Addiction affects millions of families worldwide. You’re not alone in this struggle. Treatment options are widely available and highly effective when coupled with a robust support system. If you suspect your father is addicted, then getting him to one of these treatment options safely and quickly can improve recovery.

Effects of Parental Drug Use

Here are the most common effects of parental drug use:1

  • Frequent moves
  • Bad family relationships
  • Bad finances
  • Attachment issues and other Life-long mental health issues in the child
  • Bad family reputation

No matter the cause of the addiction, recovery is possible. A dedicated treatment plan can help address addiction, but the first step is getting help.

Signs Your Father May Be Addicted

Addiction is a disease. As such, it comes with several noticeable symptoms. These are the most common.2

Erratic Behavior

If your father begins to lose interest in his hobbies, work, or relationships, it may be because of addiction. Addiction causes angry outbursts, irritability, and general changes in mood, interest, and motivators.

Unexplained Absences

Drug use can take hours. You may begin to notice long, unexplained gaps where he isn’t able to be reached. It’s not a good idea to confront him on this as it may escalate the situation. Take note of these changes silently.

Odor/Unkempt Appearance

He may stop shaving or grooming facial hair, wear unwashed clothes, or forgo showering altogether.

Little to No Money

Drug addiction is costly. If your father begins to miss bill payments, ask for loans, or pawn off his valuables, then it may be to fund drug abuse.

Bad Memory

Addiction wreaks havoc on memories. It’s sad but true that your father may begin to forget family traditions, important dates, etc. He may only remember something after you’ve said it multiple times.

Driving While High or Drunk

If this happens, even once, it’s a serious sign of addiction. Your father may say things like, “I drive better drunk.” or “Don’t tell your mom.” Driving under the influence puts his life, your life, and others in danger. Seek immediate help if this occurs.

Physical Changes That Point to Addiction

Addiction spurs several unavoidable physical changes. These changes happen regardless of health, strength, or body-type.

Weight Changes

Drug use can cause significant weight loss or gain, depending on the substance.

Rapidly Receding Hair

Alcohol ages the body, and in many men, that can cause baldness, shedding, and receding hairlines.


Shakiness is the inability to stay still or a constant need to be active. Shakiness can happen during periods of withdrawal or while in a high state of mind. Shakiness can also weaken their grip and make handwriting unreadable.

Patchy Skin

Patchy skin is the sudden appearance of dry, flaky, and patchy skin that may also tend to bruise more easily.

Detecting Drug Use

A doctor’s office visit for a routine exam is the best and easiest way to rule out other serious illnesses. Be sure to note the length of any unexplained gaps of time and mood when he gets back. Even if you’re sure your father has developed a dependence on drugs or alcohol, be safe and don’t confront him alone. It could be ineffective or, unfortunately, dangerous.

Finding Support

Signs of the beginning stages of addiction can be hidden. Parents may take extra caution to prevent a child from knowing. You may be feeling unsure as to if your suspicions are accurate. It’s perfectly normal to feel that way. It can also be emotionally exhausting taking care of a parent. But you don’t have to do it alone. There are support systems all around you.

Talk to Your Mother – If Safe and Possible

If you have a happy, healthy relationship with your mother, then bring up your suspicions. If she and your father are on good terms, she may help him with recovery. Bring up your fears with her in private and explain why you feel that way or what you’ve seen.
If your mother also has a substance use disorder or if you don’t feel comfortable talking to her, there are other options.

Discussing With a Sibling – If Safe and Possible

Talking with siblings about your father’s addiction isn’t easy. But they deserve to know, and frequently, the situation can be made safer if they understand why your father is acting the way he is. If you’re bringing the news to a younger sibling, try to do it in a place where they feel the most comfortable. Talk with them and ask them how they feel. Remember to be patient and that they may not fully understand the effects of addiction.

If you’re the younger sibling, then remember to be persistent and clear. Younger siblings can, at times, be ignored by older siblings. Bring your concerns to them as clearly as you can. If this doesn’t work, then you have more choices.

Finding a Trusted Friend or Family Member

Reaching out to family members or trusted friends includes mentors, extended family, and other parents. Even just talking about it with a friend can help. Talking about it with a friend can help you find the words you need to talk about with an adult.

When to Say Something at School

The thought of bringing your father’s addiction to the attention of school officials can be overwhelming. You are supporting and helping your family by reaching out to someone at school. Recovery takes a support system, medicine, and time. You can’t and shouldn’t do it alone.

If you feel comfortable telling a teacher or counselor before any family or friends, then that’s fine too. Seeking help isn’t always easy, but in the case of addiction, it’s necessary.

Support for the Courage to Speak Out

Life is heavy. Finding the courage to speak out and get help can be even heavier. You’re not alone, no matter how it feels. There’s family, friends, councilors, mentors, or anyone you feel comfortable talking to. There’s also The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, a government program that offers 24/7 support at 1-800-662-HELP.