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Getting Drug And Alcohol Treatment For An Adult Child

Jennifer Cousineau MSCP, LPCI, NCC

Medically reviewed by

Jennifer Cousineau MSCP, LPCI, NCC

January 23, 2019

Parents of adult substance abusers frequently play an active role in their child’s recovery. From the time the drug abuse is first suspected, when treatment is obtained, and in the time beyond, a parent’s support can be a vital component of a stable recovery.

Watching a child of any age lose their life and health to addiction can be one of the most stressful and heartbreaking experiences of a parent’s life. When the addicted person is an adult, many parents wonder how they can best help their child get the help they need. Below are some tips and methods which can make this difficult process easier and more successful.

Get Rid Of Enabling Behaviors

The desire to protect and nurture a child never ceases, no matter how old they get. As you’re striving to get your adult child help, it’s critical that you confront any enabling behaviors which may be fueling their addiction. Cutting out enabling behaviors helps your loved one to confront the reality of their addiction to seek help sooner.

For many people, it’s hard to differentiate between what is enabling behavior and what is helpful. The majority of enabling behaviors begin out of love and concern. What makes an enabling behavior different from a helpful and empowering one is the effect that it has on the addicted individual.

By enabling a person, a loved one removes the repercussions of substance abuse as a way of protecting their loved one. For instance, if a person is sick after drinking or using drugs an enabler may clean up their vomit or call into work sick for them. Yet this removes the incentive for the addicted individual to change by making it easier for them to continue using drugs.

Other examples of enabling behaviors include giving a person money for what appears to be a valid reason, such as for food, rent, or utilities. But what often happens is that the addicted person uses the money to buy drugs or alcohol. Even if they do spend the money on the intended purpose, the financial contribution helps to free up additional money they can spend on their drug of choice.

Enabling is frequently tied to codependency. While codependency often occurs between partnered relationships, it can also happen between a parent and grown child. Codependent people experience an overwhelming need to take care of a person despite the adverse effects it brings to both parties.

It can be extremely hard to uproot enabling or codependent behaviors. Sometimes it can be beneficial to have help. Seeking the assistance of a trained counselor or therapist can help family members build habits which promote healing, healthy relationships, and sobriety.

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Have A Plan Before You Speak To Your Child

The intense emotions, sense of helplessness, and overwhelming desire to help your child can make it tempting to jump right into a conversation without planning ahead. Considering what you’ll say ahead of time helps ensure that your conversation is more effective. It also helps you to stay more calm and centered.

Before approaching your adult child about their drug or alcohol abuse, try choosing:

  • a neutral, private environment.
  • a few key points and concerns in order not to overwhelm them.
  • a time to speak when they’re not under the influence or hung over.

When talking to your adult child about their drug or alcohol abuse, strive to:

  • convey your concerns while showing love and support.
  • speak in a non-judgmental way.
  • keep blame out of the conversation.
  • be honest and talk about how their addiction affects you and your hope for their future.

Your child will likely make excuses as to why they can’t enter a drug rehab program. This may include a fear of leaving their family, job, or schooling behind. Before talking to them, it’s helpful to anticipate these concerns so you can have helpful and practical suggestions.

A variety of dynamic, person-centric treatment programs exist today which might alleviate some of these fears. Some programs allow professionals or executives to work while they’re in treatment, while others allow parents to bring their children to the rehab center.

If childcare is a concern, consider what you can do to help. If you or other close friends or family members are able to watch their children, let this be known.

Perhaps your child doesn’t know that they could potentially take a leave of absence from their job under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Current students may also be able to take a leave of absence from their college or university without jeopardizing their eligibility to graduate. Providing your son or daughter with this information may help them to be more open to making this potentially life-changing decision.

Continuing without treatment could lead to a person losing their job or dropping out of college. Enrolling in an addiction treatment program can help your child to build a stronger, sober foundation so they have a greater chance of being successful in these and other endeavors. Reminding them of this truth may encourage them to begin taking steps toward sobriety.

Consider A Professionally-Led Intervention

An adult child may refuse help from a parent for fear of being a burden or because they want to appear as if they’re strong enough to do it on their own. In other instances, your son or daughter may be experiencing an overwhelming sense of denial and not recognize that they need help. In these cases, it may be wise to employ the services of a professional interventionist.

A professional interventionist is highly trained, with access to countless resources. They will organize and facilitate the intervention for you and even make arrangements for treatment.

An intervention can become quite heated, and family members and friends are often ill-equipped to handle these verbal, and even physical, altercations. Choosing a professional interventionist helps to protect all parties involved, while also increasing positive outcomes.

Research Treatment And Payment Options

When an individual needs treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction, time is of the essence. While it’s important to get a person into treatment as quickly as possible, it’s equally important to take the time to find a treatment program that fits their needs.

Whether your child asked you for help or you’re trying to convince them to seek treatment, it can be wise to research treatment programs and payment options prior to suggesting they seek treatment. Your conversation may be more fruitful if you have treatment options to share with them.

A good treatment program isn’t one-size-fits-all, that is, treatment should be tailored to the specific circumstances each person faces. Before selecting a treatment program, take stock of your child’s life.

Important questions to ask before selecting an inpatient program include:

  • What is the drug of abuse?
  • How long has the substance been abused?
  • How often does the person use the substance?
  • What amounts does the person use?
  • How has the addiction impacted your child’s life? (e.g. how has it damaged their health, family, schooling, and/or job)
  • Does your child have any health or medical concerns which require treatment or medications?
  • Do they have any co-occurring disorders?
  • Have they previously been to an addiction treatment center?
  • Will they require a medically-supervised detoxification?

Sharing this information with a treatment specialist can help you build an individualized treatment plan and guide you to the facilities and programs which will best serve your child’s needs.

Many individuals fail to pursue treatment because of financial concerns. An adult child may decline treatment for fear of becoming a financial drain on their parents. Having a solid plan helps to reduce this concern. Even if you or your child can’t afford to pay for the entirety of treatment, there are still numerous options which can help you cover the cost of treatment.

Consider the following payment options for inpatient rehab programs:

Many treatment facilities have financing options or sliding-fee scales which can break down or reduce the overall payment.

If your son or daughter doesn’t have insurance, and if you’re not able to add them to your plan, consider helping them find an insurance plan.

Can You Force An Adult Into Treatment?

If your child refuses help despite the obvious destruction caused by addiction, you might be wondering if you can force them to go to a rehab center. This depends on where a person lives.

The laws regarding court-ordered treatment vary from state to state. Generally, a court may order a civil commitment when a person is a threat to themselves or others. Family members can play a role in portraying this danger.

Currently, 37 states and D.C. have statutory provisions regarding the civil commitment of a person for a substance use disorder. According to a 2015 study by the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the length of treatment specified by the commitment orders ranged from under one month to a year or more.

While it’s better for a person to choose treatment, research does show that individuals who enter treatment involuntarily often have equal to better treatment outcomes than those who pursued treatment of their own accord.

Get Help For Yourself

Addiction is frequently referred to as a family disease, meaning it can severely impact the health and wellness of the entire family.

Getting help for yourself has a dual benefit. First, you’re taking steps to improve your mental and emotional health, while also building coping and stress-reduction skills which help your family, too.

Secondly, by taking care of your own needs you’re leading by example. This may encourage your child to take responsibility for their own well-being to the extent that they decide to seek treatment.

Consider therapy sessions or taking part in a support group. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Co-Dependents Anonymous are options which help support the loved ones of addicted individuals.

Discover Treatment Options For Your Child Today

Moderate to severe addictions are best treated in inpatient drug rehabilitation facilities. Inpatient programs offer a diverse array of treatment methods which will help your loved one heal on a physical, mental, and emotional level.

Once your loved one is in treatment, you will likely have the option of addressing any family dysfunction. Family therapy sessions can help you and your family build and maintain healthy relationships which support a sober life.

Contact for more information on drug and alcohol addiction treatment.

The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law - Nature and Utilization of Civil Commitment for Substance Abuse in the United States

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations - A Research-Based Guide

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