When I started working at the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine many years ago, I was blown away by the parents who were shell-shocked to learn that their children—their high achieving, athletic, award-winning, popular, beloved children—were addicted to heroin.

That was when I realized on a whole new level that opioid addiction could happen to anyone. It was truly an equal opportunity offender and people who used heroin did not fit the stereotype in my head. These were kids that could be hanging out with my kids, kids that I could know and love.

It is terrifying and devastating for a parent to learn that his/her child has developed a substance use disorder. I have sat with many parents over the years as they blame themselves and question what happened and where they went wrong.

A big part of our jobs at the Coleman Institute is to provide hope. An addicted person’s brain cannot heal if it is still held captive by addictive, mind-altering drugs, and our forte is getting them off. Quickly, safely and affordably.

Here are five things to remember if you find out your kid is using heroin or other opioids.

1. Help is available for your child

If there is any good news about the opioid epidemic it’s that excellent treatment is available, and more insurance plans are paying for it. Experts agree that a multi-level approach to treatment is important. Safe detox, intensive therapy, connection to support groups, and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone can save your child’s life. Parent and child can meet with our experts in aftercare treatment to help develop the most appropriate next steps.

2. Help is available for you

Parents need all the support they can get during this time and they must be committed to invest in learning everything they can to understand the devastating condition of Substance Use Disorder (SUD). I once heard an intervention specialist say that if a child goes away to a treatment program and the parents aren’t educating themselves on the disease of addiction, when the child returns home it’s like he speaks a foreign language in a foreign land.

3. Help is available for your family

Addiction is a family disease. All of the family members have been affected by the child’s drug use. It is important to engage everyone in the recovery process. A good treatment program will not only treat the addicted child but will help the family learn about the disease of addiction and communication skills to begin rebuilding trust.

4. Hate the disease, not the child

Your child’s brain has been hijacked. Your kid is still really in there. When addiction has taken hold and someone tries to get between the drug and the user, it’s like cutting off his air supply. Have faith—you can get your child back. I have seen this over and over again in my work as a medical addiction professional. The first day I shadowed Dr. Coleman during my job interview, I witnessed a weeping mother, thanking Dr. Coleman for giving her son back him. When I saw that, I was in.

5. Remember, love first

The old ‘tough love’ adage is becoming obsolete. The hallmark of current treatment is combining love with science. Warmth, optimism, and humor are the first line elements to bring to the table as you rebuild the broken relationship with your child and help her with her substance use disorder. This is not being co-dependent or enabling.

At the Coleman Institute’s centers around the country, we incorporate the most current research into safely detoxing patients off opioids (i.e.oxycodone products such as Percocet® and Roxicet®, hydrocodone and its variations such as Vicodin® and Vicoprophen®, morphine, heroin, and fentanyl), benzos, and alcohol.


If your child has been on methadone or a buprenorphine product and needs help to detox, the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine has an established reputation for specializing in the use of naltrexone, an effective opioid blocker.

In our program, parents and other support people play a vital role in the opioid detox process. Rather than abandoning your child to an impersonal in-patient hospital setting where you have no idea how he or she is being treated, our unique outpatient approach allows family to be with their children during the entire treatment. Parents are engaged at every level, including being provided with detailed instructions and medications to administer to their child if he/she is experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Shock, fear, anger, denial, grief—these are all normal reactions when you find your child is hooked on heroin. But there is hope, and we can help. Please give us a call.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP



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