What Every Parent Should Do to Help Their Addicted Child

what every parent should do to help their addicted child

When it comes to addiction, there are various ways to handle an addict. With all of the lying, stealing, manipulation and the other things that come along with addiction, many families can feel overwhelmed by the situation. But at the bottom of all the anger, heartache and distress lie a family’s profound need to help their loved one. Some families are completely naïve to addiction, saying things like:

“They’re just experimenting.”
“My kid definitely isn’t doing heroin, I raised them better than that.”
“It’s just a phase…they’ll get it together…they just need to find a job.”

Other families who have dealt with addiction before, or for whom this isn’t their first go-around with their loved one, know better and know that it can be a life or death situation. With all the different schools of thought regarding how to properly help an addict, it can become confusing to figure out the best way to help your loved one.

Here are some things EVERY parent should do to help their addicted child:

Help, Don’t Enable

There is a profound difference between “enabling” and “helping.” To enable an addict is to do things that allow them to continue in their addiction and keep getting high. To help an addict means you do everything you can to get them into treatment and get them the help they need to conquer their addiction. For instance, when your child needs money for gas or rent, you don’t give it to them. If you ask them where their money went, they will most probably give you a list of unbelievable (or what should be unbelievable) stories about where their money went.

“Can you believe it…I got robbed.”
“My roommate needed some money so I let them borrow some so now I’m broke.”
“I lost my wallet and I had all my money in it.”

Whatever you do, don’t give them cash to just go get high with. Also, don’t allow them to use drugs, screw up, refuse help and then still live at home where they can live, often rent-free, eat all your food, take a hot shower whenever they want and then get high in the bathroom. If the consequences of their using has caused them to have no place to live and nowhere to go, letting them come back and live at home just enables them to keep doing what they’re doing. What EVERY family should do is help their loved one any way they can to get into treatment and handle their addiction. What EVERY family should NOT do is enable their loved one to keep using by “softening” their fall and giving them a safety net.

Do an Intervention, If Necessary


Not all addicts immediately seize the opportunity to get help. Some addicts will do whatever they need to do or say whatever they need to say to protect their addiction. Drugs are a solution to a problem for them. The drugs help to handle some problem for them whether it be low self-confidence, low self-esteem, help to sleep better, help to have more energy…whatever the problems are, drugs are their answer. So, at the end of the day, when families offer treatment to their loved one and they deny that help, it’s mostly out of fear. A lot of addicts completely lose themselves along the way. Some even say:

“I’ve been using drugs for so long, I don’t even know who I am without them.”

Getting them into treatment is like taking their security blanket away and they’re afraid that they won’t know how to deal with life without drugs. And that’s true for many addicts… they don’t know how to deal with life without getting high and that’s the purpose of genuine treatment; to get to the bottom of what’s going on and learn how to handle life’s problems without needing drugs as a solution. If your loved one totally refuses to get help, that’s what professional interventionists are for. Some families think that there’s no point in forcing someone to get help, because honestly, how much help are they really going to get if they don’t want it for themselves?

An interventionist doesn’t force an addict to get help and neither does the family. The interventionist’s sole purpose is to help the addict make a logical decision. A person who’s using drugs lacks the ability to make sound decisions for themselves because drugs cloud their judgment. So, the interventionist just guides the addict towards making the best decision for themselves, and hopefully, they choose treatment. If so, the interventionist will escort them to whatever facility the family chooses and get them checked in. On the other hand, if the addict still refuses to get help, the family imposes consequences for their choice, whether it be that they can no longer live at home, the family won’t continue helping them financially, or the family cuts them off altogether until they decide to get help. Interventions can be the difference between life and death. Often the addict is so clouded, numb and “out of it” that they don’t realize the real damage they’re causing themselves and their family until an intervention is done.

Don’t Allow the Addict to Trade Addictions

don’t change addictions

Medically-assisted treatments are often really attractive to addicts as a means of handling their addictions. This type of treatment is when the addict goes to a clinic or a doctor and gets put on other drugs like Methadone or Suboxone as a way of getting off the drugs they’re doing. Those two drugs were designed to be used short-term for getting an addict through the acute detox from coming off opiates. Now, these drugs are being used as long-term, prophylactic measures to keep an addict from relapsing. For one, that’s not what these drugs were intended for and two, what ends up happening is that one addiction is traded for another and the addict ends up just spinning their wheels because they haven’t done anything to handle the reason they use drugs… they just traded an illegal drug for a legal one. But what happens when you take that drug away? Since nothing’s been done to handle the problem that drugs were a solution for, more than likely, they relapse! Often, relapse happens if the person isn’t introduced to any type of recovery modality. The important thing here is not allow your addicted child or loved one to go onto Suboxone or Methadone instead of going to treatment. What a good treatment center will do is handle the physical addiction to drugs, get the person detoxed, handle their cravings and then spend the majority of the time working with them one-on-one to get to the core root of why they used drugs and solve the problems that drugs were a solution to.

To best help an addict, families should never enable them and allow them to continue doing what they’re doing, interventions should be used if they refuse to get help and no family should accept them going onto medically-assisted treatments in lieu of going to drug rehab. From past experience, helping an addict get into treatment, using interventions when necessary and having them go to treatment instead of getting on Suboxone or Methadone works much better. The idea is for a family to do whatever they can to get their loved one into treatment and on the road to recovery. Drug abuse is a major crisis these days and no drug use should be taken lightly. If you see all the warning signs that your loved one is struggling with addiction, get them help. Don’t hesitate. There are good treatment centers out there that can help the addict to figure out their addiction, help the addict to put their own life back in order and return them to the family as constructive, contributing members of society. Follow this guide, get them the help that they need and don’t wait, act now!

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Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 10 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.