Why is it so hard for parents to treat their teens drug addiction?

The Difficult Task of Talking to Your Teen About Drug Use

Dealing with a child who may be using drugs can be a very difficult and frightening experience for parents. Realizing that your child may have a drug addiction problem can produce a lot of anxiety. It is not uncommon for parents to fail to recognize the tell tale signs that their child is using drugs. Additionally, parents often deny there is a potential drug problem for their child, even when they see signs that their child may be using drugs on a regular basis. There are various reasons why parents may find it difficult to get treatment for their drug addicted teen. Here are some possible contributors that can lead parents to avoid seeking intervention for a teen’s drug problem.

Lack of Awareness of the Signs

It is true that parents don’t always recognize the signs of drug use in their teens. Sometimes poor attitude, oppositional behavior, lack of motivation and withdrawal from family activities are passed off as typical teen behavior, when in fact, these can be signs of a drug addiction problem. Parents should be watchful for these and other signs including red, bloodshot eyes, irregular sleep patterns, academic decline, poor hygiene, and associating with a different peer group.


Let’s face it, no one wants to believe their child has an issue with drug addiction. It can seem easier for parents to act as if nothing is wrong for fear of finding out the truth and having to admit there is a problem. Recognizing and admitting there is a problem brings it to the forefront where it must be dealt with. This along with the embarrassment and social stigma which a drug addiction problem can create, usually make parents feel like they have failed in their parenting roles.

Problems with Confrontation

Depending upon the addicted teen, there can be concern for opposition and even aggressive behavior toward the parents and/or other family members if the drug addiction issue is addressed. Parents can become uncomfortable and even feel frightened or threatened by their teen. Because of this potentially volatile situation, parents may refrain from discussing their concerns with their teen for fear of making the family situation worse.

Suffering from their own addiction

Sometimes teens that use drugs mimic drug addiction patterns of their parents. In this situation of “do as I say, not as I do”, teens are missing essential role models who are important in helping them effectively address and change their addictive behaviors. Addicted parents in many cases are emotionally unavailable to facilitate change and are generally unable to help their children as they are struggling with their own difficulties.

Parents who have dealt with teen drug addiction know how easy it can be to make excuses for the child and to deny there is a problem. Knowing when to seek professional help is of the utmost importance. It can be extremely difficult for parents to practice tough love in this instance, but that is exactly what addicted teens need. Parents must be loving and firm at the same time while communicating with their teen about the need to seek evaluation and treatment as necessary. Dealing with difficult situations like drug addiction can be one of the toughest parts of parenting, but being there to provide structure along with unconditional love and support for addicted teens is an important part of their recovery.

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