Adolescent Alcoholism and Drug Addiction: The Experience of Parents

Behav Sci (Basel). 2015 Oct 29;5(4):461-76. doi: 10.3390/bs5040461.


Alcoholism and drug addiction have marked impacts on the ability of families to function. Much of the literature has been focused on adult members of a family who present with substance dependency. There is limited research into the effects of adolescent substance dependence on parenting and family functioning; little attention has been paid to the parents' experience. This qualitative study looks at the parental perspective as they attempted to adapt and cope with substance dependency in their teenage children. The research looks into family life and adds to family functioning knowledge when the identified client is a youth as opposed to an adult family member. Thirty-one adult caregivers of 21 teenagers were interviewed, resulting in eight significant themes: (1) finding out about the substance dependence problem; (2) experiences as the problems escalated; (3) looking for explanations other than substance dependence; (4) connecting to the parent's own history; (5) trying to cope; (6) challenges of getting help; (7) impact on siblings; and (8) choosing long-term rehabilitation. Implications of this research for clinical practice are discussed.

Keywords: addiction; addiction and family; adolescent substance abuse; parenting troubled youth.