Helping Your Mom or Dad Get Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a destructive condition that has a profound effect on both those afflicted and their loved ones. Children of addicted parents face many unique, serious struggles and can even suffer lasting trauma as a result.1

This page will go over how to recognize an addiction in a parent, what can be done, and what to expect when a parent is in treatment.

What Does a Substance Use Disorder Look Like? How to Recognize Addiction in Your Parent

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a serious medical condition that should be diagnosed by a medical professional. It is defined as compulsive drug use, or in other words, the inability to stop or reduce drug use regardless of negative consequences on an individual’s life. The criteria for diagnosing SUD are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Examples of some of the signs of addiction include:

  • Overlooking important duties in order to seek substances, drink or use drugs, or recover from the effects of substance use.
  • Spending considerable time and money seeking, buying, and using substances.
  • Experiencing withdrawal when abstaining from substance use.
  • Continuing to use drugs or drink alcohol despite it causing ongoing problems at home or work.
  • Trying to quit but being unsuccessful.2

It’s important to understand that addiction is not a choice: many people with SUD want to quit but are unable to on their own.3 In these instances, treatment is needed to help someone safely get sober and remain in recovery.

Different Types of Substances Your Parent May Be Using

There are many different substances of abuse that can cause someone to exhibit different tell-tale signs. Some people are very good at hiding their substance use. Here are some of the common types of drugs and their visible effects.

  • Alcohol. Signs of alcohol intoxication include slurred speech, impaired memory, impaired vision, loss of balance, confusion, and vomiting.4 If someone has a severe addiction to alcohol, withdrawal may be dangerous. Signs of alcohol withdrawal include restlessness, loss of appetite, tremors, delusions, and seizures.5
  • Marijuana. Signs of marijuana intoxication include mood changes, diminished body motion, trouble problem solving, and psychosis. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms may include irritability, anxiety, loss of appetite, and insomnia.6
  • Stimulants. Stimulants are drugs that speed up the body’s systems. They include cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription amphetamines, and more. Signs of stimulant abuse include heightened senses, increased activity, increased alertness, and loss of appetite.7 Withdrawal symptoms may include depression, oversleeping or insomnia, fatigue, and anxiety.5
  • Opioids. Opioids include many prescription painkillers (e.g., hydrocodone, Oxycontin, codeine) as well as illegal drugs like heroin.8 Signs of opioid intoxication include sedation, pinpoint pupils, confusion, and head nodding. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe but are rarely fatal. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include insomnia, sweating excessively, muscle spasms, diarrhea, and bone and muscle pain.5

Are You Helping or Enabling Your Parent’s Addiction?

Having a loved one with a substance use disorder can be tricky to navigate. When you see them struggling, it’s tempting to help them out of a difficult situation. However, there’s a fine line between helping someone seek treatment and enabling their addiction.

Enabling is when someone prevents their loved one from experiencing the full consequences of their actions.1 While you may have the best intentions, certain actions may be counterproductive.

One example of enabling might be paying your parent’s bills after they’ve spent their own money on drugs or alcohol. This allows your mom or dad to escape the negative consequences of their behavior and allows them to continue focusing on short-term rewards instead of their long-term responsibilities.9

An example of helping a parent who is struggling with addiction is by rewarding positive behavior. This can be as simple as expressing gratitude, encouragement or verbal praise, or it may be something like cooking a meal or buying them movie tickets.9

When someone has consistently hurt you, it may be hard to see the good in them; but expressing your appreciation for their positive attributes can go a long way in raising their self-esteem and their will to get sober.

How to Get Your Mom or Dad into Rehab: What You Can Do to Help

While there’s no known cure for addiction, there are evidence-based approaches that can help people get sober and remain in recovery. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of people that need treatment receive it.3 The support of family can play an important role in convincing someone to get treatment and keeping them motivated both during and after rehab.

Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to get a parent into treatment:

  • Confrontational interventions may do more harm than good. This approach is often shown on television shows; however, there’s no evidence that this type of intervention is effective in achieving its intended result, and these confrontations can have unpredictable—even dangerous—outcomes.
  • People are often inclined to listen to professional advice. A conversation between your parent and a doctor may convince your mom or dad to enter treatment.
  • You can’t do it for them. The well-being of you and your family does not solely depend on your parent’s recovery.10

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends:

  • Choosing a private setting free from distractions to broach the subject.
  • Being direct with your feelings and concerns.
  • Refraining from making judgements and instead practicing active listening.
  • Offering your assistance and assuring them that recovery is possible.
  • Exercising patience. It’s unlikely that one conversation will cause a complete change in their behavior.11

Finding the Right Rehab for Your Parent

Addiction treatment works best when it’s tailored to the individual. As such, finding the right facility and type of treatment for your parent is crucial. Here are some things to consider:

  • Does the treatment center use evidence-based treatments? Holistic approaches can be helpful, but they should be used in conjunction with approaches that are backed by science.12
  • Are the treatment plans at this facility individualized? Everyone’s needs in treatment are different and therefore people require different paths to recovery.12
  • Does the rehab center treat co-occurring disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder in the presence of a substance use disorder)? Research shows that around half the people with a substance use disorder will suffer from another form of mental illness during their lifetime and vice versa. It’s crucial addiction treatment addresses these issues if they are present.13
  • Is this rehab facility covered by their insurance? Unfortunately, treatment can be expensive, and choosing an in-network facility saves on out-of-pocket costs.

Call an admissions navigator at to learn about addiction treatment at River Oaks or review the guide on what families can expect while a loved one is in rehab.

How to Help Your Parent Pay for Rehab: What are the Options?

Rehab can be expensive; however, the costs for treatment in comparison to years of untreated substance use is immeasurable.14 There are several ways of paying for rehab that make treatment more affordable. A few examples include:

If your parent financially provides for you and they need to take time off of work to go through addiction treatment, your family may qualify for various forms of financial support, such as disability leave through your parent’s employer. Additionally, community programs may provide food, transportation, childcare, and health services. Inquire with the treatment facility for assistance obtaining this support.15

Using Insurance to Pay for Treatment

Due to federal laws like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), most insurers must cover addiction treatment.16 The extent of this coverage varies between policies.

The first step is to find a treatment center that is in your parent’s health insurance network. These facilities contract directly with the insurance company to provide treatment at lower costs.17

River Oaks accepts coverage from many major insurers, including:

You can verify your parent’s coverage at River Oaks by filling out the confidential . You’ll need an email address, the name of the insurance company, and your parent’s policy number.

When using insurance for rehab, out-of-pocket costs may include the following:

  • An annual deductible. This is an amount you must pay out-of-pocket for health services before insurance coverage begins.
  • These are fixed dollar amounts owed at the point of service for certain things, such as outpatient counseling sessions.
  • A co-insurance percentage. After the deductible is paid, the insurer will often pay a percentage of the total cost of a type of treatment (e.g., inpatient rehab), while the patient pays the remaining percentage.18

Each plan has an out-of-pocket limit that, when reached, means the insurance company must pay 100% of the covered services for the rest of the plan’s year.19

Some insurers will require patients to obtain preauthorization from a primary care provider (PCP) before beginning treatment. This is to ensure that the form of treatment option chosen is effective and medically necessary.20 River Oaks admissions navigators at can assist with this process.

Self Pay for Treatment

Unfortunately, many Americans lack health insurance, requiring them to pay for treatment completely out of their own pocket. In these instances, it may be advantageous to pay for treatment with a personal loan from a bank.

Both options break one large sum payment up into smaller, more affordable payments to be paid over an extended period of time. When applying for a loan, it’s important to be mindful of interest rates. Paying off the loan balance early will always save costs in the long run. However, it’s also important to choose the right card or lender, as interest rates are highly variable.

Rehab Financing and Payment Plans

Another option for making addiction treatment for a parent more affordable is using financing options offered by the facility if they are available.

Like personal loans, financing makes costs more manageable by dividing the total cost of treatment into smaller payments spread out over time. The difference is that instead of applying for a loan on your own, this is done by the rehab facility (usually through a 3rd party financial institution).

What to Expect When Your Mom or Dad is in Treatment

Having a parent in addiction treatment is both a scary and hopeful time. Knowing what to expect can offer relief at this difficult time.

First, there are many different types of addiction treatment. For example, River Oaks offers:

  • Medical detox. Detox helps patients safely go through withdrawal under the 24-hour supervision of medical professionals. While often necessary, it does little to help someone stay sober long-term without continued treatment in one of the other levels of care.
  • Residential treatment. Residential treatment also requires patients to stay at the facility 24/7. Rehab involves restructuring thought and behavioral patterns through therapy, psychoeducation, and peer support. There will be set days for family visitation and times throughout each day when you can speak to your parent on the phone.21
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP). Sometimes called “day treatment,” this form of rehab requires patients to visit the facility at least 3 days a week for long session blocks. It involves the same evidence-based treatments used in residential treatments but allows your parent to return home every evening.22
  • Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP). The intensive outpatient program (IOP) works just like the PHP, except treatment sessions are shorter and less frequent.23

While your mom or dad is in treatment, your role is to support them in their recovery. This support can take many forms, such as visiting them in treatment, attending family therapy sessions, learning about addiction, and more.

Taking Care of Yourself: Healing from Your Loved One’s Addiction

One of the cruel aspects of addiction is that the condition has devastating effects on both the person and their loved ones.1 Therefore, it’s important to take care of yourself while supporting your parent.

Peer support programs like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are 12-step programs designed to help the family members and loved ones of people with a substance use disorder.15 These programs are full of members just like you, who have experienced growing up with someone with addiction who are willing to listen and offer insight.

There are many possible lasting effects of growing up with an addicted parent, such as low self-esteem, feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety.1 A therapist may be able to lead you through the difficult, sometimes painful process of setting boundaries and learning positive ways of coping.



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