Guide for Parents of Addicted Children and Teens


Addiction has taken a devastating toll on millions of families worldwide. With its cost and consequences being far-reaching, it is now deemed a global crisis. According to the World Health Organization, over 35 million people battle addiction, a significant percentage of whom are children and teenagers. Even with the best support, parents find it challenging to understand the issues related to addictive behaviours in these minors and teens.

Several factors contribute to these difficulties, with little or no knowledge of the dynamics involved. Hence, here is a detailed guide that will not only give parents of addicted kids a better understanding of the issues at play but also empower them to face the challenges related to parenting young addicts. The guide also includes the risks and consequences of addiction.

What is Addiction?

The scientific community is divided on the question of whether it is addiction or a mental health issue. It is still a matter of debate. However, most authoritative bodies in the field have defined addiction as an uncontrollable compulsion and engagement in a particular substance or activity. To put it in other words, it is the inability to control one’s desires or actions, which lead to overindulgence in something.

Addiction, as a compulsive disorder, has a strong biological and psychological component that affects a person’s ability to function at a normal level. The severity of this condition varies from mild to severe. There is a continuum, where mild addiction corresponds to mild use. As the addiction deepens, it moves towards severe addiction, where both the quantity and frequency of use are at a critical point.

In cases of severe addiction, there is a complete abandonment of health and well-being. This often entails serious physical and mental health consequences, including an increased risk of suicide, overdose, and criminal activity.

Types of Addiction

Generally, young addicts are dependent on drugs, like prescription and OTC medications (including painkillers), hallucinogens, crystal meth, cocaine, marijuana, and many more. In most cases, they use these substances recreationally. Those that use prescription drugs may find their body becoming dependent to the point that they can’t do without them, which leads to addiction.

It is important to know what kind of substance children and teenagers use, whether there are different levels of addictive strength, and how their body reacts to the substance.

Symptoms of Addiction in Children and Teens

In the case of children and teens, the signs of addiction are often different. It might take a longer time to appear and might be milder. However, the occurrence and frequency persist and the child becomes addicted to the substance in question. Its effect becomes predominant in the youngster’s body and mind.

Children and teens who struggle with addiction exhibit some common signs. They become secretive and their mood can turn depressive. This usually takes the form of irritability, outbursts of anger, or even withdrawal. Other signs could include nervousness, paranoia, and concentration difficulty.

For physical signs, parents may notice frequent runny or bleeding noses, bloodshot eyes, and changes in physique. There could be an excessive craving for food as well. In the extreme, children and teens may take extreme measures to obtain the substance, including stealing.

Why Is It Important to Address Child or Teen Addiction?

The consequences of a child or teen becoming addicted to a substance can be long-lasting. Here are a few of them:

Family Stress

Child and teen addiction come with a ripple effect in the family, which could put a burden on both the child and the parent. The latter could be burdened with finances, job difficulties, and emotional strain. This could result in feelings of sadness, guilt, and frustration. Parents of addicts tend to blame themselves for the problem. If not handled properly, they could resort to self-pity, depression, and alcoholism.

Psychological Disorders

In the case of children and teens who struggle with addiction, it could lead to mental disorders. The child could become suicidal, aggressive, psychotic, or depressed. These problems could make recovery even more difficult.

Physical Complications

Addiction isn’t just about the substance or substances used. It could also manifest physically as lung damage, heart problems or even cancer. For instance, if a child has used alcohol excessively and then tries to quit, the liver could be unable to detoxify. This could result in liver damage. the problem isn’t isolated to the substance alone; the whole person becomes affected.

In light of these and other reasons, parents should recognize the signs that their child or teen is struggling with substance abuse. Early intervention is crucial. The longer they wait, the harder it will be to provide the necessary assistance.

Ideal Ways to Intervene

A parent should be willing to face an addiction issue head-on, especially in the event of early signs. But it isn’t an overnight journey. Hence, here are some helpful tips:

Establish a Strong Relationship

Often, addiction in young ones occurs as a result of a weakened or absent parent-child bond. This could be due to a variety of issues. Due to lack of intimacy, affected children may not feel free to discuss certain personal problems with their parents, especially their struggles with addiction. It goes downhill from there. Where there is a strong bond between both parties, more information will be shared, leading to productive actions and outcomes.

Set Boundaries

At the other end of the spectrum, having a relationship with no boundaries can breed indiscipline. For such parents, it’s always a free pass. So even if the child indulges in unhealthy acts, the parents or guardians are unperturbed. This is a dangerous scenario that needs to be avoided. It is a parent’s responsibility to set limits and consequences to prevent or limit the consequences of addiction.

Get Professional Help

Parents, especially ones who also battle addiction, can get overwhelmed easily. Helping young addicts is not easy. Requesting professional help is necessary, as it ensures better outcomes and progress. Addicts tend to develop behavioural patterns that make it tough for them to change. This is where guidance and professional assistance are required to help them understand their problem and develop positive habits to live a drug-free life.

Provide Assistance for Recovery

Parents or guardians are responsible for providing assistance and support to children and teens afflicted with addiction. They play a significant role in making their problems go away, especially in serious cases. Often, the problem is a matter of the parent being overwhelmed with work and financial responsibilities and being unable to give their children the attention and care they need.


Remember, addiction treatment and recovery isn’t a “one and done” problem. While helping children deal with such issues, parents must be patient. It should also be an ongoing endeavour where they don’t take their eyes off the ball. Single parents need to prioritize, especially when trying to create a work-life balance. With the right approach, parents can make progress with their children, regardless of the situation.