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What Do I Do If My Parents Are Addicted to Drugs?

A woman clutching her knees while talking to a therapist.

If you’re online looking for help because you have one or both parents dealing with addiction, you will find many useful resources to get the help you need. First and foremost, if you believe you’re in immediate danger or if your parent(s) need medical assistance, call emergency services or go to a friend, relative, or neighbor where you feel safe.

When parents struggle, we want them to get better so they can act like our parents again. Sometimes it’s not as simple as that, especially if they are dealing with addiction. What’s important to remember is that your parents still love you, but they have an illness. Addiction is a disease and, in most cases, they need help from a medical professional to get better.

Signs Your Parent Has Substance Use Disorder

Before you approach your parent(s) about their substance misuse, it’s important to go down this checklist to see how many of these signs apply to their behavior. While signs of addiction are based on how much of a drug they consume and how often they do it, if you’ve checked off more than half, it’s time to come up with a plan to approach your parents about getting treatment.

  • Angry or violent outbursts
  • Memory issues
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Eyes glazed over
  • Marks on body
  • Paraphernalia around the home
  • Slurred speech
  • Acting excited for no reason
  • Strangers in and out of the home
  • Heavy drinking
  • Major financial problems
  • Dozing off while speaking or doing things

It’s possible to show these symptoms while also struggling with depression and anxiety, but they can also be using drugs as a way to self-medicate. If you suspect drugs are the main issue, the next step is to come up with a plan to help communicate your concerns to your parent(s) in a productive way to get them the treatment they need.

Approach Them About Their Use

It’s difficult to find the right time to approach your parents to speak about their addiction. If you approach them when they are sober, they may be irritable or unable to concentrate because they are dealing with painful withdrawal symptoms and are concerned with how they will obtain more drugs. However, if you speak to them while they are under the influence, you’re not likely to be conversing with a coherent person. If your parent has days where they seem to be acting more normal than usual, that would be an ideal time to ask them to talk.

Approach them with questions about their use and make it clear that you think they have a problem. Express how it’s affecting you and the rest of your family, calmly and lovingly. No matter how angry you feel after how long you have had to deal with their behaviors, it’s important to remember to try and discuss this situation without fighting. Arguing with your parents about addiction will only make them resistant to what you are trying to say.

Involve People You Trust

If you have other family members you can trust to speak with your parent’s drug addiction, it’s important to reach out to them. If you don’t want to approach speaking to your parent(s) alone, other family members can help you. If you’ve tried to talk to your parents but cannot make it clear that you are concerned and that their drug misuse is affecting you, this is also another opportunity to have a family member help you get the help you need to help your parents.

It’s important to remember that you are their child and this is not something that you have to deal with on your own. If you have been taking on the role of a parent in your household and you are worried about younger siblings, it’s important that you take these steps to ensure your safety and the safety of the rest of your family.

If you don’t have family members you can confide in, and you tried to reason with your parents about their drug use but they become angry or violent, speak to a counselor at school and they can help you get in touch with someone who can assist you in speaking with your parents.

Don’t Blame Yourself 

It’s easy to become upset watching your parent(s) struggle day to day. If your home life is in disarray and your family life is falling apart, it’s not your fault. Adults are responsible for their children and not the other way around. You deserve better, and things can get better. If your parent or parents are admitted into treatment, it doesn’t mean you will be taken away or that you will lose your family. There are places where your parents can go to get help but still live at home.

You can also be a part of your parent(s) recovery, and everyone can heal together with the help of professional therapists and trained counselors. If they enter treatment, you will have a lot to learn about how life will be once they get better and things slowly return to normal, or better than they ever were. You will become an important tool in encouraging your parents while they are making progress with their recovery.

 Get Help If You Need It

If you’ve tried to talk to your parents alone or with help from other people and they are not willing to seek treatment and get the help they need to make your household stable, it’s time to make changes to ensure you and any siblings are safe. Speak with a counselor at school and tell them you do not feel safe at home and they will know exactly who to call. This is not an easy step to take, but it is an important one. Sometimes people dealing with addiction need to see major consequences before they realize how much trouble they are causing. It could motivate them to get help, but most importantly it will ensure your safety.

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