It would seem most all of us are related to, or know someone whose life has been adversely affected by the Disease of Drug or Alcohol Addiction. This known in the professional circles as Chemical Dependency. How many of us, unless it has affected a true loved one in our life has paid much attention to the damage this has done to our society? What really happens to those who become addicted?
What causes young people to start to use drugs? Is it peer pressure, is it a desire to experiment, is it a place for them to hide from the pressures of adolescence or perceived self inadequacies, or is it a combination of all of these issues?
The problem is that we as parents and they as children do not fully understand. Once the usage crosses over from using to feel good, to using to prevent the awful pain of withdrawal, you are then an Addict (Chemically Dependent).Your life then becomes a living hell. Every waking hour is dictated by your drug. It is as though your brain is a prisoner to the drug. It is the only thing that occupies your mind and physical being.
My source of insight to this disease is my life experience with and the loss of my son David to a drug overdose at the age of Thirty Three.
I wrote a previous article of David’s accomplishments during an almost seven your period that he did not use and how he improved his life and advocated for others living with the disease. In the end, he lost the battle. I will never forget one of my last conversations with him after he relapsed the last time. His exact words were “my addiction has reared its ugly head”.
I tell this story, not for sympathy, but to try to make parents understand how compelling addiction is with a child that starts using at an early age and uses over a long period of time. These urges became so deeply ingrained that I truly believe they are even more susceptible to relapse.
I write this because I hope to make parents and children understand that this can and does happen to thousands of others and this can happen to you. You and your child need to understand the consequences. I do not have the opportunity to change things I wish I would have done differently as a parent during my son’s formative years, but you can.
If you have well founded suspicions, such as drop in grades, isolation, (a big indicator), change in attitude towards you and avoidance of other family members, do not allow your child’s denials and justification deter you, as you need to know lying and justifying are by products of using drugs. Their quest for drugs is only equaled by their effort to prevent being detained in their pursuit to get high. If they tell you they are only a “social user” as a method to minimize your concerns, I will tell you that every addict was once a “social user”. If this pattern of behavior does not change, do not expect their proposed compromises. If they then remain unwilling to be drug tested and if necessary, seek help in the form of one and one, group therapy, and if need be, inpatient care. Intervention should be used if all else fails. The bottom line is unless they realize and acknowledge that they need help, the chances of success are not good, however, you must try.
The important things to do before all of these measures are needed, is to stay involved in their lives during these formative years, which means finding time to do so in an appropriate way. Try to create an atmosphere in which they enjoy interacting with you in shared activates such as ballgames, movies, etc. Talk to your local school board about including a drug education course to the school curriculum. Most importantly, make a point to tell your child you love them every day.
I want to thank my good friend Ray Ferrero III for his great help in organizing the David Spector Memorial Award at Nova Southeastern University. The University acknowledges a Medical Student each year that stands out in the interest and participation in the area of addiction medicine.