The truth we all cannot deny is that we are all addicts in different ways; either behavioral addicts or substance addicts. A very simple definition of addiction is‘a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior such as gambling, shopping, eating, etc., or a substance like alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.’
Recently, I found out that one of my childhood friends became a drug addict. Knowing him as a friendly, smart, full-of-life person, it never crossed my mind that he could become an addict.This is when I became interested in looking closer into his life and digging deeper into the world of addiction, especially substance addiction, since it’s more common and more destructive.
To many parents, addiction only happens to people who couldn’t control their lives, so when they find themselves dealing with an addict child, they start questioning their ways of raising this addict, and that’s exactly what happened to my friend’s parents. They now think that they loved him imperfectly and that they were too busy with work and life to get him what he needed, instead of what he wanted. They believe that, unintentionally, they raised him to become a child addict; it was just a matter of time and opportunity for him to start using drugs.
Society blames parents for any mishap that happens to their children, but experts say that addiction is no one’s fault. There are, however, some risk factors that can determine one’s vulnerability to addiction, and every parent should be aware of them:
- Mental Illness
Some children who suffer from depression, anxiety, mood disorders or ADHD are at heightened risk for addiction. Unfortunately, parents are not aware of these kinds of illness, so they leave them with no treatment, which may affect their mental health and lead eventually to addiction.
Parents should keep an eye out for some specific behaviors that may raise a flag that something is wrong. Some of these symptoms are fatigue, appetite issues and sleeping disorders. They also must ensure their children receive the proper treatment and counseling if needed, and remember that mental illness is not something to ignore or assume a child will outgrow. On the contrary, it can lead to many physical issues other than addiction.
- Genetic Factors
Some people are more vulnerable to addiction because their body chemistry increases their sensitivity to drugs. Few parents are aware that addiction tends to run in a family, and can be a result of genetic predisposition. The risk of addiction for children of drug addicts/alcoholics is 45-79% more than the general population. However, the genetic factor doesn’t alone determine the future of who will become an addict.
People should educate their children, and abstinence from drugs and alcohol has to be encouraged. Also, family history awareness is very important for children if they are at a heightened risk.
- Environmental Factor
The influence of the home environment is a very important factor parents usually know nothing about. While raising children, some parents indirectly have a negative effect on them, leading to aggressive behavior, poor social skills, self-centering and lack of commitment and even academic failure, which may lead eventually to addiction. Also, friends can have a strong influence during adolescence. They can even sway those without any risk factors to try drugs for the first time.
- Access to Drugs
It’s easy now-a-days for teens to get drugs. Teenagers say drugs are everywhere and the source is not limited to drug dealers. Drugs can be found online, at schools, at parties; anywhere! Since addiction is primarily a disease of adolescence, the only things parents can do is to keep any eye on their children and make them aware of the consequences of addiction.
Drug use by a child is one of a parent’s worst nightmares. As a result, early detection and interventions are essential, and there are some warning signs that your child might be an addict:
- Change in school performance (grades/attendance)
- Drastic changes in friendship
- Social isolation
- Dramatic change in appearance
- Unexplained loss of parents’ money
- Changes in moods and personality
- Physical changes like eating and sleeping habits, red eyes, excessive sweating, etc.
Our children make their own choices, however, drug prevention strategies can help parents mitigate the damage. One simple fact about addiction is that ‘with awareness comes responsibility’, so we should not only blame the parents, who own their part of the addiction process, but the addict is also accountable for the decision to choose addiction as his/her coping mechanism over his life.