Dealing With A Daughter Suffering From Drug Addiction
July 9th, 2018
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly sixteen million women use illicit drugs per year and that nearly five million misuse prescriptions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every three minutes a woman goes to the ER for prescription misuse or abuse, primarily opioids and benzodiazepines (benzos). Data from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids indicates that teenage girls are more vulnerable to drug abuse than teenage boys. At one point, each and every one of these women had parents, whether for their whole lives or a more abbreviated period, and most of them had parents who may have been able to guide them toward recovery from drug abuse and subsequent addiction. Dealing with a daughter suffering from drug addiction is never easy; however, parents are the ones who are usually most empowered to help save their children’s lives when drugs hit their homes.
Why Is My Daughter Addicted?
Understanding your daughter’s journey toward addiction is considerably easier when you understand the myriad common causes of substance abuse among women in general. This population faces a unique and distinct set of physiological and lifestyle factors that can significantly drive substance abuse. In addition to issues related to hormones, menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause that can impact women’s struggles with drug use.
Some of the primary factors that can increase substance abuse among women can include:
- Trauma – The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that one in six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. The US Department of Veterans Affairs reports that women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with PTSD in the general population. Factors like sexual assault, repeated discrimination in the workplace, and institutional barriers that prevent full equality can lead to increased rates of trauma. This trauma is often internalized and self-medicated with drugs or alcohol.
- Physiology – Women generally metabolize drugs at a slower rate than men, which means they can more readily develop tolerance. This is also true for alcohol. Renal clearance is generally slower, and women usually are affected by smaller and less frequent intervals of drinking and drug use. The physiological differences between men and women play an important role in disease prevalence and outcomes as well, including such conditions as cataracts, depression, hepatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, multiple sclerosis, and more.
Women, and younger girls specifically, are also confronted with different and often unbalanced world perceptions compared to their male counterparts. Parents can counteract these outside-the-house obstacles by providing consistent emotional support, positive reinforcement, and empowerment.
Signs Your Daughter Is Addicted
While the signs and symptoms of addiction are unique according to each individual user’s substance use history, some of the more common signs include:
- Sudden changes in temperament.
- Decline in academic performance.
- Change in social circle.
- Increased isolation and withdrawal from interaction.
- Changes in physical appearance (track marks, tooth decay, weight loss, sunken eyes, paleness, and others).
If you notice these or other physical and behavioral changes in your daughter that you suspect might be related to drug use, it’s critical that your mobilize your resources to intervene and get her help.
What Can I Do?
Nobody wants to believe that addiction can ever infiltrate their household and family. The revelation can be so shocking that, when faced with it, parents are often rendered emotionally paralyzed to act in the best interests of their child.
It’s important to realize two things:
- You’re not alone.
- The sooner you act, the sooner you may be able to help guide your child toward treatment.
The exact steps you take to identify and act upon your daughter’s drug addiction will be largely contingent upon the nature of your relationship (her history of lying, past arguments, whether you feel you can trust her, etc.
It’s natural to want to respect your daughter’s privacy whether she’s a child or an adult, but saving her life from addiction is more important. It might be necessary to deploy seemingly invasive practices such as going through her belongings to look for drugs or related paraphernalia or to ask frequent questions about her whereabouts. If you suspect there’s a problem, it’s likely that some signal has nurtured that instinct. When you find that your daughter does indeed have a drug problem, there are multiple courses of action that may be at your disposal:
- Intervention – Organized gathering of an addicted person’s loved ones, usually guided by an objective professional, for the purposes of illustrating how their addiction has impacted their lives and familial relationships.
- Compulsory Treatment (for Underage Children) – Many states have involuntary commitment laws that allow parents to place their children in substance abuse treatment programs if they meet strict criteria. Involuntary commitment may seem like a drastic measure, but it was developed out of the idea that children don’t often grasp the gravity of addiction or the healing benefits of treatment.
- Increased Oversight and Boundaries – Parents can also a use a customized combination of boundaries, accountability, and trust exercises, such as curfew, random drug screenings, quality-of-life consequences, and even legal recourse to help their daughters abstain from drug use.
Start the Conversation
Your daughter’s drug addiction may not be your fault, but it is now your responsibility to help. Pretending it doesn’t exist is going to do anything but exacerbate the issue and create further emotional distance between you and her. By starting a frank and honest dialogue and doing whatever is necessary to intervene in your daughter’s drug use, you’re sending her a clear message that you’re a strong, loving, and committed parent. She may not be able to see this immediately, but you need to do everything you can to ensure she comes out the other end of her substance use as the healthy and productive young woman you’ve raised her to be.