If you suspect that a friend or family member has a drug problem, here are a few things you can do:
Speak up. Talk to the person about your concerns, and offer your help and support without being judgmental. The earlier addiction is treated, the better. Don’t wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom! List specific examples of your loved one’s behavior that have you worried and urge them to seek help.
Take care of yourself. Stay safe. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations. Don’t get so caught up in someone else’s drug problem that you neglect your own needs. Make sure you have people you can talk to and lean on for support.
Avoid self-blame. You can support a person with a substance abuse problem and encourage treatment, but you can’t force an addict to change. You can’t control your loved one’s decisions. Letting the person accept responsibility for their actions is an essential step along the way to recovery.
- Attempt to threaten, punish, bribe, or preach.
- Make emotional appeals that only add to the user’s feelings of guilt and increase their compulsion to use drugs.
- Cover up or make excuses for the drug abuser, or shield them from the consequences of their drug use.
- Take over the drug abuser’s responsibilities, diminishing their sense of self-worth.
- Hide or throw out drugs.
- Argue with the person when they are high.
- Use drugs with the person.
- Feel guilty or responsible for a drug abuser’s behavior.
When your teen has a drug problem
Discovering your child uses drugs can generate fear, confusion, and anger. It’s important to remain calm when confronting your teen, and to only do so when everyone is sober. Explain your concerns and make it clear that your concern comes from a place of love. It’s important that your teen feels you are supportive.
Warning signs of teen drug abuse
As with adults, teenage drug abuse isn’t limited to illegal drugs. In fact, teens are more likely to abuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including painkillers, stimulants, sedatives, and tranquilizers. In many cases, these drugs are much easier for teens to procure, yet they can have dangerous, even lethal, side effects.
While experimenting with any kind of drug doesn’t automatically lead to drug abuse, early use is a risk factor for developing more serious drug abuse and addiction down the road. Risk of drug abuse also increases greatly during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse. These include:
Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils; using eye drops to try to mask these signs
Skipping class; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school
Missing medications, prescriptions, money or valuables
Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry, or depressed
Sudden mood changes or repeated health complaints, constant fatigue
Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group
Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities
Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around
7 steps parents can take to curb teen drug use
- Talk openly about the dangers of both illegal and prescription drug use with your kids. Providing a safe and open environment to talk about these issues can make a real difference in the likelihood that they’ll use or abuse drugs.
- Lay down rules and consequences. Your teen should understand that using drugs comes with specific consequences. But don’t make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce—and make sure your spouse agrees and is prepared to enforce the rules. Remind your teen that taking someone else’s prescription or sharing theirs with others is illegal.
- Monitor your teen’s activity. Know where your teen goes and who they hang out with. It’s also important to routinely check potential hiding places for drugs—in backpacks, between books on a shelf, in DVD cases or make-up cases. Monitor your teen’s online activity to check for illegal purchases.
- Keep prescription medicines in a safe place, avoid stockpiling them, and dispose of any unused prescription medicines. Monitor your prescription refills carefully.
- Encourage other interests and social activities. Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as team sports and after-school clubs.
- Talk to your child about underlying issues. Drug use can be the result of other problems. Is your teen having trouble fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce causing stress?
- Get help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, family doctor, therapist, or drug counselor.