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For Parents Concerned About Their Young Adult

by Dore Frances, MA, founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
Experts suggest that people who know someone who might have a problem with alcohol or other drugs should observe behaviors and have a conversation with that person based on what they see. However, when that person is your young adult child this strategy might be difficult to apply.

You may see or speak to your child only sporadically. When weeks or months go by before you see or speak to your child, how can you monitor behavior and ask them to change? Seeking treatment for your young adult son or daughter is another challenge. In most states, parents of children over 18 cannot compel them to go to or stay in treatment.

Sometimes even minor substance-related arrests accumulate and may eventually lead to prison time, turning the substance use into a legal, rather than a medical, problem and making it even more difficult to treat.

You might be getting angry, frustrated, worn down, cynical, or hopeless. But these challenges are not insurmountable.

Whenever possible, try to intervene early. Look for consistently heavy or excessive use; or, regular or sporadic, risky use. Urge your child to have an evaluation by a medical, mental health or social service professional who is knowledgeable about substance use problems.

If you can't intervene early, people with substance use disorders can be helped at any stage. It is never too late.

What if my child agrees to treatment?

When your child agrees to treatment, or even agrees to consider it, make connections with a treatment center right away. Have phone numbers for alcohol and drug counseling services, educational consultants who specialize in assisting young adults, physicians who are knowledgeable about alcoholism and drug dependence, local hospitals that treat alcoholics and addicts, and Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous available and ready.

You may have to be the one to choose the treatment. This task may seem daunting, but remember: there are no "right" or "wrong" choices, and any health care professional with knowledge of substance use disorders can help you.

Don't stop there. Remember that agreeing to treatment is only the first step toward getting well. Your child will need your direct support and steady involvement every step of the way if he or she is to get well.

My child's in treatment - why do I feel guilty?

Parents are often so relieved that their child has agreed to treatment that they feel guilty and experience self-doubt.

Put your mind at ease. It's a common feeling. Families do feel relieved of the intense stress, and have a right to feel that way. It does not mean that your child was sent to treatment unnecessarily, or that the family members made a selfish decision.

My child refused treatment. Is there anything else I can do?

Show your willingness to do anything to help your child get treatment in the future.

For example, you can say: "I will go with you to Twelve Step meetings. I will go with you to meet with a physician, counselor, social worker or family therapist. I will be involved in whatever way the treatment program thinks I could be of most help."

You may need to withdraw financial and emotional support or end all contact with your child, if all else fails. Let your child know that you will always be available when he or she decides to get help.

Again ~

If you can't intervene early, people with substance use disorders can be helped at any age and at any stage. It is never too late.

Dore Frances, IEC, MA, is an educcational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email
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Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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