How Can I Help my Son with His Drug Dependence

Discover how to assist your son with drug dependence. Find support, resources, and a path towards recovery for your loved one.

Leora BH Staff
May 2, 2024

Understanding Substance Use Disorders

When it comes to assisting a loved one with drug dependence, it is essential to have a solid understanding of substance use disorders and their complexities. This understanding will help you recognize the signs and co-occurrence of mental health and substance use issues, enabling you to provide the necessary support.

Signs of Substance Use Disorders

Identifying the signs of substance use disorders can be challenging, as individuals with drug dependence often try to hide their alcohol or drug use effectively. Symptoms can vary in severity and may include behavioral, physical, and social changes. It is crucial to look out for any significant shifts in your son's behavior, such as:

  • Increased secrecy or withdrawal from family and friends
  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior
  • Lying or being dishonest about substance use
  • Neglecting responsibilities, such as work or school
  • Financial difficulties or unexplained expenses
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Unexplained health issues

Remember that these signs may not necessarily indicate drug dependence, but they can be red flags that warrant further investigation and support. If you notice these signs, it is crucial to approach the situation with empathy and seek professional guidance.

Co-Occurrence of Mental Health and Substance Use Issues

It is not uncommon for individuals with substance use disorders to experience co-occurring mental health problems. According to SAMHSA, more than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem. This highlights the common co-occurrence of mental health issues and substance use disorders.

When someone has a substance use disorder and another mental health disorder, it is generally better to treat both issues simultaneously rather than separately. It is crucial for healthcare providers to use comprehensive assessment tools to make accurate diagnoses and provide tailored treatment. This may involve a combination of behavioral therapies and medications, taking into account the individual's specific combination of disorders and symptoms.

Understanding the signs of substance use disorders and the potential co-occurrence of mental health issues can help you better support your son. By recognizing these complexities, you can take the necessary steps to seek appropriate professional help and provide the understanding and empathy needed during this challenging time.

Supporting a Loved One

When a loved one is struggling with drug dependence, it is crucial to provide them with the support they need to overcome their challenges. Family support plays a significant role in helping individuals with mental and substance use disorders, according to SAMHSA. By recognizing changes in behavior and offering support, family members can play a pivotal role in assisting their loved ones on the road to recovery.

Importance of Family Support

Research has shown that family support is instrumental in improving the effectiveness of treatment for individuals with mental and substance use disorders. Families should consider engaging in support groups or family therapy and counseling to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary tools to support their loved ones throughout the recovery process. By supporting the whole family, these resources can help strengthen relationships, manage stress, and provide education on addiction and mental health.

It is important for caregivers to prioritize their own health and well-being as they navigate the challenges of supporting a loved one with a mental or substance use disorder. Taking care of oneself allows family members to be better equipped to provide the necessary assistance and support to their loved one. Seeking their own support through counseling or support groups can provide caregivers with the necessary tools to cope with the unique challenges they may face.

Recognizing Changes in Behavior

Family members are often in a prime position to notice changes in mood or behavior in their loved ones who may be experiencing mental or substance use disorders. Being vigilant and observant can help family members identify potential issues early on. Changes in behavior may include:

  • Increased secrecy or withdrawal from family and friends.
  • Drastic changes in sleep patterns or appetite.
  • Unexplained financial difficulties.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Sudden changes in mood, including irritability or agitation.

When family members notice these changes, it is crucial to have open and non-judgmental conversations with their loved ones. Expressing concern and offering support can create an environment of trust and encourage individuals to seek the help they need.

If family members suspect that their loved one is experiencing a mental or substance use disorder, they can play a central role in helping them get the necessary help and support. By connecting them with treatment options, resources, and services, family members can support their loved ones as they begin and continue their recovery journey.

By providing understanding, compassion, and support, family members can make a substantial difference in their loved one's journey towards recovery.

Seeking Help and Resources

When faced with a loved one's drug dependence, seeking help and accessing the right resources is crucial for their well-being and recovery. There are various avenues available to provide support and assistance. Two key resources to consider are the SAMHSA National Helpline and alternative paths to recovery.

SAMHSA National Helpline

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) operates a National Helpline that offers confidential, 24/7 assistance for individuals and families facing substance use disorders. In 2020, the helpline received 833,598 calls, demonstrating a significant increase of 27% from the previous year.

To seek help for yourself or a family member, you can reach out to SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Additionally, you can text your zip code to 435748 (HELP4U) or visit to access further assistance. The helpline provides valuable information, support, and referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and other resources that can aid in the recovery process.

Alternative Paths to Recovery

While addiction treatment is often considered an essential component of recovery, it's important to recognize that not all individuals require professional treatment to overcome substance use disorders. According to research, many people recover without accessing formal treatment. Recovery is shaped by various factors, including individual motivation, skills, choices, and environments.

Alternative paths to recovery include mutual help organizations, pastoral counseling, and community supervision programs operated by the criminal justice system. These resources have shown effectiveness in promoting recovery and can serve as viable options for individuals seeking support.

It's important to note that recovery is not always dependent on professional treatment. Many people recover from substance use disorders without accessing any formal treatment at all. Individual decisions, supportive environments, and strong support systems significantly contribute to successful recovery journeys.

When seeking help and resources, it's essential to consider the unique needs and circumstances of the individual struggling with drug dependence. Exploring a combination of professional assistance, such as the SAMHSA National Helpline, and alternative paths to recovery can provide a comprehensive and personalized approach to support their journey towards recovery.

Risks and Impacts of Substance Use

Understanding the risks and impacts of substance use is crucial when it comes to assisting a loved one with drug dependence. Substance use can have physical, emotional, and social implications that vary in severity. Additionally, it's important to recognize the impact substance use can have on brain development, particularly in young individuals.

Physical, Emotional, and Social Risks

Substance use poses various risks to individuals, affecting their physical, emotional, and social well-being. These risks can range from mild to severe, depending on the substance and the individual's circumstances. Here are some examples of the risks associated with substance use:

Risk Categories and Examples

  • Physical Risks: Overdose, organ damage, health problems
  • Emotional Risks: Mood swings, anxiety, depression
  • Social Risks: Strained relationships, legal consequences

Figures courtesy Kids Help Phone

It's important to note that the risks mentioned above are not exhaustive and can vary depending on the substance being used. Substance use can have a significant impact on an individual's overall well-being and quality of life. Recognizing these risks is crucial in order to provide appropriate support and intervention.

Impact on Brain Development

One key consideration when it comes to substance use, especially in young individuals, is the impact it can have on brain development. The brain continues to develop into the mid-20s, making it difficult for young people to fully understand the risks of long-term substance use. Substance use can cause chemical changes in the brain and body, leading to addiction and dependence.

Certain substances, such as drugs, can have a significant impact on the brain's reward system. They encourage the brain to produce more dopamine than it normally would, leading to feelings of pleasure and reinforcing the desire to continue using the substance. This process can make it difficult for individuals to stop using the substance and can contribute to the development of addiction.

Understanding the impact of substance use on brain development is crucial in order to provide appropriate support and intervention. Early intervention and prevention efforts can help mitigate the potential long-term consequences.

By being aware of the physical, emotional, and social risks associated with substance use, as well as the impact on brain development, you can better assist your son with his drug dependence. It is important to approach the situation with empathy, understanding, and patience, while seeking professional help and resources to ensure the best possible outcome for his recovery and well-being.

Treatment Approaches

When it comes to addressing drug dependence, there are various treatment approaches available. Two common approaches for individuals with co-occurring substance use and mental disorders are comprehensive care for dual diagnosis and the use of behavioral therapies and medications.

Comprehensive Care for Dual Diagnosis

When someone has a substance use disorder (SUD) along with another mental health disorder, it is generally recommended to treat both conditions simultaneously rather than separately. This approach, known as comprehensive care for dual diagnosis, involves a tailored treatment plan based on comprehensive assessment tools to accurately diagnose and address the individual's specific combination of disorders and symptoms.

Comprehensive care may involve a combination of therapies, including behavioral therapies and medications. The goal is to provide holistic and integrated treatment that addresses all aspects of the individual's well-being, including their substance use and mental health concerns. This approach recognizes the interconnectedness of these conditions and aims to improve overall outcomes and quality of life.

Behavioral Therapies and Medications

Research has identified several behavioral therapies that show promise in treating individuals with co-occurring substance use and mental disorders. These therapies may be recommended alone or in combination with medications for effective treatment.

Behavioral therapies focus on modifying thoughts, behaviors, and emotions related to substance use and mental health. They can help individuals develop coping mechanisms, improve problem-solving skills, and enhance motivation for change. These therapies may be delivered in individual, group, or family settings, depending on the individual's needs and preferences.

In addition to behavioral therapies, medications can play a crucial role in the treatment of substance use and co-occurring mental disorders. Effective medications are available for addressing addiction to opioids, alcohol, and nicotine, as well as alleviating symptoms of various other mental disorders. Some medications can be beneficial in treating multiple disorders, providing relief and support on multiple fronts [1].

It's important to note that the specific treatment approach will vary depending on the individual's unique circumstances and needs. Consulting with healthcare professionals, such as addiction specialists, psychiatrists, or therapists, can help determine the most appropriate treatment plan. These professionals can provide guidance on the most effective therapies and medications based on the individual's specific situation.

For individuals seeking mental health treatment services for substance use and co-occurring mental disorders, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline is a valuable resource. By calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357), visiting the SAMHSA online treatment locator, or texting their ZIP code to 435748, individuals can access information and support to find suitable treatment options [1]. Additionally, individuals can inquire about clinical trials through discussions with their healthcare provider to explore new ways of preventing, detecting, or treating substance use and co-occurring mental disorders [1].

Recovery and Support

Supporting someone with drug dependence is a long-term commitment that requires understanding, patience, and empathy. The process of recovery from drug dependence is not easy; it is a lifelong journey that requires dedication and support. In this section, we will explore two crucial aspects of recovery and support: the lifelong recovery process and the importance of joining support groups.

Lifelong Recovery Process

Recovering from drug dependence is a challenging and lifelong process. It is important to recognize that overcoming addiction is not easy, and seeking professional help is often necessary [6]. A trained drug counselor or therapist can provide the necessary guidance and support to navigate through the recovery process. They can assist in developing coping mechanisms, addressing underlying issues, and providing tools to prevent relapse.

Recovery involves facing challenges and frustrations, and there may be times when the scales may not feel balanced. It requires strength, resilience, and determination to navigate the difficult path to recovery. Each day presents a choice to avoid the tempting path of substance use and embrace a stronger, healthier life. It is a process of letting go of the old life associated with substance use, which can be painful as it requires the death of the old self. However, with the right support and determination, the journey towards recovery can be rewarding and transformative.

Joining Support Groups

Joining a support group can be immensely beneficial for individuals on the path to recovery. Support groups provide a platform to connect with others who have similar experiences and understand the challenges of drug dependence. They offer a safe space to share struggles, learn from others, and find support from individuals who have walked the same path.

Support groups specifically designed for individuals in similar age groups, such as teens and young adults, can be particularly helpful. These groups create a sense of community and provide an opportunity for real-life discussions about drugs and their impact.

By joining a support group, individuals can gain encouragement, guidance, and a sense of belonging. They can learn from the experiences of others, find inspiration, and receive valuable advice on navigating the challenges of recovery. Help and support are available, reinforcing that they are not alone in their journey towards a healthier and drug-free life.

Remember, recovery is a unique journey for each individual. It is essential to provide ongoing support, understanding, and encouragement to your loved one as they navigate through the ups and downs of recovery. By being there for them and encouraging their participation in support groups, you can play a vital role in their recovery process.


Contact Us

Leora Behavioral Health offers a comprehensive addiction treatment program to help you get your life back on track. Our trained professionals will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, reach out to Leora Behavioral Health today.

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