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While the stigma for drug and alcohol addiction suggests otherwise, addiction can affect anyone. An addict doesn’t look like the jobless, unkempt person many people image – people in the throes of addiction can be high-functioning and lead a successful life. They can be our friends, loved ones, and parents. It’s important to listen and spread awareness about addiction so that if substance use disorder affects your loved one, they have the resources and support to get help.

Important Note

While the topic of dealing with a parent’s addiction is mentioned frequently on this page, it’s crucial to make it clear that all experiences are not the same. Being the child of an addict while totally dependent on that person can limit a child’s options for getting help or support. Age, ability, and many other situational factors are often involved in the decision to take action as suggested in the below tips.

How do I know my parent or family member is using alcohol or drugs?

There are many small details that could make you think your loved one is using or addicted to alcohol or drugs. Most indications come from a change in the person’s normal routine, personality, and physical appearance.

Changes in Behavior

  • Quitting or losing their job
  • Changed relationships with friends and family
  • Going out more often than normal
  • Acting secretive or paranoid
  • Hyperactive or unable to focus
  • Experiencing money issues
  • Mood changes quickly and aggressively

 Changes in Physical Appearance

  • Poor hygiene
  • Smell of smoke, alcohol, or other unusual smells
  • Sudden change in weight
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Needle marks on arms or legs
  • Lack of balance and coordination

Tips coping with a parent or family member’s addiction

It can be overwhelming to find out your parent or family member is using drugs or alcohol and has an addiction. Whether the process of discovery was short or over a span of years, it’s not too late to support your loved one and get them the help they need.

Seek to Understand

As with any person dealing with addiction, it is important to listen and be a nonjudgmental support figure. You’ve probably witnessed addiction in your life at some point prior to this, but try to remember that each story is different. The best thing you can do is listen to your loved one and try to understand how they are feeling. Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) affect both the body and mind, so reality can be skewed for a person with addiction. There may be solutions and paths to getting clean that you can clearly see are available to your loved one, but it’s important to understand what they are feeling fully before giving input and suggestions. Researching the specific substance your loved one is addicted to can help you get a better understanding of their situation.

Establish a Support System

Addiction is a very isolating disease, and it’s common for someone in the depths of addiction to think they are completely alone. As an outsider, you may want to ask why your loved one hasn’t told more friends and family about their struggle. Keep in mind they may not be ready to tell other people, but it’s okay to encourage them to open a dialogue with other trusted individuals. Instead of sharing your loved one’s story with people you think should be aware, talk to your loved one about the benefits of establishing a support system around them. Let them choose who they’d like to tell about their battle with substance use, as they are probably fearing judgement from others. This way, if they want to go to treatment or try to stop using on their own first, supportive friends and family can be present to encourage and help your loved one find help. Don’t underestimate the impact of a positive, powerful sentiment like “We care about you and want you to get help.”

Don’t Wait

According to, “Movies, books, and magazines often portray people who “hit bottom” before they can be helped. However, this representation is a myth. People do not need to bottom out to be helped. Research shows that early identification of the problem is a much more effective solution for substance use problems.”

Don’t wait until it’s too late – recognize the above warning signs of addiction and get involved in your loved one’s life for the better. No matter what step of their journey your loved one is in, they need an encouraging and nonjudgmental figure in their life. Work with your loved one to look into treatment options, recovery stories, and long-term mental health programming to keep them on track. Sandstone Care offers medical detox to all ages, and residential or outpatient treatment to teens and young adults. Learn more by visiting our website, or give our Admissions team a call at (888) 850-1890.