How to Help Your Parent with Addiction

Witnessing your parent struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol is incredibly difficult. It is not uncommon to experience feelings of frustration, resentment, and worry. Often, children of parents grappling with addiction will find themselves in a role reversal — where they assume a caretaker role.

This guide will help you learn to recognize the signs of addiction, understand when it’s time to get professional help, and offer your parent the support and encouragement to seek treatment.

How to Recognize if Your Parent is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

Identifying signs of addiction in a parent can be challenging, especially if the parent is in denial or they’ve created an environment wherein the topic of substance use is “off limits” for discussion. Children—even when they’ve grown into adults—often look to their parents as authority figures and may be hesitant to challenge their parents’ reality.1

While only a qualified professional can make a formal diagnosis of a substance use disorder — the clinical term for addiction — it can be helpful to know what these signs are. They include: 2

  • Neglecting home and/or work responsibilities to use a substance.
  • Using substances despite knowing it causes or worsens psychological or physical problems.
  • Using a substance more often or in greater amounts than intended.
  • Wanting to cut back or stop using drugs or alcohol, but failing in attempts.
  • Using drugs or alcohol in high-risk settings, such as driving.
  • Losing interest in important hobbies or activities in favor of using drugs or alcohol.
  • Continuing to use substances even when it causes or exacerbates social or interpersonal problems.
  • Spending a good deal of time and resources to find, use, and recover from drugs or alcohol.
  • Needing to use more of a substance to feel the same effects (tolerance).
  • Feeling strong urges to use a substance (cravings).
  • Experiencing uncomfortable symptoms when drugs or alcohol are cut back or not used (withdrawal).

What Does it Mean if Your Parent Has an Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol?

Though you might feel upset and frustrated when your parent uses drugs or alcohol, it is important to remember that addiction is a complex brain disorder and not a choice. 2 Compulsive substance use cause changes to the brain that make it extremely difficult for someone to stop using drugs or alcohol, even if they want to.2

It’s normal to feel that if your parent loved you enough they would be able to stop using substances. However, addiction very often requires specialized treatment to overcome and, for many people, willpower and a desire to stop using simply aren’t enough.3

How to Help a Parent Struggling with Addiction

No matter how old you are, it is hard to be a child watching a parent struggle with addiction and wonder what you can do to help. Often the first step is to talk to your parent about their substance use. This conversation can be extremely difficult for children (young or old) to have with their parents, but it’s an important one to have because it could help save your parent’s life.

If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, some helpful tips include the following:

  • Take some time to access addiction resources to learn about addiction and recovery options.
  • Write down what you want to say to help you organize your thoughts.
  • Enlist the help of a trusted family member or friend to help you rehearse what you want to say beforehand.
  • Choose a quiet location and a time when your parent isn’t using or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Discuss how you feel in a direct but caring way. Focus on the behavior and avoid blame or using stigmatizing language (e.g., alcoholic, addict, junkie).
  • Offer to go with them to look at treatment facilities, check insurance coverages, or investigate payment options. For adult children, if it’s within your means, you may also wish to offer to help pay for some or all of treatment.

It’s very important that you make sure to take care of yourself, too. Some ideas for self-care include:

  • Talking to friends or family that you can trust.
  • Expressing your feelings through journaling or art.
  • Getting involved with peer support groups like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or Alateen.
  • Keeping up with hobbies or other activities that you enjoy.

How to Choose the Right Rehab for My Parent

You may have many questions about finding a treatment center for your parent. To help your parent get into rehab, it can be beneficial to have a few options for them to choose from. Things to consider when choose a rehab include:

  • Cost: When choosing a facility price is one of the biggest factors for many people. The cost of treatment will vary depending on a number of things, such as length of stay, type of program, and distance from your home.
  • Location. Some people prefer treatment near home so they can stay close to their support network or maintain work or family commitments. Others may prefer to stay at a facility further from home, away from triggers and routines that encourage using drugs or alcohol.
  • Staff credentials. The staff are an important part of any rehab program. It’s a good idea to choose a program that has a variety of credentialed specialists on staff (e.g., RNs, LPNs, addiction treatment specialists), who have a strong history of providing effective care.
  • Facility accreditation. Look for a facility that is licensed per the state’s regulations. Additionally, you will also want to choose a facility that has gone the extra mile to receive accreditations from respected third-party organizations, like the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), which ensures that programs meet certain quality standards for treatment.
  • Amenities. The features and amenities that a facility offers can be a major motivating factor for your parent. While your parent may be fine with a basic facility, certain amenities such as catered meals or the option for private rooms may help them say “yes” to treatment.
  • Treatment Services. It’s important to consider what levels of care and types of therapy a treatment facility provides. The ability to offer short-term rehab programs or long-term addiction treatment programs, as well as a well-rounded choice of therapeutic modalities to offer a customized approach to treatment is an important consideration when choosing a rehab facility.

Levels of Care and Therapy Types: What Can I Expect During My Parent’s Rehab Stay?

Addiction treatment is a process, but knowing what to expect in rehab can help your parent be more prepared to go to a treatment facility. When your parent first goes to rehab, they’ll be assessed by a team of specialists to determine the appropriate level of care.4 This intake assessment consists of an evaluation of:

  • Their current and past substance abuse.
  • Physical and mental health.
  • Prior treatment history, if any.
  • Home life.
  • Employment status.
  • Other important factors that may affect treatment options.

Once the intake and evaluation are complete, your parent’s treatment team will work your parent to decide on the appropriate level of addiction treatment.4 Whichever program your parent enters, treatment is tailored to address your parent’s specific needs and goals, and may include a combination of several types of addiction therapy.

How Can I Help My Parent Pay for Rehab?

Concerns about how to pay for addiction treatment can be a roadblock for many families. Fortunately, most health insurance plans cover addiction treatment on some level. If your parent has limited or no health insurance coverage, there are other payment options that are available.

If you have any questions about rehab admissions process and paying for rehab for your parent, you can reach out to us any time at . Our admissions navigators will be happy to answer your questions about our program and payment options, amenities, facility accreditations, and much more.

Can I Use My Health Insurance to Pay for My Parent’s Treatment?

Your parents must use their own health insurance to pay for treatment. If your parent does not have health insurance through their employer, you can try and help them find a Marketplace plan.

If your parent does have an insurance plan but is not sure what their plan covers for addiction treatment, you can help them verify their benefits online with our .

How Can I support My Parent’s Long-Term Sobriety?

doctor comforting patient during medical detox

Family plays a big part in the recovery process. There will be many changes to expect once your parent leaves treatment. However, there are resources available for support both during and after your parent finishes rehab.

  • Rehab aftercare is an important component of ongoing recovery. Encourage your parent to continue their aftercare plan to help them maintain their progress and continue their recovery journey.
  • Sign up for our Alumni App, which offers a range of resources for families of loved ones struggling with addiction.
  • Peer support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can be helpful for your parent.
  • Groups like Adult Children of Alcoholics or Al-Anon can be useful tools to help you navigate through your own experiences.
  • Maintain your boundaries and self-care routines.
  • Individual counseling can help you process your feelings about your parent’s addiction and recovery.6
  • Family therapy can help your parents and you rebuild and repair any damage that addiction caused to your relationship.7

Don’t let the devastating side effects of addiction go on for another day. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and are ready to start the treatment process, call us today at . Oxford Treatment Center, American Addiction Centers’ rehab center in Mississippi, is ready to help you get the treatment you need today.







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