A Parental Guide to Understanding Addiction

A Parental Guide to Understanding Addiction

by Alek Sabin

According to the CDC, two thirds of Americans have been touched by addiction in some way, and quite often, that addiction begins in teenage years. If you are a parent of an addict or are worried about your child going in that direction, you should know the facts. First and foremost, addiction, and especially drug abuse, can have a tremendous impact on any family of any demographic. There are many different types, causes, and signs of addiction, as well as many steps you can take to help prevent it from entering your home. Here are just a few things that every parent should know about addiction.

Addiction Has a Wide Scope

When you hear the word addiction, your mind probably jumps directly to drugs. However, there are many many types of addiction that plague various people every day, both involving substances and behaviors, like the following:

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Street Drugs
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Pornography
  • Video Games
  • Social Media
  • The Internet
  • Food
  • Work
  • Shopping
  • Exercise

Though some are more harmful to the body than others, each one of these addictions can cause tumultuous mental instability and health problems, often beginning in the teenage years.

Addiction Is a Behavioral Disease

Many people believe that addiction is a choice and that someone who is involved with it is choosing to indulge in addictive behavior. It’s true that addicts make the initial few choices to indulge in a substance or behavior that is bad for them.

However, what follows is more of a disease than a choice. It spreads through the body, takes over the brain, and produces the one coherent thought in an addict’s mind that they need more of whatever they’re addicted to in order to survive. Most addicts do not have the willpower to choose not to participate in the addictive behavior and stop cold turkey. They need the help and support of others and a good recovery program. They will also need to develop healthy coping skills. You may also find that these coping skills are helpful for you as you help your child struggle through behaviors that could lead to addiction.

Here’s What Can Trigger Addiction

Though there are many things that can lead up to addiction, the actual cause is a chemical change in the brain. After a certain amount of indulgence in a substance or behavior, the neurotransmitters in the brain get confused and begin sending false signals, declaring that the body needs more of the substance or behavior to stop the phantom pains and discomfort.

Although teens are naturally curious and may try a substance or behavior simply to learn about it for themselves, a teen generally does not indulge in enough of a substance or behavior to become addicted without a certain push from an outside factor. Any number of things could trigger addictive behavior, but here are a few common ones.

  • Peer pressure
  • Unhappy home life
  • Boredom
  • Depression
  • Mental instability
  • Excess stress or anxiety

Understanding the Signs

There are many signs associated with drug use in teens, several of which could be a result of something less serious, but you won’t know unless you have a frank talk with your child about their behavior. Here are a few things to look out for.

  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Sudden aggressive behavior
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • An uncharacteristic lack of grooming and hygiene
  • Mood swings
  • Unexplained need for money or unhealthy spending habits

Building a Home Built to Prevent Addiction

A good home life is the best defense against addiction of all types. Doing everything you can as a parent to make your home a haven and a supportive environment for each of your children may be the thing that protects your children from addiction.

A healthy home is characterized by love, respect, courtesy, and discipline. Your children should understand the importance of responsibility and practice it daily. You and your spouse should provide equal love, attention, and support to each of your children. If one of your children has a problem, it’s best to talk to them face to face in a calm manner. Violence and raised voices rarely improve matters. Instead, approach problems with love, kindness, and an earnest desire to help your child. If you know each of your children individually, you can help them through their issues, potentially skirting any contact with addiction.