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Guilty Mom Thoughts: Could I Have Prevented My Son From Becoming an Addict?

Any time a parent learns of their child’s drug addiction or alcoholism, they all ask the same question: Is there something I could have done to keep my child from becoming an addict? It seems logical; there must have been something you could have done to prevent your child from finding drugs and alcohol. Right? After the initial wondering what you could have done to keep them away from drugs, you ask even more questions:

  • Could you have kept a better eye on their friends?
  • Should you have set their curfew an hour or two earlier?
  • Should you have read through their text messages?
  • Are disappearing Snapchats to blame for the troubled teens and young adults get into?
  • What about school? Could their school have done a better job?

Oftentimes when you find out about an adolescent or young adult heavily addicted to alcohol or drugs, you look towards their parents. What are the parents like? Were there drugs in the house? What about their siblings? Ultimately, what caused them to become addicted to drugs?

How Do People Become Drug Addicts or Alcoholics?

There is no single pinpoint to determine whether or not someone falls into the trap of drug addiction or alcoholism. Current research indicates a combination of both biological and environmental factors play a role in the development of substance dependence issues. Despite the impact of biology on addiction and alcoholism, so far there has been no discovery of an “addiction gene.” Researchers cannot point to a single factor that determines the likelihood of someone becoming an addict or alcoholic. The closest science has come so far is to determine that certain genes affect an individual’s ability to process different types of drugs or alcohol. The environmental aspect is also a prevalent factor in the development of addiction. Various aspects of a child’s environment, while they grew up, can impact their chances at becoming addicted to drugs:

  • Home life and family influence: If a child lives in a household with a parent or sibling using drugs or drinking alcohol, they are more likely to try drugs and alcohol. Especially when the person uses them as a coping mechanism, the child learns that drugs and alcohol are how you get through difficult times.
  • School: If drugs and alcohol are prevalent at the school your child attends, they have more options to try out illicit substances. Their exposure to substances depends heavily upon the kids they keep company with.
  • Early use: When a child tries drugs or alcohol early on in life, they are more likely to try them again or eventually become dependent after repeated experimentation.

Despite the knowledge of various influencing factors, there is no single one that decides whether or not a child will become an addict. While these factors influence the likelihood of developing an addiction, their presence does not guarantee that someone will become an addict. Plenty of children come from homes riddled with drugs and alcohol and choose instead to push back against the cycle.

Is There Something You Can Do to Keep Your Child From Becoming an Addict or Alcoholic?

You can try to control your child’s environment: where they go to school, who they spend time with, and how long they’re allowed out of the house. But a determined teenager can always find ways around your rules if they want to. Additionally, by trying to control their spare time you may push them away and cause them to rebel against your direction. If this is the case, they might use drugs out of curiosity, wondering what makes you so against them. Adolescent drug addiction is a horrible beast that is nearly impossible to control. As a parent you may feel there is something you could have done to prevent your child from using drugs but, more often than not, there is almost nothing you can do. The best option is to establish a safe relationship between you and your child. Make sure they know they can come to you with questions and concerns they have. If you have your own negative experiences with addiction, sharing these with you child may help them realize the serious impact drugs and alcohol can have. If your child develops a drug or alcohol addiction it is important not to blame yourself. Teenagers are often incredibly resourceful and will find a way to get into any kind of trouble they like. Beating yourself up over your teen’s drug dependence will not put you in a position to help them. Stay strong in the face of their struggles so you can be a solid support system for your child when they attend treatment.

Substance Abuse and Dependence Rates Among Youth in the United States

Just how common is substance abuse among American teenagers? The yearly Monitor the Future survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse gathers data on the rates of substance use and abuse among young people. The three age groups they primarily focus on are 8th graders, 10th graders, and 12th graders. The amount of students who have used alcohol to some extent in the past year include:

  • 17.6 percent of 8th graders
  • 38.3 percent of 10th graders
  • 55.6 percent of 12th graders

Binge drinking, or consuming five or more drinks on one occasion, takes place among:

  • 3.4 percent of 8th graders
  • 1.3 percent of 12th graders

Daily marijuana use remains prevalent among some young people, with use reported by:

  • 0.7 percent of 8th graders
  • 2.5 percent of 10th graders

Although rates are lower, their presence in the results is alarming:

  • 4.8 percent of 12th graders misuse prescription opioids
  • 0.3 percent of 12th graders use heroin

If you are the parent of a child who is abusing drugs or alcohol, these statistics should show you that you are not alone. You may feel like no other parent is dealing with the same issues but there are thousands of other parents who feel the same way you do.

Do Not Blame Yourself

It is important to remember not to blame yourself. It’s easy to look for something you could have done differently but you can’t change what happened in the past. Instead, focus on looking forward to how you can help your teen separate and stay away from drugs.