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    Whether your concern is that your teen is smoking too much pot on the weekends or if your young adult child has an addiction to heroin, realizing that your son or daughter needs outside help to overcome their substance use issue can be frightening and overwhelming. Chances are you have no idea where to begin, or what “treatment” actually entails.

    There is no one-size-fits-all answer and it may take time and research to determine what type of help is best for your child. We’re here to help you navigate each step of the way to get your child making on the road to recovery.

    Getting your child on board

    It can be incredibly frustrating for you to so clearly see that a loved one needs help for substance use or addiction while they deny there’s a problem. Some people will tell you that your child needs to “hit rock bottom<” or “has to want to get help” in order for treatment to even be part of the picture. The truth is, for many individuals, this simply isn’t true.

    The key is to listen for “change talk” — any expression of a willingness to improve their circumstances. Even if your loved one expresses just a little willingness to be honest about the fact that their substance use is negatively affecting their life, it’s an opportunity to start a real conversation.

    The following resources will help teach you how.

    Suggesting Treatment

    It can be difficult to persuade a loved one to consider treatment. Even when they are willing to consider it, it’s not uncommon for them to still feel unsure or say no. If your loved one expresses even a little willingness to start getting help — whether it’s attending a support group meeting, or getting a treatment consultation — it can be all the invitation you need to begin the conversation.

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    Active Listening

    Active listening is a communication skill to help you shift the tone away from anger or lecturing, and engage your child in a productive conversation.

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    Treatment basics

    While TV and film usually portray ‘treatment’ for substance use as a residential rehab facility, this represents only one form of addiction treatment. At its core, addiction treatment must help individuals to stop using substances, sustain their abstinence, and to have a productive family, work and social life.

    The National Institute of Drug Abuse identifies a number of key principles that should form the basis of any treatment program. These are as follows:

    • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior. No single treatment is right for everyone.
    • People need to have quick access to treatment.
    • Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just his or her drug use.
    • Staying in treatment long enough is critical.
    • Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment.
    • Medications are often an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.
    • Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
    • Treatment should address other possible mental disorders.
    • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment.
    • Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.
    • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously.
    • Treatment programs should test patients for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases as well as teach them about steps they can take to reduce their risk of these illnesses.

    While there may be no ‘perfect’ treatment available and you may experience waiting lists or financial constraints, there are still a number of steps to consider when first looking into getting your teen help. It can be overwhelming and it’s difficult to know where to start. The following resources will help.

    Types of Addiction Treatment

    Before making any decisions about substance use and addiction treatment for your child, take time to understand the options available.

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    Navigating the Treatment System

    Figuring out the type of care needed, getting your loved one into a program and getting it covered by insurance aren't easy. Get the full picture.

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    How to Pay for Addiction Treatment

    We're working to make treatment more accessible and more affordable. But what can you do when your child needs treatment now?

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    What to watch out for

    Against the backdrop of an epidemic, addiction treatment has unfortunately become a lucrative opportunity for those preying upon vulnerable families. Some parents have children who have become victims of the ‘patient brokering’ system, a network of kickback schemes in which brokers receive compensation for referring patients to specific treatment facilities — often those who do not provide quality treatment at all.

    Learning how to navigate the treatment system can be a difficult process. However, if you do your research, ask for help, network, and ask the right questions, you can be your child’s best advocate.

    Seeking Help: What to Look For

    Unethical addiction treatment is unfortunately abundant. Learn to discern quality, clinical treatment from providers without your child's best interest at heart.

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    What I Tell Parents Looking to Get Their Child into Treatment

    The opioid crisis has unfortunately caused unethical people to prey upon families' fears. Parents need to be aware of scams when searching for treatment for their child.

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    How do I deal with the stress and anxiety, and stay hopeful?

    You have probably heard a mountain of advice, tips and techniques for communicating with your child. However, you may not have heard specifically about an approach called Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT).

    CRAFT is a different approach to communication which is scientifically proven to help parents change their child’s substance use. It provides parents with tools to alter the way in which they interact with their child to influence their substance use behavior.

    Learn more

    Additional resources

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations manages the most comprehensive tools for locating treatment providers and programs.

    Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator

    Use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration's treatment services locator tool to find professionals near you.

    Buprenorphine Treatment Practitioner Locator

    Finding a physician authorized to treat opioid dependence with buprenorphine.

    Opioid Treatment Program Directory

    Find out what opioid treatment programs are available in your state.


    Last Updated

    September 2023