How to Deal With an Alcoholic Son

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Seeing a child experience the pain of becoming addicted to alcohol is a heart-wrenching experience for any parent. Most people feel helpless and uncertain about how to ensure their child gets the help they need. According to Alcohol Research Current Reviews, "[M]ore males (7%) than females (4%) are diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) each year." Many parents are uncertain how to help an alcoholic son find treatment. Pathways Recovery Center provides families with the support and information they need to help loved ones struggling with AUD. 

Professional recovery programs are the best way to ensure young adults with AUD find healthy ways to manage their condition. Early recovery is a difficult time for many people. Pathways Recovery Center provides hope and resources to families navigating alcohol abuse and co-occurring issues. 

Understanding Alcoholism in Young Adults

Young adults have a high risk of developing AUD. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2021, "894,000 youth ages 12 to 17 (3.4% in this age group) had AUD." Parents often are unaware their children have started experimenting with alcohol or other substances. Normalizing family conversations about mental and physical health makes it easier for children to talk with their parents about experimenting with alcohol or drugs. In addition, frank discussions about alcohol reduce the risk of children becoming dependent or addicted to alcohol and other substances. 

Young adults are more likely to misuse alcohol if a close family member is diagnosed with AUD, substance use disorder (SUD), or mental illness. Other potential risk factors include: 

  • Peer pressure
  • Trauma
  • Childhood abuse or neglect 
  • Genetics 
  • Family history of mental health issues or substance abuse 

Alcohol abuse is different from binge drinking or experimental drinking. However, all three may contribute to addictive behaviors in young adults. 

Young men living in homes where one or more parental figures misuse alcohol have an increased risk of developing AUD and mental health disorders. Parents in recovery reduce the risk to their children by being open and honest about their condition. 

Signs Your Son Might Be Struggling With Alcoholism

Men have an increased risk of becoming addicted to alcohol at a young age. Parents may worry if their son begins to act differently or spend more time engaging in activities involving alcohol. Parental figures concerned about their child's health should educate themselves on the potential causes of addiction and learn to recognize signs of alcohol abuse. 

Some common behavioral changes parents may notice include: 

  • New friend groups or social circles 
  • Secretive behaviors 
  • Withdrawal from family members 
  • Avoiding family events
  • Falling grades 
  • Problems at work 
  • Replacing previously enjoyed activities or hobbies with drinking 

A few physical indications of potential AUD include: 

  • Uncharacteristic lack of personal hygiene
  • Frequently smells of alcohol 
  • Obvious signs of intoxication 
  • Bloodshot eyes 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Difficulty remembering simple tasks

Some emotional signs of alcohol misuse include:

  • Extreme mood swings 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Unusual irritation, anger, or aggression 

Everyone reacts differently to alcohol abuse. Some young adults may struggle to function day-to-day, while others only exhibit mild symptoms or side effects. According to the NIAAA, "Alcohol affects people differently at different stages of life—for children and adolescents, alcohol can interfere with normal brain development." Parents are often the first to notice unhealthy changes in moods, thoughts, and behaviors. 

The Impacts of Alcoholism on Young Lives

Alcohol addiction can potentially cause severe disruptions to education and career goals. Young men struggling with AUD often struggle to maintain productivity and motivation. Energy and time previously used for school or work is spent acquiring, consuming, or recovering from alcohol. Disruption to education or career advancement at a young age can affect a person's entire life and profoundly impact their ability to support themselves after treatment. 

Some young men with AUD engage in criminal activities while under the influence or to support their addictive behaviors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Excessive alcohol consumption increases aggression and may increase the risk of physically assaulting another person." In addition, "Alcohol is a key risk factor for sexual violence perpetration." Young men have an increased risk of engaging in self-sabotaging and criminal behavior under the influence of alcohol. 

Physical Side Effects

Side effects of alcohol abuse may cause lasting damage to adolescents and young adults. Chronic alcohol misuse changes the physical structure of still-developing brains and other body systems.

Some common physical side effects include: 

  • Significant memory impairment 
  • Higher risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and other severe health conditions
  • Damage to the frontal lobe and hippocampus, causing a decrease in impulse control and a higher risk of future addiction 

Young adults are especially vulnerable to experiencing permanent changes to the structure of their brain if they binge drink or experience AUD. According to the NIAAA, "For adolescents, drinking alcohol can make it even more difficult to control impulses and make healthy choices . . . drinking also compromises the ability to sense danger by disrupting the function of a brain region called the amygdala."

In addition to affecting physical health, alcohol abuse also impacts family dynamics and meaningful relationships. Healthy social connections are essential to positive mental health. Without the support of friends and family, young adults may have an even harder time reaching out for help or participating in treatment. Often, it is left up to parents to intervene on their son's behalf. 

Initiating the Conversation: Approaching Your Son

Parents can support their child's recovery by initiating conversations about AUD, treatment, and mental health. Many people with AUD struggle to control their emotions, and these complicated topics may cause some young men to become defensive or combative. Choosing the appropriate setting is essential when talking to a loved one about their potential alcohol addiction. 

Parents ensure children feel more comfortable during difficult conversations by doing the following: 

  • Having the discussion in a safe and neutral space 
  • Using objective facts instead of subjective feelings 
  • Focusing on the problem and avoiding arguments 
  • Using neutral instead of blaming language

Consulting with a mental health professional before having a candid discussion about alcohol abuse can help families approach the topic in a better way. Pathways Recovery Center offers intervention support and education to families struggling with AUD. 

Parental figures should practice empathy and compassion when discussing substance abuse with their children. Individuals intervening on their loved one's behalf must be especially mindful of their verbal and nonverbal communication. The words parents use can either cause children to feel supported or judged for their lifestyle choices. Avoiding blaming language is essential. According to Drug and Alcohol Dependence, "The language used in describing substance use, substance use disorders, and other related topics affect the types of explicit and implicit bias that individuals experience." The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a helpful list of terms to avoid or use when discussing substance abuse with a loved one. 

Often, people with AUD become defensive or deny having a problem when confronted with their addictive behaviors. Parents should expect these types of responses and be compassionate instead of emotionally reactive. 

The Importance of Professional Interventions

Many families want to deal with mental health issues on their own instead of entrusting an "outsider" with information that might leave them feeling embarrassed or ashamed. However, families are often ill-equipped to address the needs of young adults with AUD. Professional interventions and addiction recovery treatment provide the best outcomes for young men with AUD. Families may not know how to get the help they need. Pathways Recovery Center provides intervention support for families struggling with AUD. 

Using Guided Interventions to Support Children With AUD

Guided interventions are an essential recovery tool for many people with AUD. According to the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, "Family interventions can help the family influence or pressure the member with the SUD to enter treatment and get help, address the impact of the SUD on the family system and members, help the family support the member with the SUD, and help the family address their own reactions and problems associated with their loved one's SUD." Addiction recovery experts guide families through the process of holding an intervention for family members with AUD. 

Pathways Recovery Center facilitates successful interventions by ensuring families understand the realities of alcohol addiction and treatment. Clinicians walk parents through communicating their concerns without alienating their children or causing unnecessary conflict. Guided interventions have a higher success rate compared to interventions without professional assistance. Clinicians at Pathways Recovery Center work closely with family members to ensure they have the resources and tools they need to intervene on their loved one's behalf. 

The first step after a successful intervention is a clinical assessment and detox. 

Pathways Recovery Center: Detox and Residential Treatment

Pathways Recovery Center offers various programs and services for individuals with alcohol use disorder. The center has provided individuals and their families with essential addiction recovery resources and treatment for nearly two decades. 

Some of the services and programs provided include: 

  • Interventions
  • Detox
  • Stabilization
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • MAT management/withdrawal
  • Residential 
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Outpatient
  • Aftercare
  • Sober living
  • Alumni services

The clinical team understands some people with AUD have a history of trauma or other underlying issues affecting their mental health. Programs provide trauma-informed care and personalized treatment to ensure clients receive the most appropriate care.

The Detoxification Process

Pathways Recovery Center carefully monitors clients during detox from alcohol to ensure they feel safe and comfortable. The detox process involves the following steps: 

#1. Evaluation: clinicians carefully assess clients to determine what substances they may have been recently exposed to in order to provide the most effective detox treatments. 

#2. Stabilization: licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and other nursing staff monitor client health and provide medications or other treatments to manage withdrawal symptoms and side effects.

#3. Preparation: clients are prepared for the transition to the next level of care using psychotherapy and other treatment services.  

The detoxification process is essential to ensure clients get the support they need to safely go through withdrawal. Detox is a vital stage of recovery for individuals with severe alcohol addiction or other forms of substance use disorder (SUD). 

Medication and Alcohol Detox Treatment

Some clients may need prescription medications to help them manage symptoms of withdrawal. Medications also reduce the risk of relapse during early recovery. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three drugs for treating AUD. According to Alcohol Research Current Reviews, "None of these prescribed medications are mood-altering, habit-forming, or addictive." However, because many people with AUD have co-occurring conditions requiring medication, "Persons in recovery are urged to communicate openly with their prescribing doctor if they skip doses or take extra medication, have a desire to take more medication, or experience side effects that make them feel worse, as well as to be sensitive to changes in their own behavior and mood when starting a new medication or when a dose is changed."

Individuals transitioning from detox into residential treatment programs benefit from the continued structure, accountability, and comprehensive services. Young men are more likely to stay engaged in their recovery in a residential setting compared to non-residential treatment. Clinicians at Pathways Recovery Center collaborate closely with clients and their families to determine which programs meet their unique needs and preferences. 

The Road to Recovery: How Pathways Supports Families

Pathways Recovery Center provides a supportive environment and welcoming community where clients and their families receive compassionate and empathetic support. Programs also provide clients with access to peer support and other positive social interactions. According to Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, "[P]eer support groups are considered an important aspect of the addiction recovery process." Clients and their families are encouraged to become active members of the community, engaging with peers and the care team. 

Pathways Recovery Center offers family counseling and therapy sessions to help clients and their loved ones develop deeper bonds and repair any relationship damage caused by substance abuse. Family therapy allows clients and their loved ones to grow and heal together under the guidance of a certified therapist. 

Educational Resources and Workshops for Families

Workshops and mental health education help families better understand addiction and the treatment process. Pathways Recovery Center offers workshops to families and alumni. The care team also provides psychoeducation, educational resources, and referrals to families who want to know more about addiction recovery and mental health. Parents with children in recovery benefit from having a better understanding of AUD. 

Post-Treatment: Transitioning Back Home and Continued Support

Some young men have difficulty transitioning from treatment to independent sobriety. Returning home is a big step. Family participation in treatment provides clients with additional stability and support during the transition home. 

Some of the most common challenges facing clients after treatment include: 

  • Cravings 
  • Increased stress
  • Exposure to alcohol-related activities and conversations 
  • Greater access to alcohol
  • Exposure to people or places related to past substance abuse 
  • Reduced structure and accountability

The risk of relapse is stronger during the first few weeks after treatment. People in recovery should have an alcohol-free environment to return to after rehabilitation. Family members support their loved one's recovery by holding them accountable for their sobriety and providing a safe, alcohol-free space for them to continue healing. 

Most people with AUD continue to attend individual therapy and self-help groups after treatment to reduce the risk of relapse. Continuing therapy also makes the transition out of treatment less stressful by providing additional emotional support. 

Residential Inpatient Treatment - Pathways Recovery Center

Recovery from alcohol use disorder is a journey and not a destination. Treatment programs provide essential support, guidance, skill development, and resources. However, treatment is not an immediate "cure," and individuals in recovery must maintain positive mental health and sobriety using the resources at their disposal. Pathways Recovery Center is committed to aiding families and individuals in their fight against addiction. 

Parents concerned about their child's potential alcohol addiction can get help by contacting Pathways Recovery Center. Early intervention and treatment is the best way to reduce the risk of long-term health complications. Detox and residential treatment programs ensure young men have the support they need to heal from their addiction and move forward in their recovery.

Parents often feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to help children exhibiting signs of potential alcohol abuse. Alcohol use disorder is a complex health issue. Parents can support their child's recovery by providing information on services and treatment programs. Pathways Recovery Center offers intervention support, psychoeducation, and other resources to families struggling with the effects of alcohol abuse. We encourage families to actively participate in their loved one's recovery. Educational workshops and family therapy help families heal and grow together. In some cases, young men with AUD have co-occurring mental health disorders. The clinical team uses evidence-based treatments to address co-occurring disorders. To learn more about our treatment programs and services, call us today at (888) 771-0966.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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