Signs of Drug or Alcohol Addiction in your Adult Offspring

Here are 9 questions to ask yourself if you're concerned about your child.

Posted Sep 11, 2018

Following are some of the “red flags” that indicate changes in your adult child’s behavior that might give rise to thoughts about where your child’s money is going or why your child has lost another job. If you are beginning to have concerns about your child's well-being, you may begin to imagine that substance use, abuse, or addiction are a part of the problem.

Depending on where your child is on the journey from “casual user” to “hardcore addict,” you may be tempted to write these indicators off as “one-time flukes.” This is often not the case, however, as what you hope is a “one-time fluke” may very well be a “fluke” only in that this is the tip of the iceberg and the first time a pattern of risky choices has been exposed.

As a word of warning, seldom does your child’s “first” DUI mark the first time your child has engaged in this behavior–it’s usually just the first time your child was caught.

Red flags of addiction

Here are some questions you may be asking your child or yourself as doubts about your child’s wellbeing begin to surface. . . .

  1. Does his clothing seem to fit different? Has he lost weight–he looks so skinny?
  2. Why doesn’t he make eye contact? I can’t get a good look at his eyes.
  3. Why is he always wearing long sleeves even when it’s summer? Is he covering up something?
  4. Why does she get so ticked off so easily when she’s here? She’s not the same woman she used to be.
  5. Why doesn’t she talk about her friends anymore or hang out with them like she used to?
  6. Why doesn’t he answer the phone or text back when I reach out?
  7. Why is he missing so much work?
  8. Why do her own children always look so bedraggled and hungry all the time?
  9. What happened to her car? Why is she behind on her rent? Why is she needing a few dollars every time she visits?

Even if your child is legally an adult, you may still feel responsible if you suspect that addiction has taken hold of your son or daughter. Whether the drug of choice is alcohol, OxyContin, heroin, or something else, once the pursuit of a substance has taken priority over the pursuit of any other path (career, romantic partnership, parenthood, and so on), a virtual moratorium has been placed on your role as parent in your child’s life.

Addictions take away your child’s choices while also taking away the ability of your child to perceive the support that a relationship with you could offer.

You can’t protect your kids from life.

Most new parents look at their newborn and experience wonder at the amazing fact of her existence and then begin to wonder just how far she might go in this world and what amazing things she might do. New parents also worry about the physical harm that may befall their child, too. Babyproofing the house, getting the safest car seat and following manufacturer’s instructions for securing it safely in the backseat, and making sure all potential known threats to her safety are minimized if not totally avoided.

Unfortunately, as children grow into adolescents and then into adults, their strengths may grow more visible, but their weaknesses and vulnerabilities may become more pervasive or entrenched. Your adult child’s faults may be increasingly revealed . . . and compromised . . . as well. Conscientious parents fear they won’t be able to protect their child from known or unknown hazards–illness, violence, accidents, misfortune, and any other danger that could befall a person. No parent can.

And as much as you try to protect your child from the world, the sadder fact is that you cannot protect your child from herself. This is perhaps one of the hardest truths to accept as a parent . . . you invest so much of your heart and resources into caring for a child, but adult children hold all the power, in the end, to validate your investment or to let you down in a million different ways.

Addiction is one of the land mines that blindsides parents as few ever imagine that this could happen to their child. Sadly, once children are gripped by addiction in their late adolescent or early adult years, the addiction’s power and hold on the child may far outstrip and outsmart any influence a parent will ever again possess unless the child chooses to begin recovery.

Invitation to Share Your Experiences of Parenting an Adult Addict

Please click on the link below to participate in a new survey that is seeking to understand the experiences of parents of adult addicts. Share your thoughts here

Get Help for yourself as soon as you realize your child is an addict.


SAMSHA National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)