Sometimes change happens an hour at a time

Recognizing Substance Use Disorders

Navigating Teen Substance Use Disorder Treatment

June 2019

father_talking_to_upset_son.jpgAs a parent or significant other, realizing that your family member may be experiencing a substance use disorder can leave you feeling overwhelmed and bewildered.  You may begin blaming yourself or others for the behavior. Not understanding what influences a person’s decision can be frustrating. However, it is very important to move from blame into action. The research supports that the primary element influencing successful treatment and recovery for teenagers and young adults is parent and family involvement. (Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse/Illinois Federation of Families, 2008).

Often you do not know where to begin in the attempt to find help for your loved one. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Illinois Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery in collaboration with the Illinois Federation of Families (SUPR/IFF) have developed and published guidelines for navigating the journey. As your family member seeks help there are five recommended questions to ask:

  1. Does the program use treatments backed by scientific evidence?
    • Effective treatments ideally include a variety of treatment settings and approaches.
  2. Does the program tailor treatment to the needs of each patient?
    • No single treatment is right for everyone. The best treatment addresses each person’s various needs.
  3. Does the program adapt treatment as the patient’s needs change?
    • Individual treatment plans and services must be assessed and modified to meet a patient’s changing needs.
  4. Is the duration of treatment sufficient?
    • Remaining in treatment for the right period of time is critical to recovery. It will vary for each patient.
  5. How do 12-step or similar recovery programs fit into the treatment process?
    • Self-help groups complement and extend the effects of professional treatment.

Source ; NIDA, 2013

 Upon identifying an agency that provides appropriate services for a substance use disorder, the question becomes “What do I do next?” Knowing some facts about the process for may help you ask the correct questions. Upon contacting the agency, a preliminary screening may be performed by phone or in person. This 15 minute activity will determine suitability for the agency. Based on the screening, an assessment appointment may be scheduled to look at the extent of substance use and the appropriate services.  The process may take one to three hours to complete. Recommended services for treatment will be based on the assessment outcomes. The recommendation could range from early intervention services to inpatient treatment services.

 To make the assessment process less stressful, ask the following questions at the completion of the screening call:

  • Do you provide appropriate services?
  • Is there a cost for an assessment?
  • What do I need to bring to the assessment?
  • If services or treatment is recommended, is there a wait time?
  • Do you provide drug screens?

Depending on the treatment recommended, these may assist you in the journey:

  • How often will you be meeting with my loved one?
  • How long will my family member have to see you?
  • What is your background in treating adolescents and young adults?
  • How will you share with me about how treatment is doing?
  • What kind of services do you offer parents or significant others?
  • How often will you meet with family members?
  • What happens if he/she continues to use?
  • What happens if there is a relapse and he/she starts using again?

Once treatment needs are established, the issue of “cost” should be addressed. Most of these issues will be discussed at the assessment, but clarify the answers at that time. Here are some recommended questions to ask:

  • What is the cost of treatment?
  • How do I find out what insurance covers?
  • Will my insurance pay? If so, how many sessions?
  • What happens if I can’t pay? (SUPR and IFF, 2008)

Contact the Illinois Family Resource Center at (217) 258-6018 ext. 525, if you need assistance in finding resources. 

For additional information go to:


  • A Parent’s Journey: Navigating Teen Substance Use. (2008). Chicago, IL: Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and Illinois Federation of Families.
  • Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (Revised 2013). NIH Publication No. 13-7764

“Just Stop!”

February 2019

daughter_refusing_to_talk_to_mother.jpgHow 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:

Coverage for SUD Treatment

March 2018

health_insurance_approved_graphic.jpgIf 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. (

To help guide you through the process, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids website ( 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:

Ready for Some Good News?!

January 2018

monitoring_the_future_graphic.jpgThe 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:

More information in regard to the Monitoring the Future survey can be found at

Searching for Help?

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?

group_meeting_cartoon.pngAs 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:

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:

Support Your Teens Recovery Journey

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

The Advantage of Family Services

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:

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: