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Signs of Drug or Alcohol Addiction in Adult Children

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

Alcohol addiction. Drunk man sleeping leaning on table with bottle and glass

Signs of Drug or Alcohol Addiction in Adult Children

When parents are raising their children, they generally work hard to ensure that their children do not abuse drugs and alcohol. Parents understand that young people may be tempted to have certain experiences, including forms of intoxication, and that some degree of experimentation is regrettably inevitable. 

Nonetheless, good parents try to impress upon their children the long-term negative effects of substance abuse. Children are generally unable to conceptualize their own futures with any degree of clarity, so it is a parent’s job to help them understand that drug and alcohol addiction will harm their social standing, their chances of getting into a good college, and their ability to hold onto a job in the years to come.

 Parents of young children or teenagers have a lot of tools at their disposal to enforce their values, and they also generally find it easy to recognize problems as they arise.

Parents of adult children, on the other hand, have a more limited ability to stop their children from abusing drugs and alcohol. More crucially, parents of adult children may struggle to recognize a substance use disorder. 

The lifeskills adult children possess often make it easier for them to hide their substance abuse-related behaviors. Parents don’t necessarily hear about every problem their adult children have at work or what went wrong in their relationships. People with addictions are generally reluctant to admit — or even recognize themselves — that they have a problem. When they do, the last people they want to tell (and disappoint) are their parents. 

For this reason, parents may struggle to understand what is happening with their adult children, even when they suspect that something is amiss. Addiction, however, is a severe medical condition that affects people’s lives in every aspect, so it is rarely possible to hide for long. Parents of adult children with addictions can recognize the problem by looking out for the characteristic signs of addiction.

Signs of Drug Addiction in Adult Children Living at Home

Parents whose adult children live at home often find it easier to recognize that something is wrong. Addiction causes mood and behavior changes, and parents may notice that their beloved sons and daughters have become disrespectful adult children — or even abuse adult children. When adults revert to impulsive childish behavior, that is generally a strong sign that something is amiss. While these behavioral changes can be caused by a variety of circumstances, ranging from mental health disorders to addiction, a number of warning signs can help parents determine that your child may be addicted. Common signs of addiction include:
  • Lack of attention to grooming and personal hygiene
  • Gaining or losing an abnormal amount of weight
  • Sleeping in excessively — or hardly sleeping at all
  • Coming home late every night
  • Isolating inside ones room for days at a time
  • Missing work regularly
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and pleasurable activities
  • Not making eye contact or exhibiting off-putting social cues
  • Avoiding friends — or only spending time with people parents haven’t heard of before
  • Slurred speech
  • Temperamental, erratic, or violent behavior
  • Extreme mood changes
When parents have their adult children living at home, they may be uncomfortable with the idea of their children’s addiction. It is common, however, for parents to feel that kicking their addicted adult child out of the home is out of the question. Parents may feel that doing so exposes their addicted adult child to untold risks, including homelessness. Many parents feel that lending unconditional material support to their children is an act of love. The fact is, however, that providing housing, money, or other resources to addicted adult children is often a way of enabling their behavior. It is always a good idea for parents to clarify to their adult children living at home what their thoughts and feelings are about substance abuse. It isn’t required that a parent have proof of their child’s substance use disorder. Recognizing the signs of addiction, ranging from mood instability to dangerous behavior, is sufficient cause for setting boundaries with adult children. If a parent feels that their adult child is abusing their hospitality, letting them know that they are not welcome at home unless they are sober is often the best course of action.

Recognizing Addiction in Distant or Estranged Adult Children

For parents whose adult children do not live at home, recognizing addiction can be more of a challenge. This is especially true when parents do not have good relationships with their offspring, in the case of estranged adult children. In this case, parents may find that their adult children do not visit, call, or communicate with much frequency. While there are countless possible reasons for this, distancing oneself from ones parents is often a cause for concern. 

Other concerning signs of addiction include not being able to hold a job, difficulty paying rent, struggling to maintain relationships, moodiness, and a reduction in cognitive abilities. Parents who recognize the signs of addiction in their distant or estranged adult children may be unsure how they can help. Parenting adult children who live far away often involves simply letting them know that parental support is there if they want it.

Even when a parent does not have a great relationship with their adult child, it is important to recognize that the parents are not at fault for their children’s substance use disorder. Addiction stems from a variety of factors, ranging from genes to social pressures, and no one person is responsible for the behavior of an addicted individual. In fact, it is crucial for parents to understand that their children are adults who are making their own decisions. 

The decision to treat an addiction is similarly one that cannot be forced by parents; it is their child’s decision to make. Nonetheless, reaching out to ones children to express love and support can be a powerful act, since research indicates that loneliness plays a strong role in substance use disorders.

Getting Help for Adult Children with Substance Use Disorders

Whether an adult child lives at home or far away, parents of addicts should understand that they cannot cure, manage, or fix their adult child’s substance use disorder themselves. The best way to express love and support is by working to understand addiction and researching addiction treatment options. 

For adult children who are in need of support, a structured sober living home is often the best means of obtaining it. Design for Recovery, a structured sober living home in West Los Angeles, offers young men who suffer from addiction a safe residence, a community of like-minded people, employment training, money management assistance, and a strong support system for getting back on track. 

By enrolling in Design of Recovery’s sober living program, parents of young men who are struggling can breathe a sigh of relief. Check out some of our testimonials to see how Design for Recovery changes people’s lives.

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David moved to California from his hometown in North Carolina after multiple failed attempts to get sober. While living in an all-male sober living, David started to excel as a leader and mentor. These skills and tools ended up being the catalyst for his recovery and ultimately the foundation he has today. David has a passion for helping young men and sharing his experience. After working in the treatment industry he noticed a serious need for ethical sober living facilities. This prior work experience brought about David’s idea and drive to open Design For Recovery. He’s ambitious to promote growth and change within each individual client that enters the house. David has a strong presence in the house and continues to be part of mentoring young men on a daily basis.


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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