ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Advice For Parents With Adult Children That Have Drug and Alcohol Problems

Updated on October 4, 2013

What To Do

Here is some of the advice I give parents trying to get their adult children into treatment:

  • Verbalizing your concerns is absolutely okay. Your child might be angry in response, but they will not move towards treatment by you remaining quiet or hoping that they will go to treatment on their own.
  • When you talk to your child make sure that your concern and worry about their health and welfare comes through and not your anger or frustration.
  • If your child denies, let them know that you will pay for a urine test and it's fine if they want to "prove you wrong". If they won't take the urine test this should be a signal that perhaps your intuition is correct. After all, they have the opportunity to prove they are not using.
  • Always agree that you will pay for treatment, if they insist they don't need any or won't go. In my experience, eventually they do come around and will need help paying for treatment.
  • Work with a professional to help you sort out what is support and what could be enabling the problem. The professional can also help identify family patterns keeping the alcohol and drug use intact, and be a sounding board for the parent working through their emotions and guilt over the course of this process.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics groups can be helpful for the family.

Parents frequently ask me, "how long will it take for them to realize they need treatment?" My answer is always the same. It could come about quickly or take a long time. It's important for the parent(s) to keep the door open to talking about the problem and being available to help with treatment. There are usually very few options for mandating your child into treatment in most states once they turn 18. Usually adult children with drug and alcohol problems are only mandated as a result of getting into legal problems that result from their drug and alcohol use.

How Do I Get My Adult Child Help For Their Drug and Alcohol Problems?

I get calls from parents about this topic several times per month. The parents know that their adult child is altered, using, or drinking. They have often already confronted them with no effect. They call me with a sense of helplessness while watching their child deteriorate right before them.

Many of these adult children have lost jobs, had to leave school, or have boomeranged back to their parents homes due to their use of drugs or alcohol. Their parents have tried to be supportive, tried to guide and direct, but have not been able to coax their child into treatment or even an evaluation. The parents wonder if their support of their child is actually enabling, but feel intense guilt in setting limits. Often times, what comes across from the parent is frustration and anger and what does not come across is the intense worry and concern over their child's health and welfare.

Will These Problems Get Worse?

Richard Jessor (1977) did research on adolescent and emerging adults with problem behavior including drug and alcohol use. His findings concluded that for the majority with problems at this age, those problems decreased into their late 20's and did not follow those with problems into their 30's.

"Recent research into how the brain develops suggests that people are better equipped to make major life decisions in their late 20s than earlier in the decade. The brain, once thought to be fully grown after puberty, is still evolving into its adult shape well into a person's third decade, pruning away unused connections and strengthening those that remain, scientists say." (Health Journal, August 23, 2012)

In my work with emerging adults, I can tell you that those with problems (drug and alcohol use, unemployment, educational problems) are much more open to getting the treatment they need when they approach their mid 20's. That is why I tell parents to remain available to help their children get treatment once they are ready.

The Link Between Mental Health and Substance Use

According to the National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI), "Certain groups of people with mental illness (e.g., males, individuals of lower socioeconomic status, military veterans and people with more general medical illnesses) are at increased risk of abusing drugs such as marijuana, opiates, cocaine and other stimulants, and alcohol. Recent scientific studies have suggested that nearly one-third of people with all mental illnesses and approximately one-half of people with severe mental illnesses (including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) also experience substance abuse. Conversely, more than one-third of all alcohol abusers and more than one-half of all drug abusers are also battling mental illness." (

Adult children abusing drugs and alcohol are likely to have mental health issues as well. Research indicates that the best care is treating both at the same time.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)