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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

Teen addicted to alcohol and cannabis


18 year old son addicted to alcohol and cannabis
Posted by Joevie to Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults on Jan 25, 2014 at 6:22pm

Hi All, I’m new to this site and really hope someone can give me some advice on how to help my son.
He was diagnosed with ADHD aged 8 and was given meds.  He hated taking those as he didn’t like how it made him feel and now at 6’ tall, it’s rather difficult to make him take them!

Aged 16 he had a massive meltdown and it came out he was self-harming and had been drinking booze secretly since 13!!!  How I missed this I have no idea and feel terrible about.  He then went really down hill and overdosed and slashed his wrist saying he hated his life and we’d all be better off without him.  This was his bottom.  Since then he has been more open about how he feels and has asked for help.  He regularly sees a councillor and has been taking meds more frequently (but not regularly enough).  He’s a bright lad with a good circle of friends but he seriously lacks self-esteem and confidence.  That said, he is now holding down a part-time job and a full-time college course training to be a chef (which he’s very good at).
But, only today he broke down again admitting that he is smoking a lot of cannabis as he made the decision to stop drinking on New Year’s day.  He says that booze and dope ‘slows his head down’ and he craves ‘something’ all the time.  He desperately doesn’t want to live like this but feels it’s too late and he’s addicted now.  He’s agreed to take small doses of quick release Ritalin regularly to see if this helps with his cravings so we’ll see if this helps, but the trouble is, like I said, he doesn’t like the effect of these meds and he says it takes away his personality.
Has anyone else had this type of experience with their child?

I would appreciate any feedback at all as I am at just at a loss as to what to do.  Many thanks, Deb


My daughter started a downhill slide at 15, including abusing drugs and alcohol when she discovered it eased her anxiety. From there she started hanging out with an awful, dangerous crowd which made matters much worse for her life. We started with an outpatient adolescent substance program, then a day treatment program, but those failed as she was not ready to change. After three months in a residential program out of state…a drastic, last resort step, she has turned things around…once SHE decided to change.  She is almost 17 now, doing great, and headed in the right direction. She is 6 months clean. (We still test her.) She changed schools and her group of friends (key for her) and is doing great in school and exploring college options. She has benefitted from a trusted therapist. Her Concerta helps her tremendously with school. and she would not be without it. A trusted psychiatrist, and medication management helped get us through this times as well.

My daughter wasn’t crazy about 12 Step/AA/NA, but the support system there got her through some tough times in the beginning. She has since discovered and prefers SMART recovery for support. and from time to time participates with Young Life. She has also benefitted from reading about ADHD (and anxiety, depression) and how to function in life with it. Supportive teachers have helped her a lot recently as well, as she has demonstrated to them that she wants to do her best, and is receptive to support.

Your son has lots going for him. He has good friends, a good plan for school/career and a desire to change. The self harm is scary, and I would guess he is dealing with depression that he needs treatment for, or at least some type of support.

You and he are definitely not alone, and you are one of MANY who did not see the signs of substance abuse. These kids are so good at hiding it. Feel free to message me privately if I can be of more help.

Posted by mcat on Jan 27, 2014 at 9:01pm

I too am new to this forum and I thought I had replied to this question, but I don’t see it on here. At risk of repeating myself, we are dealing with some of the same issues. My son began ADHD meds at age 7 and did well on them until he began smoking marijuana at about age 14. He is now 18 and has also attempted suicide, been hospitalized and being treated for depression. No longer wants to take his ADHD meds because he does not like the way they make him feel. Blames us for “drugging” him all these years and “changing him.” I feel your pain! My son does not want help nor does he wish to change. Just wants to smoke marijuana because it “makes him feel normal” and helps to “slow down his brain.” If your son is willing, then I would get him into drug rehab outpatient or inpatient therapy as soon as possible.

Posted by artistmom on Jan 27, 2014 at 9:35pm

Deb –
Been there, done that, and won’t be surprised if I will have to find another way to guide my 21 year old son again.

You have three things going for you and your son:
1.    Your son’s interest in his culinary class may be his unique niche.  Your son probably is twice-exceptional:  he has a learning disability (according to standard educational institutions) but he also is gifted. I believe that most people with ADHD are bright, creative and have a passion for something.  Success breeds success, and his success in his chef class may help him get through his problem behaviors.
2.  He admits that he has an addiction problem.  That is a huge step, but he needs professional help and support from trusted friends and you.  The drugs that an MD may prescribe for him are no match against street drugs and alcohol when it comes to quick and pleasurable relief from the anguish he feels.  But in the long run, illegitimate substances bring depression and addiction.  So therapy, prescribed drugs, and support are the only ways that he can succeed in becoming a chef and finding happiness.  He must get into an addiction program. 
3.  He seems to trust you enough to tell you about his addiction.  As you know when your son turned 18, his counselors, educators, and MDs can’t tell you much about your son’s progress.  So be as positive as you can to maintain that trust and support when he struggles and stumbles.

So keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t be surprised if you have to alter course quickly. You already know that the map for loving, raising and supporting children like ours has a paucity of straight lines.

Posted by MarkT on Jan 27, 2014 at 10:59pm

Thank you all so much for your helpful and encouraging comments.  I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but it is a great comfort to know there are others out there who are experiencing the same issues and are dealing with them.

I had a good day with my son yesterday; we went to see his physiatrist and councellor and he was so mature and open about his issues saying he did want to change and needed help!  We are going to consider changing his ADHD meds to a non-stimulant which hopefully with help with his addictions but in line with that he has agreed that he needs to work on his self-esteem with CBT and of course just talking more openly to all around him that care.

This is a massive step forward and we do literally have to take it one day at a time, but I am feeling so much more positive and am going to do all I can to help him along this journey.  Blimey, it’s never easy is it?

Again, thank you all for your support. Deb

Posted by Joevie on Jan 29, 2014 at 3:46pm

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