A Guide for Mothers of Children Struggling with Substance Use Disorders

As a mom, your top priority is your child’s health and safety. If your child is struggling with a substance use disorder or SUD, their health and safety may be in jeopardy, and it may feel like helping them is impossible. It is important that you know your child’s SUD is not your fault.

Watching your child struggle with addiction is a pain that not everyone can relate to, but here at East Coast Recovery, we understand. Whether you have a teenager who has recently gotten into drugs or an adult child who has been struggling for years, we are here to help your family and your child heal.

Cathy Hull Taughinbaugh, a former fourth-grade teacher, became a certified parent coach and writer to help other moms struggling because of their child’s substance use disorder.

“Parents tend to pull back,” Taughinbaugh said. “They tend to isolate from family and friends, so I think it’s crucial that moms find people they can relate to who don’t judge them.”

If your child is struggling with addiction, they are not alone. In fact, according to a study published in 2014 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), they estimated more than 3% of people in Massachusetts struggled with dependence on an illicit drug, and almost 8% of people struggled with dependence on alcohol during the years studied (2008-2010).

Supporting your child through addiction can be really hard, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse cites evidence that family support is an important intervention strategy in addiction recovery.

If you and your family choose to walk the path with us, East Coast Recovery will be here to support you with treatment for substance use and co-occurring mental health problems every step of the way.

What Kinds of Substance Use Disorders Are Common?

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by SAMHSA, 40.3 million people ages 12 and older in the U.S. were estimated to have suffered from a substance use disorder of some kind. Alcohol use disorder and marijuana use disorder were by far the most common substance use disorders in 2020. However, there are several other common substance use disorders.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

The SAMHSA survey found 28.3 million people ages 12 and up in the U.S. had alcohol use disorder in 2020. The data was broken down into three age groups: adolescents ages 12-17, young adults ages 18-25, and all other adults ages 26 and older. Adults ages 18-25 had the highest percentage of people suffering from AUD at 15.6%. At East Coast Recovery, we have an excellent alcohol use disorder treatment program.

Marijuana Use Disorder (MUD)

According to the survey cited above, 14.2 million people 12 and up living in the U.S. suffered from a marijuana use disorder in 2020. Similar to alcohol use disorder, the rate of MUD was highest among adults ages 18-25 with 13.5% of people in that group considered to be suffering from a marijuana use disorder. We have a high-quality treatment program for marijuana use disorder at East Coast Recovery.

Marijuana has become a very popular drug to use recreationally. In some parts of the U.S., marijuana is illegal, but here in Massachusetts, it is legal for both medical and recreational use.

Illicit Drug Use Disorders

SAMHSA uses “illicit drug use disorder” as a general term for any substance use disorder where a drug is used illegally. In 2020, 18.4 million people suffered from at least one illicit drug use disorder. This breaks down into several different substance use disorders.

In the U.S., 2.7 million people 12 and older suffered from an opioid use disorder in 2020, 1.5 million suffered from a methamphetamine use disorder, and 1.3 million suffered from a cocaine use disorder. These are just a few examples. At East Coast Recovery, we treat any kind of substance use disorder.

It can feel scary to see just how common substance use disorders are in the U.S., especially if you’re worried that your child might be suffering from one. As a mother, your number one goal in life is to protect your child from harm. If your child is one of the millions of Americans suffering from a substance use disorder, they need treatment.

What Are the Warning Signs of a Substance Use Disorder?

There are many physical, behavioral, and psychological warning signs of substance use disorders that are listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. All people are different and may not show all of the signs of a substance use disorder.

Taughinbaugh can speak to the warning signs of substance use from a personal perspective. Her daughter has been in recovery from a substance use disorder for more than a decade.

“You just kind of notice a shift in your child,” Taughinbaugh said. “They were a kid going along in a certain direction, and things are starting to change.”

Physical signs of SUD include:

  • Unexplained tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden lack of coordination
  • An odd or new smell on the breath, clothes, or body
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in the pupil (the black center of the eye) size
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Unkempt appearance or sudden changes in grooming habits
  • Sudden changes in weight

Behavioral signs of SUD include:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Loss or changes in a friend group
  • Sudden hardships in their relationships
  • Secretive or suspicious behavior
  • New or worsening problems with the law
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Not fulfilling their responsibilities

Psychological signs of SUD include:

  • New or worsening anxiety
  • Increased anger or irritability
  • Unexplained changes in personality or attitude
  • Lack of motivation to complete important tasks
  • Sudden bouts of increased energy
  • Sudden mood swings
  • New or worsening paranoia (unfounded fears, like the belief that people are spying on them)

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

We offer a high-quality intensive outpatient treatment program. Unlike a residential treatment program, IOP does not require that your child stay at the facility 24/7. Instead, they would live at home and come to the treatment facility regularly to receive treatment.

IOP often consists of a total of 10 hours of individual and group therapy a week for 90 days. However, at East Coast Recovery, our treatment programs are individualized, and the length of treatment is determined by a clinician and the client’s needs.

We believe that, in addition to individual therapy, group therapy is important because it allows space for clients to see they are not alone, practice communication, and experience positive socialization.

IOP is a good choice for people who cannot do a residential program because of work, school, or family obligations. IOP is also a good fit for people who are coming out of a residential program and need help transitioning back to daily life.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

We also offer a partial hospitalization program. PHP is in between residential treatment and IOP. We offer PHP to clients who are 18 years of age or older, and it is designed for people who may be considered a safety risk or who have struggled with lower levels of care, like IOP.

During PHP, your child would still live at home but would come to our treatment facility on a daily basis. In PHP, clients receive a mix of individual, group, and family therapy, and may engage in recreational activities at the facility.

PHP is a large time commitment and is usually the primary focus of a client’s day-to-day life while they are in treatment. This is a good option for someone who needs frequent care and support. We offer a variety of care methods, and they can be fit to the needs of individual clients. The length of the treatment depends on the needs of the client.

Aftercare Treatment Program

At East Coast Recovery, we know the recovery journey doesn’t simply end when a client has completed their program. That’s why we’ll work with your child to come up with an aftercare plan that works for them.

A few common parts of an aftercare plan are:

  • Continuing individual, group, or family therapy
  • Finding a sober support network
  • Participating in meetings, like a 12-step program
  • Finding sober living
  • Pursuing new hobbies and self-care

We will even help your child figure out the logistics of their aftercare plan, including finances, transportation, employment, housing, and education.

How Should I Talk to My Child About Treatment and Recovery?

Having your child go through recovery can be a difficult process. It is not uncommon for mothers to feel like they are at a loss or don’t know how to talk to their child about recovery. Here are a few of our suggestions.

“One of the things we talk about a lot is to just stay calm,” Taughinbaugh said. “Be curious and ask lots of questions, so you have a better understanding of what made them turn to substance use. Kids really want to be heard. Substance use is a symptom of a bigger issue.”

Don’t Tell Your Child What to Do

As a parent, you likely have some level of authority over your child. That can be very difficult to give up, especially when you just want what’s best for them. However, it’s very important that you don’t give instructions to your child about how you expect them to handle recovery.

Instead, ask them how you can help. Throughout the recovery process, it is important that your child feels supported.

Set Clear Boundaries With Your Child

That being said, it is important to set clear boundaries. Just because your child asks you for something doesn’t mean that you can provide it for them. It is important that you know your limits and take care of yourself throughout the process of recovery.

It can be difficult to communicate with your child when they test your boundaries. Communicate when something makes you uncomfortable, and be sure to avoid enabling their unhealthy behavior.

Listen to Your Child and Believe Them

When your child confides in you about a substance use disorder, it is important that you listen without interrupting. It’s understandable to have questions, but it is also important that you trust that they know their body and their limits. Don’t make excuses or judgments about their condition. Let them know you are a safe person to come to.

What Kind of Support Is There for Me and My Family?

Here at East Coast Recovery, we know that substance use disorders can be hard on the entire family. Very often, trust has been broken and feelings have been hurt. However, we believe that families are a very important part of recovery, and that when families are left out of treatment, dysfunction will continue to exist.

Family therapy is important because it helps everyone understand the recovery process better. Learning to solve problems and positively communicate within a family can be a very important part of recovery.

Family therapy focuses on helping family members learn:

  • How to be there for their loved ones
  • How to communicate effectively
  • How to build boundaries
  • How to work toward healing themselves and each other

What Does Treatment for My Child Look Like at East Coast Recovery?

Here at East Coast Recovery, we offer an intensive outpatient program or IOP and a partial hospitalization program or PHP as well as aftercare treatment. We know that every client is a unique individual, and different people have different needs. That’s why we ensure your child’s treatment program fits their individual needs.

Getting Help at East Coast Recovery

Is your child suffering from a substance use disorder? As a mother, you have always done everything in your power to give your child a good life. Recovery will help them get that life back. Call (617) 390-8349 today to get started.


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