How to Deal With a Drug Addict Son (With Love)

June 23, 2023

Addiction | Barbara Decker

Key Takeaways

  • Learn about addiction: Understand that drug abuse is a serious problem, not a choice or a phase, and recognize the signs in your son’s behavior and health.
  • Stop covering up: Avoid behaviors that protect your adult son from the consequences of his addiction, like giving him money or making excuses for him. This is called ‘enabling’ and it can actually make things worse.
  • Seek professional help: Encourage your son to get professional help, like therapy or rehab, and remember to take care of yourself too, by joining a support group or speaking to a counselor.

When a mother bird sees her fledgling struggling to fly, her instinct is to swoop in, to catch the little one before it falls.

But what if that baby bird is your son, and the fall he’s taking isn’t from a tree branch…but into the abyss of drug addiction?

What do you do when the very instinct to protect your child seems to be causing more harm than good?

The journey of dealing with a son entrenched in drug addiction is a complex maze of emotions, fraught with guilt, fear, and often, a sense of helplessness.

But drawing from my time spent counseling families of drug-addicted sons, navigating this labyrinth is not a journey you must undertake alone. With a blend of personal stories, scientific research, and the wisdom gleaned from decades of experience, we will together explore the empowering steps to support, understand, and ultimately, help your son in his battle against this horrible disease.

Understanding Drug or Alcohol Abuse

The first step in dealing with a son addicted to drugs or alcohol is to understand what drug or alcohol abuse truly is.

What is Drug or Alcohol Abuse?

Drug or alcohol abuse, which often involves the habitual misuse of substances, can cause significant damage to an individual’s health, relationships, and ability to fulfill responsibilities.

This destructive pattern can range from repeated binge drinking to the regular use of illicit drugs. It’s important to understand that this isn’t just a phase or a sign of rebellion. In fact, it’s a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or difficult to control, drug or alcohol use despite harmful consequences.

Recognizing these signs is the first step in getting someone to rehab, a critical step in breaking the cycle of addiction and initiating the path to recovery.

The Impact on the Individual and Family

The repercussions of drug or alcohol abuse extend far beyond the individual, whether it’s a son or a daughter that’s addicted.

It’s similar to dropping a pebble in a pond; the ripples spread out, touching everyone in their path.

For the individual, the effects can be profound, including physical health problems, mental health challenges, and difficulties in both personal and professional relationships.

For the family, the impact can be equally devastating. It can lead to:

  • Emotional distress: Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be emotionally draining, leading to feelings of fear, anger, guilt, and sadness.
  • Strained relationships: The behaviors associated with drug or alcohol abuse, such as lying and stealing, can erode trust within the family.
  • Financial difficulties: The cost of supporting a drug habit can lead to significant financial strain.

Differences and Similarities

While drug and alcohol abuse may manifest differently, at their core, they share striking similarities. Both involve the use of substances as a coping mechanism, both can lead to dependence, and both can have devastating effects on a person’s life.

Signs of Abuse Drug Abuse Alcohol Abuse
Behavioral Increased secrecy, neglect of responsibilities, sudden change in friends Neglect of responsibilities, unexplained absences, sudden change in friends
Physical Bloodshot eyes, unexplained weight loss, frequent nosebleeds Slurred speech, coordination problems, unexplained injuries
Emotional Mood swings, unexplained changes in personality, irritability Mood swings, irritability, outbursts of anger


However, the differences lie in the substances themselves and the way they affect the body and mind. Alcohol is a legal substance, making it more readily accessible and often more socially acceptable.

On the other hand, most drugs abused are illegal, carrying additional risks such as legal issues and the danger of consuming substances of unknown composition. Importantly, whether your child is abusing alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety significantly increases. These substances can make pre-existing conditions worse or trigger new ones, making it even more critical to intervene early and seek professional help for both substance abuse and any underlying mental health disorders.

UPDATED: Discover the 3 life-changing things about addiction I wish I knew years ago

Recognizing the Signs

Being able to identify the signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse in your son is crucial. These may include:

  • Behavioral changes: This could be anything from increased secrecy and isolation to neglect of responsibilities.
  • Physical symptoms: Look out for unexplained weight loss, bloodshot eyes, or changes in sleep patterns.
  • Emotional changes: Mood swings, irritability, and unexplained changes in personality could also be indicators of substance abuse.

Long-term Consequences

If left unchecked, the long-term consequences of drug or alcohol abuse can be severe. These include health issues such as liver disease or heart problems, legal troubles, financial difficulties, and damage to personal relationships. Understanding these potential outcomes underscores the urgency and importance of seeking help for your son.

Moreover, it highlights the vital role of family during addiction, as their support can provide the strength your son needs to navigate the challenging path to recovery.

Drug Addiction and Substance Use Disorder

Learn about drug addiction and substance use disorder, their causes and effects, and how to seek help. Get informed and break the cycle of addiction with comprehensive resources and support.

Drug addiction, or Substance Use Disorder, is a step beyond drug abuse. It’s not just about using drugs or alcohol; it’s about being unable to stop despite the damage it’s causing to one’s life.

In my interactions with parents of drug-addicted sons, the line between use and abuse can often blur.

Occasional use can quickly escalate into frequent use, and before you know it, your son might be trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction. Look out for signs of substance abuse such as withdrawal from social activities, increased tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance.

The Reality of Loving a Drug Addict

Having a son who is a drug addict can be an emotional roller coaster. It’s a constant battle between wanting to help them and feeling helpless in the face of their addiction. Loving an addict means you are often subjected to their highs and lows, their promises of change, and their relapses.

The pain of seeing your child suffer can be heart-wrenching. However, it’s essential to remember that your feelings are valid and that it’s okay to seek help for yourself as well.

How to Stop Enabling Behavior

Though often rooted in love and concern, enabling behavior can unintentionally fuel the cycle of addiction, whether it’s a serious drug issue or something seemingly less harmful like children addicted to their phones.

Understanding what enabling behavior is and how to stop it can play a crucial role in your son’s path towards recovery.

Understanding Enabling Behavior

Enabling behavior refers to actions that protect the addict from the full consequences of their behavior. While it might seem like you’re helping your son, enabling can actually shield him from the reality of his addiction, preventing him from recognizing the need for change.

Enabling can take many forms, such as:

  • Providing money that you suspect will be used for drugs or alcohol
  • Making excuses for their behavior to others
  • Taking on their responsibilities to prevent problems
  • Avoiding confrontation about their substance use

SEE: Find out why your boundaries keep getting crossed (and how to reinforce them)

The Effects of Enabling

Enabling behavior can have detrimental effects on both the addict and the enabler. For the addict, it can:

  • Reinforce their denial about the seriousness of their addiction
  • Prevent them from facing the negative consequences of their actions
  • Discourage them from seeking help

For the enabler, it can lead to:

  • Emotional exhaustion and stress
  • Feelings of resentment and frustration
  • Neglect of their own needs and well-being

Letting Go vs. Giving Up

Stopping enabling behavior doesn’t mean giving up on your son. Instead, it’s about letting go of the need to control or fix the situation and allowing your son to face the consequences of his actions. This can be a difficult shift to make, but it’s an essential step on the road to recovery.

Strategies to Stop Enabling

Breaking the cycle of enabling requires a conscious effort and consistent action. Here are some strategies that can help:

  • Set clear boundaries: Establish what you will and won’t tolerate. Make sure your son understands these boundaries and the consequences of crossing them.
  • Practice tough love: Confronting your child can be challenging, but it’s essential. This isn’t about being harsh or lacking compassion. Instead, practicing tough love means showing affection and concern in a way that fosters healthy behaviors and deters harmful ones.
  • Encourage treatment: Instead of covering up for your son’s addiction, motivate him to seek professional help.
  • Seek support for yourself: Dealing with a loved one’s addiction can be overwhelming. Don’t hesitate to seek help for yourself, whether it’s from a therapist, a support group, or trusted friends.

Remember, stopping enabling behavior is not about punishing your son, but about empowering him to take responsibility for his actions and make positive changes.

Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery

Discover effective substance abuse treatment and recovery solutions with our comprehensive approach. Our team of experts is dedicated to helping you achieve lasting sobriety and a brighter future. Learn more about our personalized programs and take the first step towards a healthier, happier life today.

Seeking professional help is crucial in the battle against drug addiction. Treatment options vary depending on the type of substance used and the individual’s needs, but they often involve a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups.

Treatment Options Methods Benefits
Detoxification Medically supervised withdrawal from substances Safely manage withdrawal symptoms
Therapy Individual or group sessions with a therapist Address underlying issues, learn coping strategies
Medication Use of medication to manage withdrawal or cravings Reduce cravings, manage co-occurring mental health conditions
Support Groups Regular meetings with others in recovery Peer support, shared experiences


As a family member, your role in the recovery process is vital.

Your support can provide the strength your son needs to stay committed to his recovery journey. Being actively involved in your son’s addiction treatment, such as attending family therapy sessions or learning about the nature of addiction, can make a significant difference in his path towards sobriety.

Your understanding and patience during the addiction recovery process can help your addicted child feel less alone, fostering a sense of hope and motivation to continue fighting against the chains of addiction.

Making it Possible for Your Son to Reclaim His Future

Dealing with a drug addict son is a journey filled with challenges and moments of despair.

But I’ve learned from my firsthand experience dealing with sons suffering from drug addiction that through understanding, stopping enabling behavior, and seeking treatment, there is hope.

It’s a long, winding path, but with love, understanding, and professional help, recovery is possible.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and there is always help available.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Deal With a Drug Addicted Son

How do I keep my son off drugs?

Keeping your son off drugs involves open communication, education, and providing a supportive environment. Discuss the dangers and consequences of drug use, encourage healthy coping mechanisms, and engage in activities that promote well-being. It’s also important to be a good role model and show understanding and empathy, reinforcing that you’re there for support.

How do I talk to my son about drugs?

Talking to your son about drugs requires an open, honest, and non-judgmental approach. Start the conversation in a calm and relaxed setting, use clear and simple language, and listen to his thoughts and concerns. Provide factual information about the risks and effects of drug use, and assure him that he can come to you with any questions or concerns.

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How do you change someone who is addicted to drugs?

Changing someone who is addicted to drugs is ultimately up to the individual, but your support and encouragement can play a crucial role. Encourage them to seek professional help, be there for them through their recovery journey, and maintain a positive, hopeful attitude. It’s essential to remember that recovery is a process, and patience and understanding are key.

How do you deal with addictive behavior?

Dealing with addictive behavior involves understanding the nature of addiction, setting boundaries, and seeking professional help. It’s important to avoid enabling behavior, communicate your concerns openly, and encourage the individual to seek treatment. Remember, it’s also crucial to take care of your own mental and emotional well-being during this challenging time.

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  1. Need to find help for my son. He is 31 and on drugs. Just don't know what kind. Don't know what to do. He been gone for all most 2 weeks. Just a little texting from him in that 2 weeks

    1. Stacey, It’s painful and very difficult to be in your situation. Our work is about taking care of you – and how you can engage with him in ways that encourage him to find the help he needs. -B

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