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What If My Child Doesn’t Want Treatment For Addiction?

When one member of a family needs addiction treatment, all family members feel the effects. Their children’s struggles especially influence parents because they tend to feel a sense of responsibility, and a deep desire to keep them safe. 

When your children are minors, you have some authority in making treatment decisions, but once they become adults, the role gets more complicated. You can’t generally force your adult child into treatment. So what do you do if your child needs addiction treatment but doesn’t want it?

  • Research treatment options. Sometimes there will be moments when the negative consequences of substance abuse are apparent enough to your child that it prompts an openness to treatment. Those windows of opportunity may close quickly, so when someone expresses willingness to get help, you want to be able to act without delay. Be prepared with a workable plan and let your child know that you’ll be available with whatever logistical or emotional support they’ll need on their treatment journey. 

Suppose your child has a co-occurring condition such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In that case, you’ll want to find an addiction treatment facility that treats all conditions in an integrated manner, which leads to the best treatment outcomes. Among other benefits, an integrated approach has been shown to increase patients’ motivation to stay in treatment. 

  • Avoid enabling. Parents have a natural desire to protect their children. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to protecting them from the consequences of their addiction, which can be counterproductive and reduce their incentive to seek treatment. 

You don’t want to let your child drive while under the influence, but on the other hand, you don’t need to lie to their boss about why they’re unable to come to work. As hard as it is, you may need to make some tough decisions about whether you’ll loan your child money, let them live in your home or bail them out of jail. 

If your child needs treatment for addiction, there are ways to help with practical needs that are less likely to be enabling. A Psychology Today article, for example, suggests buying your child a bag of groceries instead of giving cash for food. If you set firm boundaries and hold your child accountable, substance abuse’s negative outcomes may begin to outweigh the positives in their mind.

  • Keep your primary goal in mind. It’s easy for frustration and anger to become such a big part of your relationship with your child that any discussion about addiction or treatment turns into an argument. If you choose a quality treatment program that addresses family relationship issues, there will be a time during treatment for you to talk about your own, very valid emotions. 

For now, though, the goal is to help your child see their need for treatment, so it’s helpful to keep your anger under control and let your love and concern for your child shine through. 

It’s easier to be compassionate if you learn what you can about addiction and how it affects the brain. It’s helpful to know, for instance, that people living with addiction demonstrate changes in parts of the brain that alter decision-making, learning and behavior control. Observers see people’s choice to attend addiction treatment programs as obvious, but it probably doesn’t seem obvious to the people struggling. 

Seeing your child respond to the consequences of their behavior without feeling shamed or attacked is tricky, and we want to support you in finding that balance. 

Promises Five Palms can help you get through this. Call us today at 1.844.675.1022


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