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My parents are drug addicts

31 July 2001
Boston, MA
First, in my experience, when you post something on the internet, the last people you want to read it will eventually end up reading it, sometimes sooner rather than later. So, that being the case, my parents may see this post someday. With that in mind....

I am extremely concerned about my parents. They are in their early 60s, live 1500 miles from both myself and my brother in Florida, they have some serious health issues and they are in denial. My wife and I and my brother have proposed many solutions to some of their problems and offered to help in any way we can (though none of us can afford to help financially). They always have an excuse as to why our ideas won't work. They claim they want to move up here but because of the real estate situation, they couldn't get much more than $40-50K for their condo and can't buy anything at that price near us. We've proposed subsidized housing like my mother-in-law has, they counter that they have too much income to make that affordable because these places take a percentage and they'd be paying $1000 a month. I believe it's an excuse and they just don't want to move. OK, at least tell us the truth. They claimed they had wanted to and my wife, god bless her, spent dozens of hours of her time during the kids' naps, researching places, driving there, getting applications for them, mailling them down, etc. All for nothing.

My dad was told 6 months ago his white blood cell count was high and they wanted him to come back in 3 months for a test to make sure he doesn't have leukemia. He never went back. He was also in a car accident and his back is messed up pretty badly. He has trouble getting up and sitting down, so tends to sit all day long and avoid moving. He says 4 surgeons have looked at it and refused to operate because he has so many bad discs, so his solution is oxycontin. LOTS and LOTS of it. My mother was in a car accident as well over a decade ago and had a hip replacement. That's causing her a lot of pain now, she has no medical insurance (my dad does to some extent) and so she's taking oxy for that as well. I'm told around 200mg a day. They have a doctor prescribing the stuff by the bucket load.

They sleep all day long, and when they aren't asleep, they can fall asleep on their feet. My mom's mouth will fall open in the middle of a conversation and her eyes roll back in her head. She starts saying things like 'hang on... I'll work through it... keep talking'. It's scary. They DRIVE while on this stuff!!! Now I'm told because they sleep so much, a doctor (same one? different? i dunno) has started prescribing amphetamines. They ran out of oxy one day and my father started puking his guts out in withdrawal. He got more and was 'fine' again.

They get irrational and mean at times, they can't function normally, are depressed, and appear to have given up on life. I'm not sure what I could do if I lived down the street, but 1500 miles away makes it seem like it's impossible to do anything, especially since they don't realize the direction they're headed, or simply don't care. They don't have any savings, they got $22K from my dad's car accident and blew almost all of it getting new furniture and flooring in their house. If they need any sort of care down the road (likely), neither my brother or I can afford it. They keep saying things like 'oh your mom's SS kicks in soon and we'll just save all of that". My parents don't know how to save, never have. They will spend every penny that comes in, almost as fast as it comes in.

So, I'm not only worried about them, but I'm worried about the financial burden they will likely present to my family someday. The only thing I can think of to do, which will probably not help, and is more likely to create a new problem, is to call the doctor listed on the oxycontin bottle and tell him what's going on. I know he can't say anything to me because of HIPPA and I suspect he's more of a drug pusher than a doctor, so he may not even care (in fact, he's a psychiatrist!).

If my parents are reading this and are outraged and offended.... it's because YOU ARE IN DENIAL!!!!! I love you both and just want you guys to get better. Right now, you're both committing slow suicide and are not only a danger to yourselves, but to the people around you when you drive. You are ignoring everything you've ever taught me.
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Sorry about your situation, man. You are in a tough spot here.

Prime example of why I am scared shitless of universal healthcare proposals.

Go ahead, call me heartless.
Your parents are very fortunate to have you. I can relate to your situation. Sometimes you just have to let things go the way it will. If they continue to make excuses, you will never be able to help. I know that it is sad to sit and watch your love ones being destroyed. It really is up to them at this point to either listen to you or they're on their own. Give back the lessons you've learned from them.
My statements are not meant to be rude. Just tough love my friend. I am using my own advice right now.
Call a social worker and see if they can go by your parents home. Also, where are they living in Florida? I know a few people who are administrators with assisted living facilities and maybe I can find out how you can better handle this situation. It's unfortunate that you as their son have to treat them like children, but that's usually how the progression of life falls into place. I'm sure they had to help you out a few times when you were a kid, just like most of our parents.
You should look at this website:


Quoting from the website:

How can I help a family member who needs treatment help but refuses?
Always, the most successful chance of recovery comes when he or she (the addict) finally recognizes the devastating effects of their drug abuse problem and wants help. Basically, when the pain and troubles reach a point where they outweigh any advantages of using drugs. There are ways of bringing a person to that point of wanting drug rehab help. It’s called intervention and it is the most successful approach at helping someone who refuses rehabilitation.

If individual is an adult, 18 or over he or she cannot be forced into drug or alcohol rehab unless they are court ordered. Usually, require because of legal trouble. Yet, some states like Florida for example, have laws where if it can be proved that an individual is a threat to themselves or others they can be sentence to rehab under the Baker Act law. To find out about mental health and drug addiction laws in your state contact your State Substance Abuse Agency.

Do I need drug detoxification?
Opiate addiction (heroin, Oxycontin, morphine, hydrocodone) are not usually life threatening but the painful syndrome of a "cold turkey" withdrawal is very powerful and can lasts for weeks. This method of withdrawal is very unsuccessful. Withdrawal symptoms of heavy alcohol abuse, and addictions to barbiturates (phenobarbital), minor tranquilizers like Valium, Xanax, Clonipin, and Adivan, are life threatening, and would require medically assisted drug detoxification followed by drug addiction treatment.

Methamphetamine (speed, crystal meth, crank, ice), cocaine, crack, LSD, PCP, ecstasy and marijuana do not require medical detoxification because the physical withdrawals are mild. However, drugs such as methamphetamine, crack, and cocaine are very addictive and require comprehensive drug treatment.

Do I need more than a detox?
Individuals that only finish drug detoxification without additional substance abuse treatment, statistically perform about the same as those that never entered drug rehabilitation.
Your parents are very fortunate to have you. I can relate to your situation. Sometimes you just have to let things go the way it will. If they continue to make excuses, you will never be able to help. I know that it is sad to sit and watch your love ones being destroyed. It really is up to them at this point to either listen to you or they're on their own. Give back the lessons you've learned from them.
My statements are not meant to be rude. Just tough love my friend. I am using my own advice right now.
having endured a childhood / part of my adulthood with alcoholic parents, i understand were you're coming from, but i'll offer another perspective on this:

rob mentioned that his parents drove while under the influence. i have been in that position and referred social services / law enforcement to my parent to limit the risk that they would they to injure or kill someone while driving.

from personal experience, i like the proactive child / social worker angle.
Thank you for the clue about the Baker Act, while that's an absolute last resort, I now know I have a tool that I can use.

I have alerted their pharmacist and also spoke with their psychiatrist's office. The doctor info I was given that came off of the oxycontin bottle was incorrect (the doctor's office called the pharmacy to confirm and make sure there was no prescription fraud occurring). This particular shrink happens to specialize in chemical dependency disorders. His office has now been alerted and will hopefully make my dad sit down and talk next time he shows up. I believe he is the one prescribing the amphetamines, but it was probably done based on non-factual info provided to him like "I can't stay awake" and not "I can't stay awake because I'm taking up to 240mg of oxy a day". (I had said 200mg previously, I was told one bottle said 30mg up to 8x/day). I'm not sure how much they are actually taking, but they have an 80mg bottle as well.

If I don't hear from the shrink, I will ask my parents to talk to the shrink about all these problems and also to sign papers so the shrink can talk to me. If they refuse to talk to me about it, or their shrink, then I will consider more drastic steps.

Thank you for the help.
Dang man. That's harsh. Hope you get them the help they need, even though the hard part will be them actually wanting the help. :frown:

Good luck.
Have you gotten any second opinions on the drugs they are being prescribed? Just because one doctor prescribes them does'nt mean they are what's best for your parents. I would definately look into those perscriptions. I really feel for you, my mom and dad are the same way. My mom could fall and break a hip but would rather lay there and die before asking for help. Keep your head up.
Sorry to hear about this. Prescription Drug dependancy is very serious and happens way too often. I hope you get the situation remedied.

Best of Luck