Helping a Parent With Addiction: Identify Signs and Find Treatment
If you have a parent who struggles with addiction, the effects can be devastating. For many children, living with a parent in active addiction means they have to grow up too fast, taking on the role of an adult at a young age. Having a parent with a substance use disorder can also increase your own risk of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol later in life.1
Knowing how to help a parent with addiction can be challenging for any child. This article will guide you on how to identify addiction signs in your mom or dad, how to help find a treatment center for your parent, and what to expect when a parent gets into a rehab facility.
What Is Substance Use Disorder? Identifying Addiction Signs in a Parent
The American Psychological Association (APA) describes substance use disorder (SUD) as a condition in which a person is unable to control their use of drugs or alcohol despite harmful consequences.2
Medical professionals diagnose substance use disorders based on the presence of several diagnostic criteria. These criteria include the following:2
- Difficulty controlling substance use despite a desire to cut back or quit
- Experiencing cravings or strong urges to use substances
- Using drugs or drinking in risky situations that could result in physical or other harm
- Problems at work, school, or in social settings due to using substances
- Needing to use larger amounts to feel intoxicated (also called tolerance)
- Withdrawal symptoms when substance use slows or stops
If you are concerned about your parent’s substance use, there are steps you can take to encourage them to get help.
How to Help a Parent With Addiction
Once you have identified that your parent is struggling with the negative effects of addiction, you may start to realize your role as well.
An important part of helping a loved one with addiction is learning to identify—and resist—enabling behaviors.
Enabling is defined as doing things for other people, including fixing or solving their problems. This behavior allows your parent to continue using substances without feeling the harmful effects.3
There is a difference between enabling your parents and helping them. For example, lying to cover up your parent’s addiction can be considered enabling. In contrast, encouraging them to seek professional treatment is an example of actively helping them.3
Although it may be challenging to start a conversation about getting help, it is best to: 4
- Be patient. It may take multiple attempts to get your loved one to accept help. Don’t lose hope.
- Be direct. Share your feelings and concerns honestly and encourage them to do the same.
- Actively listen without any judgment.
There are also a number of peer support programs you can encourage your parent to attend, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
How Do I Help My Parent Get Into Rehab?
While you might feel inclined to try and convince your parent that rehab is the right step for treating their drug or alcohol addiction, this may not be an effective tactic.
Though you may feel motivated by guilt, anxiety, or embarrassment, and desperately want things to change, your parent will have to decide for themselves to get sober.5 Your role is to offer support and encouragement along the way.
If your parent has expressed a desire to seek treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, emphasize that they have taken an important step and you are proud of them for doing so.6
Some parents may be more receptive to talking with a medical professional about starting rehab than with a family member. Together, you can start by calling your parent’s primary care physician and asking to be seen for an office visit to discuss addiction.6
You can also help your parent with addiction by researching the various options for treatment and support that might be available to them. You may choose to do this together, or you may share information you find with your parent. Exploring addiction rehab facilities may make your parent more comfortable with the idea of getting treatment.
Finding the Right Treatment Center for Your Parent
When looking to find a treatment center for your parent, there are many factors to consider, including:
- Whether the treatment center offers evidence-based therapy
- Location of the treatment center
- Levels of care offered
- On-site amenities
- Aftercare planning offerings
- Accreditations held by the facility
If you have questions about what is offered at our Florida addiction treatment center near Miami, Recovery First admissions navigators are available to answer your questions 24/7—just call .
What to Expect from Addiction Treatment
You may be wondering what you and your family can expect when your parent enters addiction treatment. First, your parent will be evaluated by a medical professional to determine the best treatment path. Our clinical team will want to know: 7
- Your parent’s drug of use.
- How long they have been using it.
- How much or how frequently they use the substance.
- Whether substance withdrawal has been an issue in the past.
- Whether your parent has any significant medical or mental health issues that may also need concurrent treatment.
Once your parent is assessed, the clinical team creates a customized treatment plan. There are various levels of addiction treatment used to address the impact of substance use disorder.7,8 Our addiction rehab facility in Florida offers a full continuum of care which includes:
- Medical detox.
- Inpatient drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
- Outpatient rehab for addiction, including partial hospitalization (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP).
As part of both inpatient/residential rehab and outpatient programs, patients will build a strong aftercare plan for continuing care and support beyond the initial treatment period. Patients sometimes “step down” from one level of care to another as they progress in treatment—as their symptoms improve, and their coping skills advance, they are able to move on to less frequent or intense treatment sessions.
At Recovery First in Southern Florida, we use evidence-based approaches, such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- Motivational interviewing.
- Process group therapy.
- Family therapy.
These behavioral therapies address a patient’s substance use disorder by identifying the triggers and modifying behaviors that lead to substance use. 9
Your parent may make a commitment to attend treatment several times per week, or in more intensive programs, may stay overnight for several weeks or months at a time.
The length of stay in a treatment facility can also vary widely. Depending on an individual’s needs, some may only require a short-stay in rehab while for others, 30 days of rehab or a 2–3 month rehab program is more appropriate.
How to Pay for Addiction Treatment
When you seek addiction treatment for your loved one, cost should not be a barrier to receiving necessary care. In 2014, the Affordable Care Act and Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) were passed by the United States government, requiring new marketplace insurance plans to cover mental health and substance use treatment services.10
This means that if you have insurance coverage, your plan will likely cover at least part of your treatment. Our Florida addiction treatment center accepts and is in-network with many major insurance carriers, including:
To verify your parent’s insurance benefits, fill out the confidential . All you need is your mom or dad’s personal information, the name of their insurance carrier, and their policy number.
For people without insurance or for those whose insurance won’t cover 100% of the cost of treatment, there are other ways to pay for rehab. Admissions navigators at Recovery First will work with you to determine the payment method that’s right for your parent.
Caring for Yourself
In caring for your loved one who is struggling with addiction, it is crucial to care for yourself, too. Here are some things to consider as you navigate this process with your parent:
- Attending Al-Anon or another support group to learn about enabling and hear others’ experiences with addicted parents.11
- Asking for help from others when you need it, whether you need to talk it out or just a distraction.
- Maintaining good physical health by eating a healthy diet and exercising your body regularly.
- Seeking appropriate physical and mental health treatment when needed — the toll of a loved one’s addiction can cause feelings of depression and anxiety in many people.11
- Remember that change takes time. Be gentle with yourself and your parent as they take this journey in recovery.
You can view the whole “Recovery is Relative” series here.
You don’t have to go through this process alone. Reach out to a compassionate admissions navigator to help your parent start treatment today.