Parenting Questions Part 3: When You Think Your Child Has a Substance Abuse Problem

Today’s questions deal with the uncertainty a parent faces when they suspect their child is abusing drugs or alcohol. (Part 1) (Part 2)

Should I give my teen a drug test once a month or trust their word that they are clean? Neither. Parents should never rely on a drug test or their child’s word for assurance that their child is not using drugs. As depressing as this might sound, you never really know if your child is telling the truth, and you certainly should never let your guard down. Parents who rely on a regular drug test often get too comfortable that they’ve done all that they need to do in order to keep their kids drug-free. Teens are good about finding ways around the drug tests – there are countless websites that assist them with that – and these teens often become addicted before their parent finds out that they are using.

Instead of giving regular drug tests or assuming your child is telling you the truth, have conversations with your child about the dangers of drugs. This would be a good time to ask questions of your teen to find out what kinds of things other kids their age are doing, and what temptations they have had to face. By talking openly and regularly with your teen, you can find out a lot of information you wouldn’t otherwise get.

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Should I look through my teen’s room or respect their privacy? In general, a parent that is respectful of their teen’s privacy will develop a better trust between their child and themselves. However, a parent should not be afraid to walk into their teen’s room unannounced to see what they are up to. Parents need to remain alert and look for signs of drug abuse whenever they talk to their teen. Even though a teen on drugs tries to be careful to not get caught, an attentive parent can often see the signs by just paying attention without even having to snoop. However, when it is a matter of life or death, as drug abuse often is, privacy takes a back seat to finding out the hard truth.

Is it necessary to get my teen professional help for a drug problem? One of the most dangerous mistakes parents make is to try to handle a child’s drug or alcohol problem on their own. Parents may be ashamed that their child has a problem, and they will keep from telling people as long as possible. Meanwhile, the teen sinks deeper and deeper into their drug abuse and addiction, and pretty soon it will be hard for even professionals to help. Parents need to understand that getting help early offers the best chance at success. It is often necessary for parents to turn to the experts to help their family get back on track. In the long run, it will make for a healthier, happier family, and will actually save them from some embarrassment in the long run.


(1) The Anti Drug

Time to Talk

Talking to Kids About Your Past Drug Use

Has Addiction Stolen a Loved One From You? Call for help getting them back.

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