7 Steps to Take After Finding Your Kid’s Drug Stash
Whether you’ve suspected it for some time, or discovered it by accident, finding evidence of your child’s drug use is never pleasant, or easy. However, the steps you take after finding your kid’s drug stash are crucial to their future health and happiness. Your approach to their mistakes and possible addiction could mean the difference between continued drug use and recovery.
Data shows that more than 40% of teens and young adults will use or drink at least once while with their parents. A one-time experiment is not only normal, it should be expected. But, if your child is engaging in repeated drug use, they may have a serious problem that could endanger their life. Taking the right steps to get them the help they need is crucial for your child’s wellbeing.
1. Determine the Extent of the Problem
Whether you’ve just found a bag of marijuana, a bottle of pills, or drug paraphernalia for injection, your first step should be to step back and determine the extent of the problem before you go any further. Taking a short time-out will allow you to cool down and react better when you do confront them – but you also want to know how much and how often they are using. Any drug use is bad because it can result in health problems and medical problems or overdose, but occasional use is significantly less dangerous and less serious than an addiction. As a result, your course of action will change depending on how much and how often they are using. If it’s just been once or twice, you may be able to solve the problem with education and taking him or her to AlaTeen or AlAnon.
2. Learn About Addiction
Taking the time to learn more about the drug your child is taking, learning the signs and symptoms, and about the motivations or psychology behind addiction if you believe they are addicted can help you to take the right steps. There are many organizations, such as AlAnon, which exist to help families of addicts learn more about the disease, so that you can take the right approach when talking to your child. This will, in turn, make it easier for you to get your child help when they need it. Consider attending a few meetings, talking with a therapist or a doctor who specializes in drug use, and possibly going to a consultation with an addiction treatment specialist. It’s important that you and your spouse have the same information, and are on the same page, so you can make a decision together for your child. Many teens and adults into their late 20s struggle with addiction because they use substances to cope with stress (from debt, relationships, social situations, school pressure), mental disorders (anxiety, depression, etc.), and trauma. Discussing your child’s history, behavior, and actions with a medical professional is an important step to getting them the help they need.
3. Talk to Them
Talking in an open, honest, and non-judgmental way is extremely difficult. As parents, we strive to protect our children, raise them to make good choices, and often go out of our way to help them, drug abuse can feel like a betrayal. It’s easy to be angry at your child for betraying your trust, but staying calm is important. Yelling and making demands from your child won’t change their drug use, but it could make it worse.
- Try starting the conversation by reminding your child that you love them no matter what, and then discuss what you found.
- Discuss that drugs are harmful to mental and physical health
- Mention that you understand that drug use is often a symptom of deeper problems. You care about them and want to get them help.
In most cases, it’s better to avoid lecturing and much better to avoid creating strict rules that say “if you use in our house, you are out”. Most will continue to use if they aren’t given treatment, but they will do so on the street or at a friend’s house, where you cannot monitor their physical condition.
Most children, even into their 20s, will respond with panic, embarrassment, anger, and denial when confronted by their parents. You should expect rebuttals, “it isn’t mine”, and diversion, “I don’t even like it”, “it was just once,” “It belongs to X friend”. It’s easy to believe them in this situation, but you shouldn’t.
It’s always a good idea to continue to ask questions, like “how much have you been using”, “what are you using”, “how are you protecting yourself”, and “where would you like to go from here”.
4. Take Steps to Protect Their Health
Tough love doesn’t work. Imposing strict rules and forcing someone out of the house because they are using can seem like the only way, but it does nothing to help your child recover. Instead, being ostracized from family members often makes negative emotions like guilt, shame, and discomfort (typically triggers for addiction) worse. You can’t encourage or support drug use, but you can be there, offer to get your child help, and work to protect their health.
- Learn about drug use, especially the drugs they are using
- Identify hospital routes
- Give your child a card to carry with your name and phone number in case something happens
- Invest in anti-overdose medication such as Naloxone if your child is using opioids (heroin, morphine, most painkillers)
- Establish rules around safely using drugs (clean water, not sharing needles, etc.)
This can feel like enabling, because you aren’t doing anything to stop drug use. But, you also aren’t encouraging it. By showing your child that you care more about their health and their ability to live disease free, you show them that you care. This will help to build the trust that will drive them to asking you for help.
5. Be There for Them
Addicts can be difficult to live with and even more difficult to love. Many become self-centered, only care about themselves or their drugs, and can often do and say things that are cruel, manipulative, and uncaring. You cannot and should not encourage this. In fact, you should step back as much as possible, because if your child is addicted, they will continue to make bad decisions and will continue to hurt you. This means that you shouldn’t give them rides, money, or pay their rent. But, you should also be there for them, listen when they need it, call them to talk, and be a parent in any way that doesn’t enable them to continue using. Most importantly, you should make it clear that your child doesn’t have to be afraid of punishment if they choose to talk to you about drug use.
6. Get them Into Treatment
Even if you believe your son or daughter is no longer using, they likely still suffer from psychological damage and possibly even mental addiction. Most drugs are mentally and physically addicting, meaning that users become chemically dependent, but also come to rely on the drug for coping with stress, pain, and even boredom.
Addiction treatment, or rehab, will offer the mental and physical support necessary to overcome an addiction. Most treatment centers offer medical detox to remove the danger of withdrawal, counseling, therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, group treatment and support, and family therapy. There, your child will detox and will unlearn the behavior that led them to drug use, while learning coping mechanisms that will make their life better.
Ideally, you want your child to choose to go to therapy themselves. Personal motivation and a desire to change are crucial factors in staying and remaining clean. However, if your child is under the age of 18, you can choose to admit them against their will, after which you can move them into a Recovery High School or similar program to keep them away from substance use after they leave the program.
7. Go to Family Therapy
Substance use is hard on families, especially if you unwittingly enable your child’s drug use before discovering it. It changes relationships, family dynamics, and how you react to each other. This is especially true if you or your spouse have struggled with your own substance use in the past.
Attending family therapy will help you to rebuild a healthy framework for a relationship, unlearn bad behavior, and learn how to be more supportive for your child. This will, in turn, help to create a family setting where you can be there – so that they have a better chance at recovery.
Finding your child’s drug stash is never easy, but by taking the right steps, being supportive, and getting him or her into treatment – you can help them to get better. Unfortunately, there is often no way to force someone to recover if they don’t want to, but by being there for them, supporting them, and offering assistance not anger – you can provide the motivation to change that your child needs to take those first steps towards getting their life back.
If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors, we’re here to help. Beginnings Treatment Centers is located in beautiful and sunny Southern California in Orange County, which has one of the strongest and most active recovery communities in the United States.