August 29, 2016

Author: Things I wish I’d known before my daughter became addicted to heroin

Writing in the Boston Globe Magazine, Beverly Conyers says 'knowledge is our best defense'

Addiction Heroin
08292016_Heroin_Needle_Blur_iStock YakobchukOlena/iStock.com

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What can parents do to keep their children from becoming addicted to drugs? Are there signs or clues to be spotted before a son or daughter gets hooked?

Beverly Conyers, an author who writes about addiction under a pseudonym, says that when she looks back it's difficult to see how she missed the signs that her daughter was using heroin.

Writing in Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine, Conyers offered the "10 things I wish I'd known before my daughter became addicted to heroin." She says "knowledge is our best defense against the scourge of addiction."

Here are three of those things:

Addiction can happen in any family. It seems incredibly naive — if not downright smug — but there was a time when I believed my kids were immune to addiction. They were too smart. They had a good upbringing. They were good people. But I didn’t know that none of that matters. Some people are susceptible to addiction the way some are susceptible to heart disease or depression. Researchers believe that genes account for about 50 percent of a person’s vulnerability to addiction.

“Typical” teen behaviors can mask chemical dependence. Some of the symptoms of budding dependence are also seen in “normal” teens: moodiness, rebelliousness, and a pronounced need for privacy. But some things warrant a closer look, including bloodshot eyes or enlarged or pinpoint pupils; changes in appetite or sleep patterns; unexplained agitation or lethargy; impaired speech or coordination; loss of interest in school and activities; sudden change in friends; use of incense or room fresheners to mask unusual odors.

Substance abuse requires swift action. Physical changes in the brain make it almost impossible for kids to stop using substances on their own once dependence sets in. Parents who suspect that their child is abusing should seek professional help with the same sense of urgency with which they would seek help for any other life-threatening condition.

Read all 10 things Conyers wished she knew here at boston.com.