12 Things To Do If You Think Your Child is Using Opioids


Wondering if your child is using opioids is a scary place to be. Guilt, shame, and fear flood those scenarios and parents don’t often know what the next steps should be. Here are 12 things you can do to help yourself and your child if those fears have become a part of your life:

  1. Learn the red flags but admit to yourself that you may still not see them. 

    Many times there are no obvious warning signs that opioid or heroin use is happening. Obvious signs include needle marks or evidence in the form of syringes or bent spoons. But in many cases, by the time you are seeing those signs, the situation has escalated so much that the person has given up hiding the evidence. More subtle red flags include never having any money (even when earning a paycheck), pawning personal belongings, stealing money and/or belongings from family or friends, or simply demonstrating radically uncharacteristic behavior without any reasonable explanation.

  2. Calmly ask.

    Tell your son/daughter that you are becoming more aware of the opioid epidemic, want them to know that you are noticing red flags, and want to offer help if they have developed an addiction. Even if they have an addiction but lie about it, by calmly asking and putting the emphasis on love, concern and the offer for help, you begin to open up the lines of communication in hopes that one day the answer will be “Yes, please help me get well.”

  3. Offer professional help or to go with them to an open 12-step meeting (which is free).

    Again, even if they turn it down today, you and s/he will know that you have offered support. They may not go that time, but they will know that you were willing.

  4. Regardless of the answer, investigate how to acquire overdose reversal kits. This may save your child’s life!

    At this time, naloxone is available without a prescription through CVS, Walgreen’s and other sources in over 40 states, plus the District of Columbia. Some non-profit organizations can provide them for free, while pharmacies sell them for $20-175, depending on which type of overdose reversal product kit you choose. http://www.getnaloxonenow.org/find.html

  5. Decide which product kit is best for you by talking with an addiction specialist, EMT or pharmacist.

    The injectable form is the cheapest and easiest for some to use (but the hardest for others because it requires you to inject the medicine using a large needle). The brand-name Narcan (nasal spray) or Evzio (auto-injector) are the most expensive but easy for most everyone one. The generic nasal spray is the hardest of all to use and moderately expensive.

  6. Purchase or acquire one or more kits.

    You will need one that stays with you at all times, and you may be able to give your son/daughter one kit to keep with them at all times too. Unless you carry a purse or backpack with you everywhere you go, you may want to get extras.

  7. Learn how to use the kit and how to teach your son/daughter.

    Directions are included with each kit, but it is good to have someone walk through the steps with you so you feel confident. Make sure to teach others so they will know too. The time to learn those steps is when you’re not panicking and afraid.

  8. Strategically place one or more kits so that, if you need one, a kit is close at hand. 

    Some people put kits in their purse, bookbag, medicine chest, glovebox, or bedside table. Although the injectable kits include 2 syringes, the needles are large so they can go through clothing if needed. No need to worry that putting a syringe within reach of your using son/daughter will encourage them to use drugs by giving them a syringe to do it with. That needle is so big, they would never consider that.

  9. Get help for yourself and start learning about addiction.

    Identify an independent addiction specialist who can answer questions, help you identify if you are contributing to the problem (even though you’re trying to help), and offer support during the hard times. It is so easy for us to focus on the unacceptable, despicable behaviors of those with addiction that we can find ourselves feeling angry, hurt and terrified. Learn as much as you can about addiction. Local treatment programs offer family education programs. ParentingThroughAddiction.com offers a course just for parents who are concerned about addiction but whose son/daughter isn’t willing to accept treatment yet. David Sheff’s book Clean is very informative and available at most local libraries or through Amazon.

  10. Begin to adjust your expectations about the time frame for recovery. 

    Often we think that people need detox to help them get clean and that they ought to be able to stay abstinent once they’ve gotten the drugs our of their system. Unfortunately, successful, sustainable addiction recovery requires intensive support over about 18-24 months, not just a few days of detox.

  11. Identify key resources so that, when the time is right, you’ll know how and where to get help.

    If your son/daughter has insurance coverage, try to get a copy of their card and research their benefits. Identify an independent addiction specialist who can help you explore treatment and recovery options that are the best fit for your family’s needs, preferences and resources. This will mean that, when your son/daughter is ready, you will be too. ParentingThroughAddiction.com offers independent addiction consultation and/or can help direct you to providers closer to home.

  12. Never give up hope and recognize every crisis as an opportunity.

    Every single time your son/daughter experiences a crisis (i.e. overdose reversal, arrest, loss of job, loss of romantic partner, getting caught stealing things, etc.). Each time is an opportunity to reintroduce the importance of getting help (or living with the reality of not getting help and dealing with the fallout of addictive-related behavior). While addiction is a formidable foe, it is absolutely possible for those with even advanced addiction to experience a full life in recovery, so never, ever give up hope!!!

You do not have to walk this path alone. Parenting Through Addiction offers courses to teach you about what YOU can do to help your child as they begin their own path to recovery. We also offer various membership options so you can connect with other parents who are on their own journey to find serenity in the face of their child’s addiction. To learn more click here!