Helping Your Mom or Dad with Addiction

Helping a parent who is struggling with a substance use disorder can be challenging for the entire family and may take some persistence on your part. At first, your parent may be unwilling to acknowledge their addiction or refuse to talk with you. However, it’s vital to show your support and address the situation as soon as possible.

This article will guide you on how to recognize the signs of addiction, how to talk to your parent about addiction, and how to find treatment.

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

To best help your mom or dad with a drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of a substance use disorder (SUD). Knowing the signs will better prepare you for a discussion when the time arrives.

Some signs of a substance use disorder may include:3

  • Taking the substance for long periods of time or in larger amounts than intended.
  • Being unable to cut down or stop substance use despite a desire to do so.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of the substance.
  • Experiencing cravings for the substance.
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at home, work, or school due to substance use.
  • Continuing substance use despite having interpersonal or social problems that are caused or worsened by substance use.
  • Giving up social, recreational, or occupational activities due to substance use.
  • Using the substance in risky or dangerous situations.
  • Continuing substance use despite having one or more physical or mental health problems caused or worsened by use.

Your parent does not have to show all the signs of addiction above to warrant needing help.  Remember, some people may exhibit more subtle symptoms than others.2

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

Understanding Addiction is a Disease

Educating yourself about substance misuse can help you to understand why it is so hard for your parent to change their behavior. Because their addiction to drugs or alcohol is not just a habit, but a disease, it is beyond your parent’s control and therefore may require professional medical treatment.4 It is important to express to your mother or father that addiction is a treatable disease and research-based evidence shows that addiction treatment works. 

Finding the Right Rehab Your Parent

You can offer support by helping your mom or dad research rehab facilities. Finding the right addiction treatment facility will depend on your parent’s individual needs.5 They may need an inpatient rehab where they stay at the facility 24/7, or they may do well in an outpatient program that has more flexibility. It’s a good idea to discuss their needs with a doctor or staff at the treatment facility to determine what level of care is best.

Treatment for addiction varies but may include:5

  • Medical detox. Supervised medical detox is often the first step in addiction treatment. The goal of detox is to rid the body of the abused substance and minimize withdrawal side effects. Detox generally takes 5–7 days to complete but could take longer depending on which substance(s) your parent is dependent on.
  • Inpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab is where the patient stays at the facility 24/7. The length of stay will depend on your parent’s particular needs and can range from several days to months.
  • Outpatient treatment. If you have work or family commitments, outpatient rehab offers more flexibility with services so your mom or dad can keep a relatively normal schedule.

Both inpatient and outpatient programs create individualized treatment plans that are tailored to each patient’s specific needs and goals.5 You can express to your parent that no matter what treatment option they pursue, it is a step in the right direction to kickstart their recovery.

Helping Your Parent Pay For Addiction Treatment

The cost of addiction treatment should not deter your parent from seeking professional help. It’s important to remember, you may have health insurance coverage for addiction treatment. If you are unsure what your insurance covers, you can call the number on the back of your insurance card to get help with checking your benefits, or you can simply to verify your coverage with Sunrise House.

If your parent is uninsured, you can research grants and scholarships or ask about payment options the facility may offer.

You can call one of our admissions navigators, who are available 24/7, to learn about our admissions process, discuss potential treatment options, and walk through your payment options. .

Aftercare & How to Support Your Parent’s Addiction Recovery

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process and relapse can occur during recovery.3 Your parent will have to work on changing deeply rooted behaviors and sometimes they may return to substance misuse. 3,6 A strong aftercare plan and enough time in rehab (see our 90-day promise) can help reduce the chances of relapse.6

While in an outpatient or inpatient rehab program, your parent will work with a medical team to create an after-treatment plan. For some, the next step after rehab might be transitioning to a sober living home. For others, a 12-step program or joining an alumni program can help keep the sobriety momentum going.

Your parent’s substance use disorder doesn’t just affect them, it affects the entire family.8 Support from family and friends has been found to be an important factor in long-term recovery, so it is crucial to set boundaries with your parent and practice self-care so that you can be there for them in a healthy and beneficial way.8 There are also support groups specifically for family members supporting loved ones with addiction including Families Anonymous, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Adult Children of Alcoholics. 9


Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.