You Found Out Your Teen is Using Drugs: Now What?
First of all: take a deep breath.
If you’ve just found out that you’re dealing with teen drug abuse in your home, you’re likely feeling a whirlwind of emotions. You may be angry, sad, overwhelmed, distraught, and unsure of what to do next. You may feel like you’re to blame for the problem, especially if there’s been a recent stressful family situation or a history of drug or alcohol abuse in the home.
You’re doing the right thing by taking the time to do some research on teens and drug abuse before deciding how to approach your teen. You must take action, but first, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully prepared to support your child through this difficult time. Here, we’ll explore what you need to know before you talk with your teen about their drug use, and how you and your teen can move forward.
Learn More Before Making a Decision
As a parent, it’s a normal knee-jerk reaction to want to do whatever it takes to keep your child safe and healthy. When you’re faced with a drugged teen, you may be tempted to take drastic measures, such as kicking them out of the house or having them arrested. While there can be a time and place for these reactions, it’s important to carefully gather information and consider your options before you move forward with next steps.
While the first conversation with your teen may not be the appropriate time to discuss treatment options, it’s smart to know what’s available in your area to help your child overcome their addiction. Research treatment facilities available to your teen, find out how your insurance company handles drug rehab costs, and consider what type of treatment program could be the right fit for your child. You may also want to reach out to local rehab centers to learn more about availability.
Respond With Love
Throw the word confrontation out the window.
When you realize that your teen has been lying to you to hide their drug use, it can be tempting to shock them by letting them know that you’ve learned the truth. Taking this approach, however, is likely to result in anger, an unproductive conversation, and a teen who feels attacked rather than supported.
When you approach your child about teen drug use, do so with love and care. Swallow your pride and show them that you want to help—even though you’re feeling a range of emotions. Whether you’ve used drugs in your past or not, remember that you do not fully understand what your teen is going through. When you talk to them, listen to what they have to say. Don’t negate their experience or tell them what they should have done instead of using drugs. Instead, put yourself in their shoes as they describe their experiences.
It’s key that you listen to understand, not to respond. If you find that you’re forming a mental rebuttal before your teen finishes speaking, you’re doing more harm than good. You don’t have to make an instant decision on what to do next. Talking with your teen is the first step in figuring out how to move forward—but it’s not the only step.
Don’t Enable Your Teen
It may be tempting to ignore the problem, especially if you already have a tumultuous relationship with your teen. Unfortunately, pretending the issue doesn’t exist isn’t going to make it go away. If you know that your teen is using drugs, you must talk with them about the issue, no matter how uncomfortable or nervous you may feel.
Be careful that you don’t act out of fear of your teen who is using drugs. Acting out of fear can include refusing to set boundaries because you’re nervous that your teen will further rebel, hiding your teen’s problems due to the possibility of judgment from others, shielding your teen from the consequences of drug use, and hiding your hurt and upset from your teen to protect their feelings.
Being a parent is hard, and being the parent of a teen who is using drugs can feel nearly impossible. It’s ok to reach out for help, and building a strong support network (extended family members, counselors, family friends, etc.) can be vital for both your sanity and your teen’s sobriety.
No matter how you decide to move forward with your teen, it’s smart to involve a professional who understands the nuances of teen drug use. You may choose to meet with a counselor on your own for more information on how to approach your teen (especially if your teen is a legal adult who is not interested in treatment). You may decide that your teen needs inpatient or outpatient treatment, or weekly counseling sessions may be a better fit.
It’s important to remember that when it comes to teens and drug abuse, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to sobriety. It can take some time to find the right teen boy or teen girl drug rehab program for your child. Your teen may need to try different therapists before they find one that is a good fit for their needs.
Stay Strong—And Hopeful</strong>
If your teen is using drugs, you want to show up as a pillar of strength and support—not a source of judgment and condemnation. Let your teen know that you love and support them as they work through their emotions, and stay strong in your conviction that you’ll work together to find a solution that makes sense for them. When your teen opens up to you, remember—they’re putting themselves in a vulnerable position. Stay open, stay receptive, and most of all, let them know you’re there to help.