Parents Face Difficult Decisions When Dealing With a Drug-Addicted Child

Tough love: A useful tool in fighting addiction.

ByABC News
February 16, 2010, 11:00 AM

Feb. 16, 2010— -- It happens to the wealthiest of families -- Casey Johnson, an heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune, battled drug addiction.

It happens to the most political of families -- former presidential candidate George McGovern cut off his alcoholic daughter, Terry, who later died at the age of 44 after falling into a snow bank and freezing to death.

And it happens in Hollywood -- Martin Sheen's son Charlie Sheen arrested for cocaine use.

Karen Franklin feared it would be her family's story, too.

She watched helplessly as her teenage daughter, Lauren, descended into a methamphetamine addiction.

Franklin took the door off Lauren's room and even moved her furniture out on the patio. "It did help change her behavior for a brief time," Franklin said.

But Lauren was not getting better. Karen finally kicked Lauren out of the house, terrified for her daughter's future.

The 'tough love' approach took off in the 70s and 80s: when all else fails, crack down. It can work, but experts caution that, if handled wrong, tough love can also do harm.

"We found that the major impacts of treatments that involve a lot of confrontation and tough love are to drive people away from treatment," said Richard Rawson, associate director of UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs. "It's exactly the opposite of what we want to do."

Experts say the key is balance. Parents should insist the addict change behavior, stop using drugs and get treatment. But the family should still be willing to offer some lines of support. Also importantly, loved ones should get good advice and not try to go it alone.