My son is addicted to painkillers

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on August 14th, 2011 - Last updated: July 3rd, 2019
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.


My name is Bill, I have an older step-son who now lives with his father. My wife and I have been talking to him about his addiction to pain killers. This started when he sustained an injury and they were prescribed. He has continued to use the pain killers under no doctors care. He buys them illegally.

My wife is concerned of what action we should take to protect him. He is a senior in high school and doing very poorly. He does not apply himself in school and does not work. He does have a girlfriend that seems to do some of the same drugs.

What can we do to get him straightened out without getting him in a legal bind, or would that be the solution? He claims that he takes the drugs to stay relaxed and to enjoy life. He is being typical I guess, denying it’s a problem. What do we do, his father seems to not want to be bothered and closes his eyes to the situation.

We need your opinion….please.

For legal ramifications we reside in […].

Thank you,

Bill and Cynthia

Dear Bill:

I am not an attorney, so I can’t comment on state law. But you are right, involving a person in the legal system has all kinds of ramifications that can be as ruinous of a person’s life as the drug use. Obviously, this is one more example where we need a decriminalized way to call attention to someone’s drug use.

Unfortunately, putting a boy in treatment involuntarily has similar problems. Please take a look at my pamphlet on-site (written with Marianne Apostolides) “Don’t panic! A parent’s guide to understanding and preventing alcohol and drug abuse.

Your statement of the question makes clear that you are tuned into some key variables — lack of involvement in school, peer group (girlfriend) drug use. If you can’t address these issues reasonably, then obviously, everything else becomes very secondary and an afterthought. For example, you could wean him from pain killers, but he could begin drinking or taking other street drugs.

You mention the boy doesn’t live in your home. Obviously, also, this influences the impact you can have on him. Is his biological father aware of these problems? Why is the boy living there? Personal choice? What conflicts did he have in your home? If he chooses not to live with you, this suggests you may have little influence. Can you work with his father, at least to the point of having a reasonable discussion of alternatives?

You are right that powerful prescription medicines offer strong negative potential. But, you should also keep in mind that kids use drugs like these as interim measures to deal with their adolescent stress, anxiety, and growing pangs. You did discuss what the drugs do with him and for him, which is a good discussion to have. As well as conveying your concern, hopefully in a realistic way, you learn what it is he needs to replace drugs — ways of being involved that give him a feeling of purpose and of being valued and at peace with himself. These kind of issues have probably been appearing for some time now. They likewise cannot be resolved by a simple lecture or dictated by legal authorities or others.

Best wishes, Stanton

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *