How Can Parents With Substance Abuse Get Help?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on December 29, 2021

When you’re a parent with a drug or alcohol abuse problem, the process of finding and accessing treatment can seem daunting. Options for finding help for substance abuse may include talking to a family doctor or finding an addiction treatment specialist.

How To Get Help For Parents With Substance Abuse

Millions of households in the United States are affected by the drug or alcohol addiction of a parent. Making the decision to get help for a drug or drinking problem isn’t easy—but it is worth it.

Unfortunately, parents with a substance use disorder can often encounter challenges in the process of finding and accessing treatment.

The first step in this process involves admitting you have a problem. Then comes taking steps to find a treatment program that’s best suited to meet your needs.

Learn more about how to help a loved one with addiction

Acknowledging The Problem

If you or a loved one are a parent with a drug or alcohol problem—you’re not alone.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 8 million children in the U.S. are estimated to live in a home with at least one addicted parent.

Admitting you have a problem, or even identifying the signs for what they are, isn’t always easy. Denial of a problem is a common sign of substance use disorder.

Other common signs of substance use disorder include:

  • feeling unable to control how much or how often you use substances
  • increasing your substance use
  • constantly thinking about alcohol or drugs
  • continuing to drink or use drugs despite negative consequences (e.g. health problems, effects on employment status, etc)
  • passing on social events because it would affect your ability to drink or do drugs
  • drinking or using drugs in order to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms with reduced or stopped drug use

Once you can admit you have a problem, or are able to identify it in a loved one, then it’s time to begin searching for available resources for support and treatment.

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Where To Go To Find Help For Substance Abuse

Deciding to get help for substance abuse, and finding that help, isn’t as simple as it sounds.

For many, the process of seeking help for drug or alcohol addiction can be stressful and confusing.

Luckily, there are several options for how parents, or their loved ones, can go about finding drug or alcohol treatment.

Talk To A Family Doctor

Visiting a family doctor or general practitioner is one of the first steps a person can take in order to seek help for themselves or a family member addicted to drugs.

What a doctor can do:

  • conduct an initial drug or alcohol assessment
  • identify the severity of the substance abuse
  • provide a referral for addiction treatment
  • offer resources for finding community-based support
  • refer patients to an addiction specialist for further guidance

Not all doctors have a specialty in addiction medicine. But if your family doctor is unable to provide the assistance you need, they may be able to refer you to an addiction specialist.

Find An Addiction Specialist

There are more than 3,500 board-certified physicians in the United States who specialize in addiction, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Finding an addiction specialist to discuss treatment options with is ideal. This may include speaking to a physician, addiction counselor, psychiatrist, or a rehab center directly.

Why is this ideal? An addiction specialist knows the ins and outs of addiction treatment and can offer informed guidance on treatment options and available treatment resources near you.

Try Your State Health Department

Another potential resource that may be available, based on your state of residence, is your state or municipal health department.

Many state health departments offer resources online, by phone, or in person that can help you discover and access drug treatment services suitable to meet your needs.

Health departments may also offer guidance for accessing specialty programs, such as:

Contact A Drug Rehab Center

Another option for finding treatment for parents with a substance use disorder is contacting a drug rehab center directly to inquire after their addiction treatment options.

Common addiction treatment services include:

  • detox programs
  • inpatient rehab
  • residential treatment
  • partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
  • intensive outpatient treatment
  • general outpatient programs
  • addiction counseling
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

The types of treatment services that are available at a rehab center vary. You’ll have to contact a rehab center directly or visit their website to learn more about the types of treatment they offer.

What Are Common Barriers To Seeking Addiction Treatment For Parents?

Parents with a drug or alcohol addiction can encounter a number of barriers to both finding and accessing quality treatment for addiction.

For instance, common barriers to treatment include:

  • travel or transportation requirements
  • lack of access to childcare
  • caregiving responsibilities
  • lack of spousal support
  • being away from children
  • fear of criminal punishment
  • cost of a rehab program

Work and other responsibilities, too, can place parents in a difficult position. When it comes to substance abuse, however, seeking help is a priority.

Left unaddressed, substance abuse generally gets worse with time. This can make it harder for parents to seek help, cause severe health problems, and impair one’s ability to care for themselves and others.

What Help Is Available For Parents With Substance Abuse Issues?

As a parent, seeking help for addiction can be more complicated if you are the primary caretaker for one or more children.

To help address barriers, treatment providers will often try to work with parents to develop a treatment plan that is capable of meeting each family’s needs.

What this might involve:

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Inpatient treatment for addiction is often recommended for people with severe or chronic addiction. However, this isn’t accessible for all parents.

Inpatient and residential treatment can be costly, and requires overnight care, which can be a problem for some single parents with young children who don’t have other family or spousal support.

One of the options for parents with a substance abuse problem is to find an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or partial hospitalization program (PHP), provided the parent is medically stable.

Both IOP and PHP are outpatient programs, meaning they don’t require staying overnight in a treatment facility and have a less intensive treatment schedule.

At the same time, they are more intensive than lower levels of care, such as a general outpatient program.

Nearby Rehab Centers

For parents with travel or transportation barriers, an addiction treatment specialist may be able to help you find a nearby rehab center for substance abuse that’s close to where you reside.

While it’s common for people with drug or alcohol addiction to travel for treatment, it’s also common, among parents especially, for this to simply not be an option.

One disadvantage with this route is that available treatment resources in one’s community can widely vary. Resources may, in some communities, be very limited or potentially non-existent when it comes to certain levels of care (e.g. inpatient rehab options).

Specialty Rehab Programs

Some addiction rehab centers in the U.S. offer treatment programs that are specially designed for certain populations, such as caregivers, pregnant patients, and working professionals.

What this can offer:

  • scheduling flexibility
  • specialty medical care
  • greater privacy

U.S. treatment centers are increasingly making their rehab programs customizable, in order to meet the needs of those with busy schedules, caregivers, and those who have high-stress careers.

Call Today To Find Help For Substance Abuse

Choosing to get help for yourself or a loved one is at least half the battle. If you’re ready to find drug or alcohol treatment, one of our addiction treatment specialists may be able to help.

Don’t wait. Call our free helpline today to learn more about alcohol and drug treatment options for parents.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on December 29, 2021
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