Whether you’ve caught your child with drugs or suspect they may be using, taking the right course of action and quickly, is crucial to preventing the situation from becoming worse. As a parent, your first instinct is likely to over react without stepping back to evaluate the situation or giving your child space to make good decisions themselves, but you also likely want to protect them which can result in hiding and condoning behavior for the sake of their reputation, school, or even career.
No matter what the situation, your actions as a parent will heavily shape your child’s experience with drugs and how they feel about continued use and moving forward. While there is no single right solution to children of any age using drugs, because the factors influencing drug use are also diverse, the following information can help you to make the right choices when your child is using drugs.
Step Back and Stay Calm
If your child is using, it’s important to determine what’s happening and why. You may have discovered your child experimenting with drugs on the first try and that might be all it ever is. As many as 40% of all 12th graders experiment with drugs at least once but eventually, less than 6% ever go on to become problematic drug users. Getting involved in the wrong way and too quickly could push your child into using more than they intended or wanted to, simply as a way to rebel.
In addition, if you act while angry or upset, you may behave rashly, may be too strict, and you may push your teen or child away.
Tough love is an extremely common response to finding drug use, where teens and even adults are either thrown out of the house or cut off from friends, relationships, or things that they love as a response to drug use, but it can cause more problems. Continued drug use is often a response to stress, used as a coping mechanism, or to self-medicate rather than purely for enjoyment and approaching drug use as a symptom of a deeper problem, even if that problem is boredom or dissatisfaction with school or work, is important for resolving the issue.
You can consider:
- Having a non-judgmental discussion with your child. Ask what they are using, when they started, how often they use, and who they use with. They may lie.
- Determine what they are using. Some substances like marijuana are relatively low risk, while others like heroin or methamphetamine carry a high risk of overdose and complications. Knowing what your child is using can help you to make a better decision and approach getting help based on what the problem is.
- Find out how much they are using and how often. Someone who is only very casually using drugs at parties or in social situations is at a much lower risk than someone who is obviously already addicted, although you should take action in both cases.
Taking the time to understand the situation before acting will give you more time to respond well, to get facts that can help you make a good decision, and to help your child as much as possible.
Teach Safe Drug Use Habits
If your child is using, you are concerned about their health. If they continue to use, you may want to take the time to work with them to teach safe drug use habits. While this may seem like enabling, it isn’t. In fact, showing that you care enough to support safe drug use if they cannot curb their habit will prove to your child that you’re there for them no matter what and will non-judgmentally help them to get better when they are ready.
Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and save lives. For example, you can attend local courses on drug use safety, you can work to acquire Naloxone and teach your child how to administer Naloxone if they are abusing opioids. Narcan offers an easy tool to check Naloxone availability in your area.
Similarly, it’s important to talk about health and safety first rather than focusing on the shame or stigma of drug use. For example, saying “I just want you to stay safe” instead of “I raised you better than this” is one way to show that you care about your child rather than about what anyone else thinks. Why? Showing consistent support will help your child to reach out to you for support and help when they are ready to do so.
Set Boundaries and Rules
Drug abuse can cause problematic behavior in more ways than one. Drug users withdraw from social circles and contact, often cease to care about anything but getting high, and may struggle with basic social interaction and responsibilities. This can be extremely difficult if your child is still living at home because you may struggle with getting them to fulfill basic responsibilities such as homework, attending school, or chores. They may also steal drugs or money, you may feel as though you have to lie for them or hide their behavior, and you may even be pushed into enabling their drug use through support, money, or helping them with homework they can’t do themselves.
Setting boundaries and rules to prevent enabling behavior and to protect yourself and your own emotional health is important. For example, you should never give your child money or provide care or support that they should be able to handle themselves without drugs. Setting good boundaries will enable you to provide love and care without supporting drug abuse.
Work Towards Getting Help
If your child continues to use, they need help. Long-term drug abuse will result in tolerance, chemical dependency, and possible addiction. Getting them into treatment and therapy will help. Many rehabilitation centers offer detox programs and therapy geared to children as young as 12, with cognitive behavioral therapy or a similar therapy to treat the underlying issues causing substance abuse and addiction. It’s always better for individuals to choose to go into recovery on their own, but if your child is under 18, you can typically check them into rehab without their consent, so that they do get therapy and help. A good recovery program should include licensed nurses and clinicians, therapists, and programs geared specifically towards younger patients, who typically use for different reasons.
You can also increasingly seek out the long-term support of support programs including Recovery High Schools, which offer a safe and drug-free environment for recovering students to continue their education without peer pressure to continue using. You can also seek out support groups such as Alateen to help your child get the support and motivation they need to stay in recovery. While much of recovery requires personal motivation from the individual, the range of support options and treatment geared towards younger individuals ensures that anyone can get help and go into recovery.
Drug use impacts grades, can dramatically affect health, and can result in an overdose and even death. Getting your child into recovery if they are abusing substances over the longer term will improve their long-term health, their ability to learn valuable life skills, and it will help them to get back in control of their life so that they can be happy and healthy.
If you or a loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol abuse, please contact Beginnings Treatment Centers today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors, we’re here to help you.