Addict’s Parents Refuse To Help

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hi, I’m only writing this to a website because I am absolutely at a loss. For as long as I can remember, my best friend has been dealing with her two brothers being drug addicts. One doesn’t live at home with her and her parents, so he is no longer an issue, but the other does.
He’s addicted to prescription painkillers, and other drugs, I’m not sure which. At least twice a month he has an outburst where he’s either arrested, breaks into his sister’s room, has episodes due to taking an excess of drugs, etc. Each time, the parents will be upset during the episode, but days later forget about it. They refuse to take drastic measures to help their son (and their daughter – who I am mostly concerned for).
My friend is at her wit’s end. She wants to move out, but can’t afford to, and doesn’t want to lose ties with her family – who will disown her if she moves out. But they keep condoning the behavior of their drug addict son. When she tries to talk to her parents, they tune her out or tell her she’s paranoid and being ridiculous. When she wrote her feelings in a letter, they didn’t read it.
What can she do? Everything seems to depend on her parents doing a complete 180, and deciding to listen to her, and realize the terrible situation they are in. Everyone is a victim here, but unfortunately my friend is the only one who realizes this.
What are her options? How can I help her? I don’t know who to talk to. I’m tempted to call the police myself, the next time something happens when her brother is out of control. Any help or advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A: Your friend’s family is in serious denial. There is little you or your friend can do to pull them out of it. Sadly, their inability to cope with the situation could end in tragedy. These boys could end up in jail, in a hospital, or dead. You know that. Your friend knows that. But until her parents know it and act on it, things are unlikely to change.

But there is one thing your friend can do. I suggest that she locate a local meeting of Al-Anon. Al-Anon is an organization of family and friends of addicts. Members teach each other ways to cope and how they can be less affected by the behaviors of the addicted family member. Often when one member of a family starts going and gets stronger, other family members get interested. There’s no guarantee of that, of course. But it does often happen.

There are Al-Anon meetings in almost every city and town. Go to the Al-Anon website and look for information about a local meeting. Your doctor might also know where to refer you.

You are being a good friend to care so much. Please pass on that information. You might even find it helpful to go with her to some meetings.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Dec 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Addict’s Parents Refuse To Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/12/06/addicts-parents-refuse-to-help/