Supporting a Young Adult in Treatment

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Being a parent or mentor of a young adult with substance use disorder (SUD) can surface many emotions. You may be upset with yourself, feeling as if their substance abuse is somehow your fault. Additionally, you may feel discouraged if you missed seemingly obvious warning signs that indicated that their substance use is problematic.

Treatment and Education

As you work to navigate these emotions, it is critical to get your young adult connected with treatment. There are many challenges that recovery may present for your child. Professional treatment can help them begin navigating the consequences of their addiction and establish sobriety. With time, it can also help them develop the lifestyle changes and healing that can sustain long-term recovery.

Learning how to effectively support your child in treatment is a process that takes time. Fortunately, the first step is simple. Becoming educated about SUD and its triggers can help you increase your understanding as a parent or mentor. Additionally, having a foundation of education can increase your compassion for your young adult as they tackle treatment and recovery.

Why Would My Young Adult Engage in Substance Use?

When you first discovered that your young adult is using substances, you likely had questions. One question you may have asked yourself is, “Why would my young adult engage in alcohol and drug use?”

If you have battled SUD in your own life, you may be even more concerned.

The Pressures of Young Adulthood

As a parent or adult mentor, you may be far removed from the pressures of young adulthood. Young adulthood is a critical developmental period, offering new opportunities for your child to explore their identity and independence. This period may involve various milestones such as going to college, getting their first job, moving out of their childhood home, or trying new activities and hobbies. Clearly, young adulthood can be quite an exciting time.

Unfortunately, young adulthood is also fraught with new and challenging pressures. This can encourage substance use. For example, your young adult may try substances to de-stress from their increasing responsibilities. They may not know other ways to find relief from untreated trauma or co-occurring mental health disorders.

Additionally, a young adult may feel compelled to experiment with alcohol and other drugs as they progress toward the legal drinking age. They may find themselves in environments where substance use is considered normal. Their friends and peers may tell them that substances can temporarily relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. This may be very attractive to them, especially if they struggle with the factors mentioned above.

The Effects of Substance Use on the Brain

According to the National Insitute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), your young adult may take drugs for several reasons. They may do it to feel good, to feel better, to perform better, or to ease curiosity and social pressure.

Regardless of why it began, substance use of any kind puts your young adult at risk of developing SUD and addiction. This is because recurrent substance use impairs brain structure and associated functioning.

The Surgeon General explains:

 Substance use disorders result from changes in the brain that can occur with repeated use of alcohol or drugs. The most severe expression of the disorder, addiction, is associated with changes in the function of brain circuits involved in pleasure (the reward system), learning, stress, decision-making, and self-control.

Your young adult may no longer be using substances to reap their pleasurable effects. They may now be using to simply feel normal. Due to the changes their substance use has had on their brain and body, they may not be able to feel normal without substances anymore.

How to Support Your Young Adult in Treatment

Professional treatment can help your young adult establish sobriety. It can also address the effects of their substance use on their brain and behavior. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment facilities and programs available to kickstart their recovery.

In addition to becoming educated about SUD and its effects, there are many things that you can do to support your loved one in treatment.

Talk Openly About Mental Health

One way you can support your loved one in treatment is by being actively involved in their treatment and recovery. When they return home from treatment, ask them about their progress.

Be prepared for it to take some time for them to feel comfortable discussing their progress with you. In the meantime, focus on providing a safe space for them to talk.

Pass Along Useful Resources

As a parent or mentor, you want the best for your child. If you come across any academic, financial, and/or therapeutic resources, pass them along to your child.

You can let them know that these are just resources, not requirements. They don't need to use them. This will ease the pressure while still providing them access to these tools if or when they need additional assistance in recovery.

Participate in Family Therapy

Another way you can support your loved one in treatment is by participating in family therapy. Many treatment facilities offer family therapy options or support groups for family members of individuals in recovery. These groups can provide an outlet for your own stress, concerns, and setbacks. They can also provide inspiration and motivation for supporting your child in treatment.

Ensure That Your Young Adult Feels Empowered

It is important that your young adult feels empowered to engage in treatment and establish sobriety. If they do not feel empowered, they may be unable to find a reason to release the hold that substance use may have on them.

You can empower your young adult by helping them find deeper meaning and purpose for their sobriety. Consider practicing mindfulness techniques together, such as meditating or engaging with nature. You can also consider encouraging them to explore their spiritual and/or existential beliefs to help them foster motivation for lasting healing and recovery.

If your young adult is struggling with addiction, there are ways that you can support their recovery journey. First and foremost, it is vital to become educated about their condition and its effects. As they begin to participate in treatment, you can empower their recovery journey by openly discussing mental health and providing useful resources. At Pathways Recovery Center, we offer residential treatment programs for individuals seeking recovery from a wide range of substance use disorders. We implement both traditional and holistic approaches to care and individualize treatment to fit the unique needs of our clients. We can certainly help your young adult heal from addiction. To learn more, 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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