Tell grandparents about drug addiction

by Ydnick Namshire

(Denver, CO)

I would like some advice about the best way to tell my 82 and 86 year old parents about our 23 year old son’s drug addiction and entry into a rehab program.

He’s been dealing with this for around 3 years, seeing a therapist and relapsing off and on (Oxycontin) while using Suboxone in between. He asked to go to rehab, and we were encouraged about this. He’ll be entering an extended care program like a sober house after rehab.

We’ve kept his drug problems from his grandparents because they have a lot on their plate and due to their age. I don’t want to lie to them about where their grandson is and I think our son could use all the positive support he can get.

How would you go about breaking the news to them?

Be Calm and Truthful

by: Ned Wicker

Dear Ydnick,

Sometimes it is very difficult to share, or to try to explain addiction troubles with someone who has an emotional attachment, or who fundamentally does not understand the nature of the situation. Grandparents have a right to know, but telling them isn’t easy.

A substance use disorder (addiction) is a brain disease. In order for your son to become dependent on the opiate pain medication he had to have the right conditions in his brain.

One person may take a prescription of oxycontin and have no issues, while another person, through no fault of their own, takes it and something happens to them that causes them to desire more and more drug. The right factors came together and it happened, whether it was through a legitimate need to control pain, or because of an illegal recreational use.

Grandma and Grandpa need to understand that nobody sets out to be an addict, but the disease develops and they need treatment. They also need to know that they can be a big part of your son’s recovery by being supportive and offering encouragement. Your son is seeking treatment and wants to learn how to manage his disease, just as if he had a heart condition or diabetes.

Books like “Why Don’t They Just Quit?” by Joe Herzanek are very useful in explaining the nature of the disease and providing answers to so many important questions. Likewise, we try to answer those questions on this web site, but the important thing for you, if you are going to tell them, is to sit down and explain your son’s disease in a calm manner.

They may react emotionally to this but stay calm. Substance use disorder is a family disease, so they can play an important role in making sure your son has a successful program and can go on to live a happy and productive life.

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