“Inconceivable!” is the infamous exclamation from The Princess Bride. Finding out your child is addicted to drugs or is drinking alcoholically is inconceivable to most parents.
We like to think our kids our special. They are special. How much we love our children and how special we think we are does not grant them immunity from developing an addiction. Addiction does not have to be present in family DNA. Genealogy can predispose your child to addiction. No matter the home, the life, or even the love, addiction still happens.
Addiction is a Symptom of Mental Health Issues
The connection between mental health disorders and addiction is what is called a “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring disorders”. Either primary or secondary to addiction, most substance abuse arises as a coping mechanism for managing the symptoms of pre existing mental illness. Depression, anxiety, ADHD, and mood disorders are the most common accompaniments to addiction.
Addiction Starts at a Young Age
Your child might have started abusive patterns toward substances and behaviors at a young age. From abusing tylenol to abusing prescription medications, the brain is weakened and made vulnerable to more substance abuse in the future. Substance abuse at a young age damages the prefrontal cortex where most cognitive development takes place.
Addiction Hurts and Changes the Brain
Along with damaging the prefrontal cortex, addiction rewires the way the brain works entirely. From the reward center out, different areas of the brain are reprogrammed to accommodate substance abuse. Recovering the brain takes time, but it is possible.
Addiction Hurts and Changes Behavior
As a result of altered brain functioning, behavior also changes. Morality and addiction are closely tied, though unfairly viewed. While addiction is not a moral disorder, the way addiction affects the brain does create disordered morality. The brain believes it needs drugs and alcohol to survive. In order to protect and ensure its ability to get more substances, the brain will blur the lines between right and wrong. Lying, stealing, cheating, and manipulating are common behaviors displayed through addiction. Your child hasn’t turned into a bad person, they are sick.
Addiction is Not for Shaming
Addiction is an illness of the mind, body, and spirit. Yes, it is true that your child chose to abuse drugs and alcohol. However, they eventually were in a physical and mental state that necessitated that choice. Against everything their mind and body demanded, they have chosen to get sober. Shaming our children is preventative, not productive. It doesn’t prevent their addiction, it prevents their recovery. What your child needs now more than ever is your love, support, and encouragement. They’re facing the toughest challenge of their life.
Addiction Requires Action
If you believe your child is suffering from an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, the time is now to seek help. Dependence on substances is not easily remedied on one’s own. View addiction as a critical mental health condition which can be fatal.