We Think Our Son Has a Drinking Problem: What Should We Do?

The Short Answer from an addiction and recovery expert

Q: We think our son might be an alcoholic; what should we do?

A: Many families who see the signs and symptoms of substance abuse in an adolescent, adult child or partner go for years without ever saying anything. But it’s important to address the elephant in the room.

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In a neutral tone of voice — without being loud, accusing or aggressive — simply say, “I’m concerned because you’re always out late. You’re sleeping in. And you seem hungover.”

He may say, “Oh, you don’t have to worry.” Minimizing concern is part of the alcoholic’s (or addict’s) dance of denial and fear.

Simply state the facts, and say, “These circumstances would make anyone worry about someone they love.” If your son says you’re being judgmental, keep repeating, “We’re just concerned.”

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Today, 12 to 13% of U.S. adults struggle with alcoholism, and 10% with drug abuse. These figures have risen steadily over the past 20 years.

Not only is alcohol abuse dangerous in itself. It can also be a gateway to drug abuse. Today, easily accessible drugs laced with powerful home-made or synthetic narcotics have made overdoses much more common.

So you don’t want to ignore what’s going on right under your nose, or put your head in the sand.

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You don’t have to pay for an interventionist to come to your home. Any therapist or counselor who specializes in substance abuse can walk you through the steps it takes to confront your son’s problem — and get him the expert help he needs.

— Addiction and recovery expert Joseph Janesz, PhD

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