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Is Your Son Addicted to Drugs?

Jul 16, 2020

Seeing your son frequently drink alcohol or routinely appear to be under the influence of any kind of substance can be unsettling for a parent, but you might not know if he’s reached the point of having a substance use disorder. While only a physician or addiction specialist can make that diagnosis, a parent can begin to gather information and make observations about behavior they see connected to the use of any substances, legal or otherwise. Today, let’s look at how you can effectively explore your son’s use of drugs and determine if help with recovery is needed urgently.

If you believe your son may have a substance use disorder, it’s helpful to understand how it may be impacting his health and well-being, including his ability to maintain social relationships and a job. For many young men, an SUD is accompanied by a mental health disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. These complexities require true co-occurring disorder (or dual diagnosis) treatment. If you are aware of a traumatic incident in your son’s life that preceded his SUD, whether treated or untreated, you may want to consider a program that offers trauma-informed care in addition to co-occurring treatment.

Understand how substance use in young men can start in a variety of scenarios.

You may just have begun to see signs of routine drug use by your son, but that doesn’t mean the underlying factors contributing to the drug use just began. Your son may have been hiding drug use through adolescence and college as he spent more time away from home and with his friends and peers. It may have begun with experimenting with prescription pills, his own or someone else’s. He may have considered it necessary to find acceptance in a social group, and the use of legal or illegal substances grew from there.

See his mental health as a potential concern as well.

The mental health of a young man with an SUD may be contributing to his use, and it may have been a factor in the start of his use. He may have been living with undiagnosed or untreated mental health conditions at the time, including anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An SUD may have worsened his mental health over time, too.

Consider trauma as a potential factor in your son’s substance use.

The loss of another parent, physical or sexual assault, and serious injury or extended illness can be factors in your son’s substance use. Even if it’s trauma from early childhood you may think he doesn’t remember, it could still play a role in his drugs or alcohol use during his years of adolescence or early adulthood.

Check for signs that his substance use is affecting his relationships and work.

Obvious outcomes of excessive substance use may be loss of a job, end of long-term friendships or relationships, and continued association with people known to use drugs and alcohol. This information can come from making observations or talking with people who have routine contact with your son.

Check for signs of missing prescription medication in your home.

Someone with an SUD who will take whatever is accessible to achieve or maintain a high may see a family member’s prescription meds as an option. Keep these items locked up and routinely check on the amount in a container to see if any have been removed for recreational use.

Recognize your son is struggling with drug use—without condemning or normalizing it.

You understand the risks associated with a substance use disorder and it’s likely your son knows the risks, too. Find a way to keep your interaction on the topic productive, rather than allowing him to rationalize it or choosing to verbally attack him or threaten him over it.

Be aware of resistance in young men to start treatment or participate in treatment.

Young men tend to be less open about their substance use and less willing to participate in a program than their female peers. Consider your support of them getting into a treatment program as fundamental in a multi-step process. One conversation won’t be enough to persuade them to start treatment so set realistic expectations and aim to find a program they can see is clearly aligned with their needs and interests as they begin a journey towards recovery.

Introduce the value in developing healthy relationships with other men in treatment.

Young men who have struggled to make healthy choices in building a peer group, either by isolating themselves or choosing enabling friends, may see value in hearing a treatment program can provide a safe way to connect with men in their peer group as part of their recovery work. In a gender-specific program for men, fellow male patients and an all-male treatment team become sources for a young man to learn to model acceptable behaviors in a completely supportive environment.


Origins Recovery Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-875-1558.

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