Dear Dr. Laura,
I lost my own precious son in 2011 to a heroin overdose.
My best advice is to become educated as soon as possible, not after it's too late. It is so easy to slip into denial and the "not my kid" attitude. That is incorrect and deadly thinking. Addiction can happen to anyone: rich or poor, loved or unloved, brilliant or not. Our son was the light of our lives. This did not prevent him from becoming an addict.
If you think your child is taking drugs, they are. Early intervention is crucial for the best hope of recovery. It is absolute hell to watch your child slowly kill themselves. Act quickly and decisively. Don't be spineless. Be a parent, because your child's life truly depends on it.
Don't be an enabler. At some point the drug will take over your child's mind, and there is not much you can do. Only they can help themselves. Do not get dragged into the pit with them. You are of no help to them if you are dragged into the addiction too. Do not bail them out of jail, do not pay their bills, do not let them prey on your emotions...and they will. They will do or say anything to get their next fix. They must feel the consequences of their actions. It must become more painful to be an addict than to get help. Don't make it easy for them to continue their addiction. You are killing them if you do.
If you have other children, (I did not), don't sacrifice them for your addict either. They deserve your full support and love too.
You cannot "love them well." The most loving and effective thing you can do is be a strong, decisive parent.
Please listen to someone who has lived this. I don't want anyone to go through what I have. My life will never be the same. My heart goes out to every parent struggling with an addicted child.