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What to Do When Mom’s Abusing Anxiety Meds

Dec 31, 2019

An older parent’s use of prescription drugs is something their adult children may be aware of, especially if they see each other regularly, but it’s not necessarily a regular topic of conversation. That’s one reason seeing potential misuse of medication—one taken by your mother for anxiety as an example—can present some unique challenges to the family. Today let’s talk about what steps to take once you’re aware your mother has been abusing her anxiety meds.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.


If you suspect an older parent is abusing anxiety meds, follow up the warning signs with a private conversation. It may be more helpful to make gaining an understanding of why the abuse is happening than to use a confrontational approach. If your older parent acknowledges misuse has taken place or if you see evidence of it, consult a family doctor for a referral to a treatment center or contact addiction specialists directly to discuss your parent’s needs and options available for detox, outpatient programs, or residential treatment.

Warning Signs of Anxiety Med Abuse

Specific types of behavior changes are the clearest signs of potential abuse of any meds prescribed to treat anxiety. Any single change could be a warning sign your mother has become dependent on her meds. Here are some changes you may have already noticed.

  • Mom’s ability to make decisions has diminished.
  • Mom seems unusually irritable or hostile lately or even high.
  • Mom complains of a sudden change in sleep routine.
  • Mom appears to be taking larger doses of meds than prescribed.
  • Mom says she lost or misplaced her prescription bottle.
  • Mom is seen taking meds of others or selling her meds.
  • Mom’s appointments with doctors have increased or she appears to be making appointments with new doctors to collect prescriptions.

Talking to a Parent about Anxiety Med Abuse

A first response to becoming aware your mother is abusing her anxiety meds is setting aside a time to talk to her privately about what’s going on. As every parent-child relationship is influenced by a long list of factors, it’s important to determine if your relationship is in a place where having this conversation can be safe and productive. Rather than take a confrontational approach, consider how to help your mother feel comfortable sharing what’s going on with you.

Make it private: This conversation is exclusively for the two of you.

Make it safe: Your intention should be gaining understanding rather than starting with judgment.

Make it informed: If you don’t know your mother’s medical history, find ways to enter the conversation with some information and insight, including knowledge of any physical or emotional events that might have led to the abuse of her meds.

Make it productive: If the conversation leads to your mother acknowledging her misuse of meds, offer to help her make a plan to get help in recovery.

Talking to Addiction Specialists about a Parent’s Anxiety Med Abuse

Helping an older parent through the process of recovery begins with equipping yourself with an understanding of the options available for treatment. It can come from consulting a family doctor or getting in touch with addiction specialists at a treatment center. You want to determine what course of treatment is aligned with your mother’s needs, from outpatient programs to detox to residential treatment.

As a quick reference, here are a few questions to consider asking.

Where can she go for a diagnosis?

What is the recommended course of action to help her with recovery? What will the treatment program (outpatient or inpatient) involve?

How can the family participate in her recovery?

Does her health insurance provide coverage for treatment?

The addiction specialists at Hanley Center can be a resource at any point during the process. We welcome you to contact us once you suspect a parent may be abusing prescription drugs or in the midst of your attempts to discuss your concerns directly with them. We can offer support, guidance, and strategies to lead them to a method of treatment suited to their specific needs.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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