Helping Your Adult Child with Addiction

Parents of adult children who struggle with addiction face several unique challenges. Before children reach legal adulthood, as a parent, you can make decisions on your child’s behalf, which makes it easier to intervene if there is a drug or alcohol problem. However, once children reach adulthood and have lives of their own, your parental influence is limited. This is particularly challenging when you’re wondering how to help your child with addiction.

If you’re a parent worried about your adult child’s drug or alcohol use, this guide will help you:

  • Identify addictions signs of a substance use disorder (the clinical term for addiction).
  • Discover ways to talk to your adult child about alcoholism or drug addiction.
  • Learn how to help your child get into rehab.

Is My Child Doing Drugs? Signs of Addiction

lgbtq person struggling with drug addiction

As children grow older and move into adulthood, it’s natural that some changes in personality and habits will occur. While some of the changes that parents may notice, such as secretiveness or mood changes, don’t necessarily indicate they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, they may indicate numerous other issues. So how can parents recognize the signs of addiction? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.) lists the criteria that specialists use to diagnose a substance use disorder. These include:1

  • Cravings for drugs or alcohol.
  • Needing increasing amounts to feel the same effects (tolerance).
  • Using a substance more often or in higher amounts than intended.
  • Spending a great deal of time trying to find, use, or recover from drugs or alcohol.
  • Not attending to work, school, or family obligations because of drug or alcohol use.
  • Expressing a desire to cut back or stop using drugs or alcohol, but not being able to do so.
  • Continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite knowing it has caused or worsened a physical or mental health problem.
  • Using drugs or alcohol in hazardous situations, such as before or while driving.
  • Forgoing hobbies or important social or professional activities due to drug or alcohol use.
  • Experiencing uncomfortable symptoms when drugs or alcohol are cut back or stopped (withdrawal).
  • Continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite interpersonal or social problems caused or made or worse by use.

How to Get My Adult Child Into Rehab

Watching your child become an adult and grapple with the disease of addiction can be a disheartening experience and one that makes you feel helpless. You may also experience feelings of remorse, guilt, or denial about what your child is going through.3 These feelings can make it challenging to talk to your child about addiction and treatment options, but starting the conversation is a vital first step to help your child get into rehab.3

The following tips4 can be helpful if you aren’t sure how to start the conversation:

  • Learn about addiction and treatment options. Be prepared with options for drug and alcohol rehab.
  • Write down what you want to say to help you prepare and stick to important points.
  • Choose an appropriate time and place to talk. Consider going somewhere that feels safe for you and your child, like on a walk or at home. If possible, have the conversation at a time when your child is not intoxicated.
  • Avoid stigmatizing language (e.g., “addict” “junkie”) and avoid taking an aggressive, confrontational approach to the conversation, such as interventions you might see on popular television shows.
  • Acknowledge how your child is feeling without judgment.
  • Be patient, set clear, healthy boundaries, and offer to help them take positive steps toward recovery.

How Can I Pay for My Son or Daughter’s Addiction Treatment

The cost of treatment can be an obstacle for many people, but most insurance policies offer some coverage. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensured greater access to treatment for substance use disorders by requiring regulatory changes in existing insurance plans that substance use disorders by covered more equitably, similarly to medical and surgical care benefits.5

For those with limited or no health insurance coverage, additional payment options are available.

Can I Use My Company-Sponsored Health Insurance to Cover My Adult Child’s Treatment?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that all health insurance carriers in every state that offer coverage to adults and dependents must allow dependents to remain on family policies until they are 26 years old.6 If your adult child still qualifies as a dependent and is on your company-sponsored health insurance, your child’s treatment may be covered.

How to Support My Child’s Recovery

Addiction is a chronic but treatable condition that can take a toll on not just the individual but the entire family.7 The first few months of recovery are an adjustment period for everyone, which is why it is vitally important to you help your child stick to their aftercare plan following treatment. Relapse during the first year after treatment is not uncommon;8 however, following the aftercare plan will reduce that risk.

If your child does relapse, it’s important to understand that this isn’t a moral failing, and it does not mean treatment didn’t work. Decades of research show that addiction affects various structures and functions in the brain.9 Addiction is considered both a disease and complex brain disorder and it takes time for the brain to heal and for people to change deeply embedded behaviors established during active addiction.9

Support for your adult child’s recovery also involves taking care of yourself. It’s common to feel work down and exhausted by the stress of watching someone you love struggle with addiction. Self-care is a crucial for not only for the person in recovery but their families as well. By taking care of your needs, you can be better prepared to help support your child in their recovery efforts. Self-care practices include:

  • Joining a support group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
  • Participating in family therapy
  • Seeking out individual counseling.
  • Participating in hobbies and getting together with friends.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Journaling and meditating.

It’s important to remember that the road to recovery is rarely a straight path, but with the right treatment and support, you and your family can take positive steps toward healing. To learn more about how treatment can support your adult child, call us at .


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.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
River Oaks is located in Riverview, Florida, which is easily accessible from Tampa.
Take your next step toward recovery:
✔ learn more about our addiction treatment programs.
✔ see how popular insurance providers such as Aetna or Carelon offer coverage for rehab.
view photos of our facility.