vulnerable to the disease
  • Professional treatment, not punishments and curfews, is the way to fight addiction

Scientific advancements in the past two decades helped pinpoint the mechanisms and nature of addiction, and clinical studies further refute the damaging stigma that existed for far too long. Addiction is a matter of neural circuitry and responses, not weakness, character and willpower. Furthermore, the neurobiological dysfunction can drive deceit, lies, theft and broken promises, and parents should view such actions as symptoms of the disease. In other words, do not take it personally or assume it reflects bad parenting.

What Addiction Recovery Entails

Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease, which is why parents must understand recovery as a path, not a destination. For the child, recovery might entail working through unresolved trauma, treating co-occurring mental health disorders and addressing mental patterns conditioned toward negative thoughts, perceptions and responses. For the parents, assisting the recovery entails additional potential steps, including the following:

  • Assess personal behaviors that might have enabled the addiction
  • Provide accountability, positive encouragement and logistical support
  • Work with a recovery sponsor to ensure continued personal growth
  • Participate in family counseling sessions to deal with household issues and conflicts
  • Learn the signs for cravings, relapse risk, mood swings and renewed substance abuse
  • Educate friends and loved ones about what addiction involves and ways they can help

Rehab centers customize recovery plans for each patient, and the staff can educate parents on what they can do for their child. For example, parents can research local support groups, reduce opportunities for boredom and help their child pursue (or reengage in) activities she might enjoy. In many cases, parents must also assess their own substance use and possibly support their child with shared sobriety.

Addiction and Intervention Help

Our admissions coordinators can answer questions, make recommendations and provide information to help with current or recovering addicts. If you child needs treatment, we can assist with intervention support and even check health insurance policies for rehab benefits. We are available 24 hours a day to assist you so please call our toll-free helpline now.

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