How To Help An Addicted Parent

Learn how to help an addicted parent, navigate recovery, and rebuild trust in our comprehensive guide.

How To Help An Addicted Parent

How To Help An Addicted Parent

Understanding Addiction

Before exploring how to help an addicted parent, it's crucial to understand the nature of addiction itself. This understanding allows for more compassionate engagement with the individual, reinforcing the fact that addiction is a disease, not a personal failing.

Definition of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction, also referred to as substance use disorder, is a disease impacting the brain and behavior. It leads to an inability to control the use of legal or illegal drugs or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine are also considered drugs. When a person is addicted, they may persist in using the drug despite the harm it causes.

Drug addiction is a complex disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disorder since drugs alter the brain's structure and functioning. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to harmful behaviors.

Risk Factors for Addiction

The risk of addiction and the speed at which one becomes addicted varies by drug. Some drugs, such as opioid painkillers, have a higher risk and cause addiction more quickly than others.

Factors such as a family history of addiction, early exposure to drugs, mental health disorders, and peer pressure can contribute to the development of addiction. Drug addiction can begin with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situations, and for some people, the drug use becomes more frequent. For others, particularly with opioids, drug addiction begins with prescribed medicines or receiving them from others who have prescriptions [1].

Understanding these risk factors is essential for early detection and prevention strategies. Remember, addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. It is not a moral failing or a lack of willpower but a chronic disease that requires treatment and support.

Impact on Families

The ramifications of drug addiction extend far beyond the individual struggling with the substance use disorder (SUD). Families, and particularly children, are often deeply affected by the behaviors and consequences associated with addiction.

Effects on Children

Children living in homes where there is an addiction are at an increased risk of developing substance use disorders themselves, with approximately 25 percent of American children growing up in households where substance abuse is present. This is significantly higher than the national average, indicating the profound influence of the home environment on a child's susceptibility to addiction.

In addition to the risk of developing SUDs, children affected by parental substance abuse may experience a range of emotional and behavioral problems. This includes an increased risk for internalizing problems such as depression and anxiety, or externalizing problems such as conduct issues and aggression.

Furthermore, parents with a substance use disorder are three times more likely to physically or sexually abuse their child. The consequences of such abuse are far-reaching, with these children being more likely to be arrested as juveniles and commit violent crimes.

Behavioral Patterns in Families

Family dynamics and behaviors can significantly influence the trajectory of a loved one's addiction. One such behavior is enabling, which often stems from a well-intentioned desire to help but can actually perpetuate the substance use disorder. Enabling behaviors can include covering up for the addicted parent, providing financial support that enables continued drug use, or avoiding the issue in an attempt to maintain peace within the household.

Social workers can play a crucial role in breaking these patterns by encouraging parents of adult children with SUDs to seek their own help. Support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can provide valuable resources and a community of individuals facing similar challenges.

Understanding the impact of addiction on families, and particularly on children, is crucial when considering how to help an addicted parent. By acknowledging these consequences and working to break harmful behavioral patterns, families can take important steps towards supporting their loved one's recovery journey.

Supporting the Addicted Parent

Assisting a parent struggling with addiction can be a challenging and emotional task. However, understanding the right steps to take can make a significant difference in their recovery process. This section aims to provide a guide on how to help an addicted parent, focusing on seeking help and understanding the role of enabling and intervention.

Seeking Help for the Parent

When the parent is dealing with a substance use disorder, the first step in providing support is to seek professional help. This involves contacting treatment providers who can answer questions, provide therapy options, and prescribe appropriate medication. The healing process can also be facilitated by allowing sober relatives to visit the parent in rehab for counseling sessions. This approach ensures that the parent receives comprehensive support, which can significantly improve their chances of recovery [6].

In this process, it's also crucial to consider the safety and wellbeing of the affected family members, especially children. Studies have shown that parents with a substance use disorder are three times more likely to physically or sexually abuse their child. These children are more likely to be arrested as juveniles and commit violent crimes. Therefore, ensuring the safety of these children while providing the necessary support to the parent is a critical aspect of the recovery process [5].

Enabling and Intervention

One of the most common challenges when supporting an addicted parent is the risk of enabling their substance use. Enabling behaviors by family members can perpetuate substance use disorders, making it difficult for the parent to recognize the need for change and seek help. In such cases, social workers can encourage parents of adult children with substance use disorders to seek their own help in support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.

In certain situations, staging an intervention can motivate the parent to seek help for their substance misuse. An intervention is a carefully planned process where family members, friends, and professionals meet with the addicted person to discuss the consequences of their addiction and propose a treatment plan [7].

However, to ensure the success of an intervention, several factors should be considered. These include setting boundaries, preparing for strong emotions, and being emotionally ready for the possibility that the loved one may not accept treatment right away.

Supporting an addicted parent is a complex process that requires patience, understanding, and professional guidance. It's crucial to remember that the goal is not only to help the parent overcome their addiction but also to ensure the wellbeing of all the affected family members in the process.

Recovery Process

The journey to recovery from addiction doesn't end with the completion of a rehab program. There are ongoing challenges and processes that both the recovering parent and their children must face and navigate through. The post-rehab period is a critical time that requires strong support systems and patience.

Post-Rehab Challenges

Parents who have been through a rehabilitation program may experience a wide range of emotions post-rehab, from gratitude to depression and anxiety. For children and young people, understanding addiction and what to expect from their parents after rehab is crucial. It's not uncommon for teens dealing with addiction within the family to feel overwhelmed, leading to strained relationships at home and an increased risk of running away, making them vulnerable to various forms of exploitation.

Furthermore, teens who abuse substances are more likely to continue struggling with Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) well into their college years, often finding it difficult to slow down their substance use. Navigating these challenges requires a robust support network, professional help, and patience.

Building Trust and Relationships

Building trust and healthy relationships is a critical part of the recovery process. Children of parents recovering from addiction often need to regain self-confidence and learn to build trusting relationships with their family and peers.

Support for family members affected by addiction involves treatment providers answering questions, allowing sober relatives to visit family members in rehab for counseling, and providing therapy options, medication, and support from professionals for healing [6].

Rebuilding trust and relationships is a process that takes time and effort from all parties involved. It's important to remember that setbacks may occur, but with patience, open communication, and professional guidance, progress can be made. The ultimate goal is to create a safe and supportive environment that facilitates healing and growth for everyone involved.

In the journey of helping an addicted parent, the focus should not only be on their recovery, but also on the wellbeing and emotional health of the child or children involved. Remember, it's okay to seek help and support for yourself while supporting your loved one through their recovery process.

Resources for Assistance

When considering how to help an addicted parent, it's crucial to know the resources available for assistance. This section will cover national helplines and support groups, as well as treatment programs that can provide the necessary help.

National Helplines

National helplines offer a crucial lifeline for individuals and families dealing with addiction. They provide free, confidential support, and referral services. For example, SAMHSA’s National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP or 4357) offers a 24/7 treatment referral and information service available in both English and Spanish. The helpline provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Additionally, the helpline offers an online treatment locator tool or a text messaging service (HELP4U). Individuals can send their zip code to 435748 to find help near them. This service operates all-year-round and can direct callers to state services or appropriate intake centers [3].

In Canada, services for help with substance use, overdose prevention, and tobacco cessation are also available. Individuals can call 1-800-668-6868 or text 686868 to access these services [8].

Support Groups and Treatment Programs

Support groups and treatment programs can offer essential assistance to individuals and their families dealing with addiction. They provide an environment where individuals can share their experiences, learn from others, and receive the support they need.

In the United States, SAMHSA's National Helpline can provide referrals to such groups and programs [3].

In Canada, Parent-to-Parent Support is accessible through online support groups by calling 1-866-366-3667.

Additionally, specific programs are available for Indigenous peoples who need help with substance use. These culturally sensitive resources are provided through the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and the National Youth Solvent Abuse Program.

Understanding and accessing these resources is a vital step in supporting an addicted parent. Remember, help is available, and recovery is possible.










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