For the parents of young adults with a substance use disorder

According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (the most recent survey available to us) and the latest findings by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), these are the percentages of young adults, aged 18 – 25, that do the following:

– 39% of full-time college students report engaging in binge drinking within the last month (this number is 33% for those in not in college or part-time)
– 19% report using marijuana within the last month
– 22% report using illicit drugs (Molly, heroin, opiate painkillers, methamphetamine) within the last month
– 13% report abusing prescription drugs within the last month

People who abuse alcohol and/or drugs are more likely to get injured, have a mental health disorder, be involved in sexual assault, have legal problems, and attempt suicide. It’s a huge risk factor that can also lead to school, work and family problems. If you are a parent of someone aged 18 to 25, you may have already seen your child experience some of these issues. At the very least, you probably have some concerns. I’ve worked as a therapist with this population for 12 years and I’ve run programs at high schools, universities, in-patient and out-patient treatment centers. Here are some simple tips, based on those experiences:

– be a role model -> young adults with a parent who abuses alcohol/drugs are much more likely to have substance use disorder themselves
– talk to your young adult about school, friends and substance use
– engage in activities outside of your home with your offspring (too many relationships get bogged down by the business of housekeeping (shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry) and not enough families engage in fun or recreational pursuits

If you suspect or know that your young adult has a drug or alcohol problem, here are some further actions that you can take:

– get your young adult into counseling immediately
– accept that everyone who lives with someone with a substance problem is affected
– do not have alcohol or drugs in the house
– abstain from alcohol and/or drug use while your offspring is in treatment or trying to stay clean
– attend at least six Al-Anon meetings (Al-Anon is for the family, friends & lovers of someone who has an alcohol or drug problem)
– attend an open AA speaker meeting alone
– set clear rules & boundaries
– make sure that you have some time each week to spend with other family members (to take the focus off of your young adult that is using and to make sure that others have not been ignored)
make sure that you have some time each week for your own fun activities
– consider individual therapy for yourself

With treatment, young adults with a drug and/or alcohol problem can still reach their utmost potential. This gets harder and harder to do once your offspring hits their mid-20’s, 30’s or 40’s. Without treatment, your young adult’s drug and/or alcohol problem will get worse. There are many people in the United States that are paying the rent of their 30-something child and/or are raising their grandkids. To borrow a term from Charles Dickens, you can change your “ghost of Christmas future.” After reading this article, you can never say that you were not told.