Just Stop!”

(Posted February 2019)

How many times have you heard someone say, “Why can’t people with addiction “just stop” using drugs?” “It is just a matter of will power.” Those are often comments from persons who do not understand the disease of substance use disorder (SUD’s), usually called addiction by the general population. Families have so much hurt and confusion when a person they love is experiencing SUD’s. It is easy to believe that their loved one could just “quit” if they really wanted to. However, the reason it’s so difficult for people struggling with SUD’s is that it isn’t just a habit—it’s a disease. When a person takes drugs or drinks alcohol over a period of time, it can change their brain circuits. In fact, substance use changes the way that essential parts of the brain function. The brain changes considerably so that the person has a very hard time stopping their use of drugs or alcohol—even when they want to.

To have a better understanding of the impact on the brain and to understand why people can’t just “stop” visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse teen website at: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/addiction-disease

Coverage for SUD Treatment

(Posted March 2018)

If you, as a parent or significant other, are struggling with the journey through the insurance payment process for a loved one’s Substance Use Disorder (SUD), there is help. Too often insurance companies immediately deny coverage in part or in whole for addiction treatment. This denial may mean you are often faced with the possible burden of paying for the treatment services out-of-pocket. The alternative is to appeal in order to make sure your family member continues to receive the treatment he or she needs and deserves. Understandably, the appeals process can seem intimidating. However, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 39 to 59 percent of internal appeals were reversed in favor of the consumer. (https://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11268.pdf).

 To help guide you through the process, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids website ( https://drugfree.org/ ) provides families with a guide for the appeals process. The guide provides links to information regarding patient rights as you appeal, necessary documentation needs, the review process, and the parity laws for insurance coverage for SUD’s treatment services. To reduce your worry and concern about how to cover the cost of the needed treatment services go to: https://drugfree.org/parent-blog/i-just-got-denied-coverage-now-what-how-to-file-an-insurance-appeal-for-substance-use-disorder/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=parent&utm_campaign=insurance_appeal#more


Ready for Some Good News?!

(Posted January 2018)

The results of the Monitoring the Future 2017 survey are ready for review. The Monitoring the Future is an annual survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders conducted by researchers at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. As a parent or significant other to a teen or young adult, the news that use of many illegal drugs continues to decrease is great news. However, the use of marijuana is staying about the same and the use of if vaping and inhalants has shown a slight increase.

The survey indicates that overall teen use of illegal drugs continues to decrease and is now the lowest in the history of the Monitoring the Future survey. With today’s concern about the opioid epidemic, it is interesting to see that the survey indicates that teens are misusing prescription opioid pain medications less than 10 years ago even though opioid overdose rates among adults remains high. The survey also shows that alcohol use has leveled out and is similar to 2016 level. Traditional tobacco use is also less. For example, in 1997 25% of the 12th graders reported smoking cigarettes but the latest survey indicated just over 4% smoking.

As a result of the survey, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) noted that while more teens are aware of risky behaviors related to using opioids, alcohol consumption and cigarette/tobacco use, there is still serious prevention and education work to do in the areas of vaping, marijuana and inhalant use. To become more informed, go to the NIDA summary at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/monitoring-future-2017-survey-results.   

More information in regard to the Monitoring the Future survey can be found at http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/data/17data.html#2017data-drugs


Searching for Help?

(Posted May 2017)

Are you seeking substance abuse treatment information for a teen or young adult?
Are you experiencing problems with finding the best “fit” for your family member?
Are you disheartened and mixed up about what questions to ask regarding a treatment program?

As a parent and/or other family member, it is not unusual to be experiencing the above issues. Addressing treatment needs is a confusing experience amid the experience of living with addiction in the family. As a parent or significant other, knowing there are resources available to help you focus on the task of seeking help in support of your family member for treatment and recovery. Remember, one of the most important things you can do for your family is to ask the right questions that help you understand the program theory, their approach to recovery and how they address family involvement. This allows you to compare and select the most effective services for your family. TRI Science Addiction and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has developed a guide for parents seeking a substance abuse program for their teen or young adult. The guide was developed through a grant fund from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The 35 page booklet provides hints for gathering information and worksheets to support the use of suggested questions. The booklet can be found at: http://drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/questions_to_ask_treatment_programs_and_staff.pdf.

As you begin the search, be aware the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (DASA) is the agency responsible for overseeing the licensure of treatment facilities providing services throughout Illinois. The DASA website will provide you with a directory of licensed facilities by city and county. Look at the services offered near you and begin your search for the best treatment services for you and your family. To access the directory click on: http://www.dhs.state.il.us/OneNetLibrary/27896/documents/By_Division/OASA/2017/Sites_by_County_City_Township_032017.pdf

Support Your Teens Recovery Journey

(Posted March 2017)

When a teen is participating in a program to address Substance Use Disorder (SUD), managing the issues related to the rules or guidelines of the household may become challenging. As a parent, it is significant for your teenager to accept rules that support ongoing recovery and a healthy life style. The research indicates that teens value their parent’s attitudes and beliefs about substance use. With recovery as the goal, it is important for families to establish rules that are consistent, clear, and understood by the teen. Dr. Christopher Hammond from John Hopkins Hospital, offers tips for setting “new” household rules in the article “Resetting Household Rules Important for Teens With Substance Use Disorders.” He identifies the most important rule to be the rule of no use of substances. He recommends rules be clearly explained as it is necessary to keep teens safe and healthy. The clause, found on the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids website, also contains other suggestions to serve you, the parent, in your support of your young person on the recovery journey. By going through these suggestions, your entire family will benefit with a firmer and healthier relationship. To learn about Dr. Hammond’s suggestions, take a look at the article on http://www.drugfree.org/news-service/resetting-household-rules-important-teens-substance-use-disorders/.

The Advantage of Family Services

(Posted January 2017)

If you have a teen or young adult who is experiencing issues with Substance Use Disorder (SUDs), most likely your life feels out of control at times and you don’t know how to “fix” it. Not only does your teen or young adult need help by attending treatment services and 12 step programs but so do you, the family. By becoming involved in treatment services with your young person, the family can learn about addiction, begin to open the lines of communication, and learn how to support recovery efforts with realistic expectations. As a family member, your newly acquired awareness and education will support family healing and stronger family relationships. To learn more about family involvement in treatment services read: Family Involvement in Substance Abuse Treatment at: https://www.recoveryconnection.com/family-involvement-substance-abuse-treatment/.

The National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, Inc. also offers some good information for those of you who want to know more about the effects of Substance Use Disorder (SUDs) on the family. When you read “What Can Families Do?” you will learn how to begin the process to a better understanding of addiction and the impact it has on families. To access the information link to: https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/alcohol-and-drug-abuse-affects-everyone-in-the-family.

Starting College? What Parents Need to Know

(Posted October 2016)

The fall college semester has started. As a result your students will have many new experiences. Making new friends, getting to know a new roommate, and adjusting to the independence of being on a campus is all part of the college journey. Along with these experiences comes a number of risks. For many, it is also a time of excessive alcohol use and the ensuing outcomes. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, full-time college students 18 to 22 years of age have a higher rate of alcohol consumption that those of their non-college peers. (NIAAA 2015)  

What can you do to make the college experience a safer and more successful experience for your young adult? Beginning early in the semester, you can do a number of things to stay involved. To help both parents and students be better prepared for the college experience, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA) has developed a website specifically to address the needs of college families. Transcripts of all materials from the NIAAA Task Force on College Drinking may be downloaded from www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov including a parents’ guide.

In discussions with your student, remember to include information about the penalties for underage drinking and how alcohol use could lead to consequences such as date rape, violence, and academic failure.


Fall Semester – Time for Parents to Discuss the Risks of College Drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism. (2015). Retrieved on September 30, 2016 from http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/media/NIAAA_BacktoCollege_Fact_Sheet.pdf

College Drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism. (2015). Retrieved on September 30, 2016 from http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/NIAAACollegeMaterials/FactSheets/collegedrinkingfactsheet.aspx

Frequently Asked Questions

(Posted August 2016)

As a parent or young adult, it is important that you have basic information about alcohol and its influence. Growing up you heard many myths and half truths about the effect of alcohol intake. The misinformation is bound to affect the decisions you make about alcohol use. On February 29, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their web page called Frequently Asked Questions. The page provides facts that address a variety of questions from “What is alcohol?” to “Is it okay to drink when pregnant?” The CDC also provides links to additional resources that may assist in your understanding of the subject. You will find these questions and many others on http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm.

The Family Disease: What You Can Do.

(Posted July 2016)

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) states “Addiction is a family disease that stresses the family to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, the family’s unit, mental health, physical health, finances and overall family dynamics.” (NCADD, 2015) If you have a family member or a friend who may be struggling with alcohol or other drugs, learn how to take care of yourself and how to relay your concern for the addict in the appropriate manner. The information available on the NCADD website may assist you and your family in finding the support you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and still support the addict. Check out https://www.ncadd.org to better understand your options.


Family Disease. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/family-disease on June 22, 2016.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Affects Everyone in the Family. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/alcohol-and-drug-abuse-affects-everyone-in-the-family on June 22, 2016.

“What Can I do?” Finding Peace in Chaos

(Posted May 2016)

If you are a family member or a close friend of someone who suffers from Substance Use Disorder (SUD) you may have asked yourself, “What can I do?” The question can have several meanings. First, “Did I do something to cause the problem?” Second, “What can I do for the addict?” Third, “What can I do so I don’t feel so crazy?” Stop and take a breather. Understand that all these questions are a common reaction when someone in your life is experiencing SUD’s. Addiction is known as a “family disease.” It touches on all individuals in the addict’s life including family, friends, and colleagues.

If your life is affected by another person’s addiction, it is important for you to seek support for yourself. There is no magic way to make someone stop or cut back on their drinking, but Al-Anon and Alateen meetings may help you deal with the challenges. As Al-Anon members share during meetings, it offers you an opportunity to gain understanding from another person who has faced similar issues. Taking care of yourself is not self-centered. It is safe and healthy. To learn more about Al-Anon or to find a meeting in your area, click onto: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/.


Recognizing Substance Use Disorders

How do I know if my teen or young adult has a substance use disorder?

Addiction can happen at any age, but it usually starts when a person is young. If your teen continues to use drugs despite harmful consequences, he or she may be addicted.

If an adolescent starts behaving differently for no apparent reason––such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile—it could be a sign he or she is developing a drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of puberty. Other signs include:

A change in peer group

Carelessness with grooming

Decline in academic performance

Missing classes or skipping school

Loss of interest in favorite activities

Trouble in school or with the law

Changes in eating or sleeping habits

Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends

Through scientific advances, we know more than ever before about how drugs work in the brain. We also know that addiction can be successfully treated to help young people stop abusing drugs and lead productive lives. Intervening early when you first spot signs of drug use in your teen is critical; don’t wait for your teen to become addicted before you seek help. However, if a teen is addicted, treatment is the next step.

You will find more useful information at the National Institute on Drug Abuse web site.


Retrieved May 22, 2015: How do I know if my teen or young adult has a substance use disorder? (June 2014)