It is something that no parent wants to discover: what do you do if you suspect your child is abusing drugs? If you just try to ignore your suspicions, you may deeply regret it later on because you will always wonder if you could have saved your son or daughter from addiction. It is vital that you take action right away, but you need to know to go about things the right way. If you confront your child unskilfully, it could drive them further into addiction out of a sense of rebellion.
Is Your Child Abusing Drugs?
Intuition can be very strong in parents, but it is definitely possible to misread the signs. The problem is that many of the symptoms of addiction (for example, moodiness) can be a normal part of being a teenager. Some of the signs that could indicate your child is abusing drugs include:
- behaving strangely as if intoxicated
- odd smells on clothing
- hanging around with a new group of friends
- no longer interested in hobbies and usual activities
- appearing sick in the mornings
- mood swings
- increased aggressiveness
- money is starting to disappear from the home
- alcohol is disappearing from the home
- they are doing less well in school – for example, falling grades
- they are getting into trouble with the police
- signs of depression
- loss of appetite or weight loss for no apparent reason
- complaining of headaches
- erratic behaviour – for example, sometimes very talkative and sometimes unwilling to engage
- making bad decisions
- skipping off school
- signs of shakes and tremors
- evidence of drug paraphernalia
- red eyes
- behaving in a secretive way
- appears to be tired most of the time
- going missing for long periods of time
- spending an excessive amount of time in their bedroom.
Most of these symptoms could also be due to other causes but, if you see a pattern in your child’s behaviour, it would be necessary for you to confront them to find out what is going on.
How to Deal with Your Child if You Suspect Substance Abuse
It is understandable that you would feel emotional if you suspect your child is abusing drugs. This is the stuff of nightmares and you may feel incredibly worried, angry, betrayed, and desperate to find out what is going on. The problem is that if you approach your child the wrong way, it could make the situation much worse. You need to be able to talk to him or her in a calm manner and try not to put them on the defensive. It is also vital that you speak honestly without exaggerating anything. Speak to your child about your concerns in a non-aggressive way, and ask him or her to explain what has been going on. If there is an admission of drug use, you need to calmly explain the dangers of this type of behaviour and the reasons why you are not going to allow this in your home. It is vital that when you have the conversation, your child is not suffering from the effects of intoxication. If it sounds like he or she has been heavily abusing a substance, it will probably be necessary to get some help from the professionals. It may be that your child would benefit from a stay in rehab.
Other tips for confronting your child if you suspect substance abuse include:
- ask open-ended questions to allow the opportunity for full explanations
- seek advice from an addiction therapist
- provide credible information about the dangers of drug abuse
- avoid admitting that you ever took drugs as a kid as this can then be used by your child to justify the behaviour
- do not blame yourself for being a bad parent – there are lots of reasons why kids turn to drugs.