As a parent, the urge to protect your children from danger never goes away, even in adulthood. When it comes to a potential addiction, it can be difficult to know if there is truly reason to worry. If however, you’re worried about a possible opioid addiction, your suspicions have a significant chance of being correct: it’s estimated that over two million Americans struggle with an opioid-related substance use disorder.
This guide will help you learn to spot the signs of opioid abuse and how to discuss your concerns with your adult child. It’s important that you don’t make any assumptions without sufficient evidence, so try not to panic before you have all the facts. The road to recovery is by no means easy, but with your support, your child can overcome his or her addiction.
It may be difficult for you to spot the signs of drug abuse depending on your proximity to your child. You may have to rely on what he or she tells you over the phone during your weekly chats or take a closer look at photos they post on social media. Remember, though, that these methods may not be completely telling; if you’re not able to make a face-to-face assessment in the near future, you may wish to consult with your child’s spouse or roommate in absolute confidence.
You need not even mention that you think there may be an opioid abuse problem, but instead let them know you’re worried about your child and wonder if they’ve noticed anything of concern.
Now it’s time to make room for the possibility of something particularly scary to imagine your child coping with: heroin abuse.
Heroin gives users the same euphoric effects as pills, but is much cheaper and can be easier to obtain without others knowing. In fact, about 75% of heroin users started out abusing prescription opioids.
However, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for:
• Reckless behavior
• A lapse in personal appearance or hygiene
(not showering, messy hair or general appearance)
• Needle track marks on arms, hands and/or legs
• Skin infections
• Hostility, quick to anger
• Constant sniffing (tends to occur in those who snort heroin)
If your child does agree to enter rehabilitation, be prepared to be a part of family therapy or for him or her to reach out while they’re away. Addressing the root of their problem may bring up old issues that they want to hash out with you, or they may simply want the comforting advice of their parent after a tough day in therapy. Be as supportive as you can, and consider seeking counseling for yourself, as well. You might still be processing a lot of feelings, and having the expertise of a counselor and the objective perspective of a stranger can help make sense of everything.
You may not be able to protect your child from ever succumbing to an opioid addiction or single-handedly pull him or her out of it, but you can offer your support. And in the end, isn’t unwavering love and compassion what being a parent is all about?