Helping Your Child Get Addiction Treatment

Parents of an adult child with substance use disorder (SUD) can face many challenges, such as watching them struggle with legal problems, marital issues, and health concerns. Additionally, there’s a persistent worry that their child may get hurt, unintentionally hurt someone else, or worse. Unlike parents of minors with substance use disorders, parents of adult children with SUD cannot usually force their child into a professional treatment program. Instead, parents can employ specific tactics and skills that may help motivate their adult child to get the treatment they need.

This page will discuss the signs and dangers of drug addiction in your adult child, as well as what can be done to treat it.

How to Tell If Your Child is Using Drugs or Drinking: Signs of Addiction

Detecting and addressing the early warning signs of addiction can be invaluable in helping to prevent serious harm.1  Here are some things that may indicate a developing drug or alcohol use problem in your adult child:2

  • Problems at work or job loss.
  • Loss of motivation.
  • Unexplained change in attitude or personality.
  • Changes in weight and/or sleep patterns.
  • Sudden mood swings.
  • Development of legal problems as a result of substance use.
  • Financial problems and/or frequent requests to borrow money.

Commonly Abused Substances Your Son or Daughter May Be Using

Drinking and drug use can have devastating consequences.3 Even recreational misuse of substances at a young age can serve as a strong precursor for the development of substance use problems later in life, not to mention the risk of immediate injury or death.4

The following list includes some of the more commonly misused addictive substances. If you’ve seen noticeable and concerning changes in your son or daughter, one or more of these drugs may be the reason:

  • Alcohol. Alcohol is the most widely used addictive substance in the United States.5 Alcohol can serve as a catalyst for many risky behaviors that can include engaging in unprotected sex or operating a vehicle while under the influence. Heavy drinking can also lead to many negative physical health problems such as hypertension, cancer, and liver disease.3
  • Marijuana. Cannabis is legal for adult consumption in many states; however, the drug can still have negative long-term consequences on those that use it, including increased heart rate, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal complications such as severe nausea, vomiting, and dehydration .6
  • Opioids. Opioids—the class of drugs that includes heroin and most prescription painkillers—are powerfully addictive drugs that carry the risk of many long-term health issues, including the development of severe physical dependence and associated withdrawal, as well as the immediate risk of overdose.7 Opioids are the leading cause of overdose in the U.S.8
  • Benzodiazepines. These drugs are often prescribed to treat anxiety, panic disorder, and seizures. When misused, they can result in profound over-sedation, confusion, dizziness, slowed breathing, and overdose (especially when used with opioids or alcohol). Withdrawal symptoms when an addicted person attempts to quit benzodiazepines can be severe without medical assistance.9
  • Stimulants. Commonly misused stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription amphetamines like Adderall. These drugs cause increased alertness and can also cause paranoia and panic when abused. They carry the risk of causing agitation and aggression, addiction, and even overdose.10

Addiction or Dependence: What’s the Difference?

Someone who uses drugs or drinks may become physiologically dependent on these substances, experiencing withdrawal when they quit or reduce their use. Dependence can be part of addiction; however, addiction also encompasses psychological and social factors as well.

For example, someone taking prescription painkillers for chronic pain may be physiologically dependent but not necessarily addicted. Conversely, someone with opioid use disorder (OUD) that has not used drugs in years is not “cured” of addiction, but in recovery.11,12

Understanding the difference between physiological dependence and addiction is crucial to understanding why detox without continued treatment is seldom successful. Detox can help your child get sober safely; however, they’ll likely need treatment that addresses the underlying and surrounding issues that contribute to their compulsive urge to drink or use drugs.1,13

Does My Child Need Rehab?

It’s never too late to get help for addiction, but early treatment increases the chances of success and minimizes risk of lasting damage caused by years of drug or alcohol use.1 Addiction is a highly individualized condition, and diagnosis and the right course of treatment is best provided by a specialist.1,12

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines criteria that medical professionals use when diagnosing someone with addiction or the more diagnostic term, substance use disorder. Some of these criteria include:

  • Skipping important obligations to drink, use drugs, or recover from the effects of substance use.
  • Drinking or using drugs in dangerous situations (e.g., while driving).
  • Trying and failing to give up drinking or drugs.
  • Using drugs or drinking despite knowing it has caused or worsened physical problems or mental illness.
  • Experiencing withdrawal when abstaining from drinking or drug use.
  • Building a tolerance to drugs or alcohol (needing more to feel the desired effect).12

While there may not be an easy, definitive cure for addiction, there are evidence-based treatment techniques that can help your adult child get sober and stay in recovery.1

How Can I Find the Right Addiction Treatment Center for My Son or Daughter?

Important things to consider when choosing a treatment facility for your adult son or daughter can include:

  • Whether the treatment facility utilizes evidence-based techniques. Alternative therapies are helpful for many people, but they should be used in conjunction with treatments that are backed by science, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).14,1,15
  • Whether treatment for co-occurring disorders is provided. Approximately half the people with SUD will suffer another form of mental illness during their lifetime and vice versa. It’s crucial that addiction treatment addresses these issues simultaneously.16,17
  • Whether treatment is tailored to your child’s unique needs. The ideal setting and duration of treatment (i.e., short-term rehab, 30-day treatment, or long-term rehab) will vary. It is common for the treatment course to need adjustment based on a specialists’ recommendations.18
  • If the treatment facility accepts your child’s health insurance. Most insurance plans cover addiction treatment; however, the extent of this coverage will vary. Finding a treatment center that contracts directly with their insurer keeps out-of-pocket costs down for patients.

Sunrise House is an addiction treatment facility in New Jersey that provides:

  • Medical detox. Detox allows patients with moderate to severe physiological dependence to manage their acute withdrawal safely under the supervision of medical staff.
  • Residential treatment. In inpatient rehab, patients stay at the facility 24/7 for the duration of treatment. Rehab programming includes ample psychoeducation and a combination of evidence-based therapies.18 Staff at Sunrise House is trained to treat the whole person, which includes the needs of those with co-occurring disorders.
  • Specialized treatment tracks. These programs address the overarching needs of anyone struggling with addiction as well as the unique struggles of people in certain demographics. Sunrise House offers programs for young adults, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, trauma survivors, and veterans and first responders.
  • Aftercare planning. Recovery doesn’t end when someone leaves treatment. The aftercare program at Sunrise House hosts weekly 12-Step meetings and seasonal sober events, enables patients to remain in contact with their peers in recovery through the alumni app, and facilitates connections with local community programs and sober-living facilities.

What If My Child Won’t Go to Rehab?

If you have an adult child with a substance use problem, you may be tempted to try and help them on your own. Sadly, this rarely ever works, but you may be able to help them recognize and address their problems under the care of professionals.19 Here are some tips to help encourage your adult child to get treatment:

You can view the rest of the Talking to a Loved One with Addiction series here.

Unfortunately, your child may refuse to get professional help, and you should be prepared for this possibility. Whether they decide to get treatment or not, it’s important to remember that:

  • Their recovery does not depend on your actions.
  • You did not cause their substance use disorder (SUD).
  • The rest of your family’s future does not depend on your adult child’s recovery.

Seeing a professional therapist or joining community programs like Al-Anon (for the loved ones of people with alcohol use disorder) and Nar-Anon (for the loved ones of people with drug addictions) can provide invaluable support.13

The Addiction Treatment Process: What Can My Son or Daughter Expect?

When you are first admitted for treatment at Sunrise House, you’ll meet with a medical team for an evaluation. The evaluation will provide information including:

  • The substances in your system and their concentration.
  • Your general mental and physical health status.
  • Your social environment.

The information gathered will help the team keep you safe during withdrawal and outline a treatment plan to keep you in recovery.23

Daily activities in rehab include:

  • Psychoeducation sessions.
  • Curriculum group and primary group therapy.
  • Individual counselling.
  • Recreational activities.
  • 12-step program meetings.

Through evidence-based treatment practices, your adult child will learn to recognize and avoid the things that may cause them to misuse substances, form positive behavioral patterns, and become motivated to stay sober and strive for their goals.15

How Can I Help My Child Pay for Treatment?

If your son or daughter is insured or is still on your insurance, the first step will be to find a suitable treatment center that accepts their (or your) insurance. Sunrise House makes verifying insurance benefits easy with our confidential . You will need:

  • An email address.
  • The insurance provider name.
  • The insurance policy number.

You can also learn detailed information about insurance coverage, the treatment options provided at Sunrise House, and get help navigating the insurance approval process by calling an admissions navigator at .

Sunrise House accepts coverage from many major insurers, including:

While insurance can significantly reduce costs, there will usually be at least some out-of-pocket expenses.24 Fortunately, there are ways to pay for rehab that make these costs more manageable. For example, Sunrise House offers financing options to ease the financial burden upfront.

Supporting Your Child’s Recovery: What’s Next After Rehab?

Recovery is a lifelong commitment, and it often requires continued maintenance. Many former patients benefit from peer support programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).25 Similarly, the family of loved ones with addiction can benefit from the support provided by groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon. Family therapy can help both the person with SUD and their loved ones during and post recovery.26

Addiction is a chronic condition, and relapse is fairly common. In fact, the rate of relapse is comparable to that found with illnesses like asthma or diabetes. If and when someone relapses, it doesn’t necessarily mean that treatment failed. It could, instead, signal the need for some changes to an ongoing treatment regimen or a refocusing of recovery efforts; for some, relapse is an inevitable part of recovery.14

Sunrise House is an American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) facility, which operates many treatment centers across the United States, ensuring high-quality support is never too far away. Each AAC facility adheres to the AAC brand promise, meaning anyone that spends 90 consecutive days in treatment through AAC (at any level of care) qualifies for a complementary 30-day program should they experience a relapse.

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