It might be shocking to learn your child has been using drugs. Maybe you found something while doing laundry, maybe you got a call from the school, or maybe you heard a credible rumour. Now you have to figure out the extent of the problem and what to do about it.
One thing you don’t want to do is freak out and start shouting at your child the moment she walks in the door. That will only make things worse. However angry you are, you want what’s best for your child and acting out of anger is not likely to be constructive.
Do some research.
Try to figure out exactly what you’re dealing with. Is is marijuana? Is it cocaine? Heroin? MDMA? Try to figure out what it is and what it does. Research the dangers, the withdrawal symptoms, and the treatment options. The more you know, the more constructive your conversation will be. Research the signs of addiction and see if they apply to your child. Has she been secretive? Has she changed friends? Has her personality changed? These are all signs of a problem.
Tell the other parent.
Discuss how you want to proceed. You might have different ideas about how serious the problem is. Try to reach an agreement about what to do. Emphasise that acting out of anger will be counterproductive. Show a unified front when you talk to your child.
Choose a good time to talk to your child.
No one wants to feel cornered or ambushed. If you can, pick a time when there’s minimal time pressure or other stressors. Even if you prepare well, pick the perfect time, and say all the right things, this won’t be a pleasant conversation. Be prepared for some ugliness and stay calm.
Be prepared to listen.
The natural tendency is to emphasise how angry and disappointed you are, to talk about how dangerous and irresponsible drugs are, and so on. She probably knows all of that already and will be prepared to wait out the lecture. The important thing to remember is that drug use is rarely just drug use. Teens often experiment with drugs out of curiosity, and that might be the case with your child, but if it’s something more serious, you need to find out. She might be dealing with depression or anxiety. There may be some other problem you aren’t aware of. Give her room to talk and leave the door open for future conversations.
Be supportive but firm.
Some kind of discipline will be necessary, even if it turns out there is some deeper concern driving her drug use. Addressing that problem and punishing bad behaviour are not mutually exclusive.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig treats alcoholism and drug addiction as an illness and promote abstinence as essential for long-lasting recovery. We help patients recover through an intensive, personalised programme that combines medical treatment, 12 Step therapy, CBT and other psychiatric therapies and complementary therapies. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 29, 2020