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5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When They Find Out Their Teen is Using Drugs

help my child is using drugs

Studies show that at least 45 to 50 percent of teenagers will try drugs by the end of high school. If you suspect your teen is using drugs, or have recently discovered evidence of drug use, it not too early for you, as a parent, to act. Parents play a critical role in preventing and reducing drug use among children.

According to a recent national survey from the Center on Addiction, parents have the greatest influence on a teen’s likelihood to use drugs. Specifically, high levels of parental monitoring were associated with reduced odds of a teen having friends who use drugs (a major risk factor for drug abuse) and reduced intentions to use drugs in the future

Of course, this is not to say parenting a drug-using teenager is easy by any means. As a parent, you want to establish trust and openness with your teen. Yet at the same time, you also want to set expectations, boundaries, and rules to ensure your teen is staying safe. You want to support your teen through this difficult age, yet also avoid enabling your teen’s drug use in the same breath. How do you do it?

To protect your child from the dangers of drug use, and to stop your son or daughter from using drugs, we recommend avoiding these ever-so-common mistakes.

  1. Assuming that experimentation is normal.

While it is true that experimenting with drugs is a frequent occurrence among teens, this is not to say it is normal or okay. Drug use during adolescence is not a “rite of passage,” like many teens and their parents assume. Rather, it can pose great risk for your child’s mental and physical health down the road. Even occasional drug use can lead to incidents like fights, car accidents, unsafe sex, and overdose. As a parent, it is important that you do not overlook or brush off your teen’s drug use. Address your concerns now, to keep him or her safe long-term. 

  1. Failing to set rules and expectations.

You may consider yourself the “cool” parent, the one who is more lax when it comes to rules, or the one who is more trusting of their teen. You can still be this parent while establishing rules around drinking or drug abuse. In fact, these rules are important in keeping your loved one safe. Studies show that teenagers who know their parents disapprove of substance use are less likely to keep using. Tell your teen how you feel about drugs now, and establish expectations (and consequences) for drug use in the future. In addition, if you set rules and consequences, make sure you follow-through with them. 

  1. Being judgmental or overly strict, rather than concerned and empathetic.

It is easy to jump to anger and disappointment when learning of your teen’s drug use, however, this can close lines of communication. It is important that you take a step back and analyze your feelings before jumping into a conversation with your teen. While boundaries are important, you cannot expect that discipline will be totally effective on its own. Rather, you have to approach your teen with calmness, empathy, and concern. The more compassion and understanding you have for your teen during these difficult discussions, the more progress you are likely to make. Teens are often resistant to punishment and harshness, and your son or daughter may hold some resentment towards you for acting in this way. Let your teen know that you are concerned for his or her health. Let your teen know that you are there to listen, without judgement, and that he or she can come to you with any problems that arise. More than anything, you want to establish an open line of communication with your teen.

  1. Ignoring potential mental health issues.

Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are more likely to develop during adolescence. However, many parents do not recognize this risk. If you recently found out your son or daughter is using drugs, ask yourself what might be contributing. Does your teen feel overly sad or stressed? Is your teen happy with him or herself? Is he/she acting normal? If you do not know these answers, talk to your teen about what is going on. It is important to understand if an underlying mental illness is contributing to his or her drug use. According to CBS News, more than two-thirds of young drug-users also suffer from mental health issues like depression and ADHD. Statistics also show that those battling mood and anxiety disorders are 2x more likely to develop a substance use problem.

  1. Delaying seeking (the right) help. 

Sometimes, parents will think of their teen’s drug use as a phase. They will get over it, right? While some teens’ drug habits will come and go, others run the risk of developing a more regular and eventually severe drug problem. And this can lead to addiction. In fact, teens and young adults are at highest risk of developing a substance use disorder. It is for this reason that early intervention is critical. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “When substance use disorders are identified and treated in adolescence, especially if they are mild or moderate, they frequently give way to abstinence from drugs with no further problems.” In other words, it is never too early to get help.

Yet it can be too late. With continued drug use, there is continued risk of incidents like overdose. Do not wait to get your teen help. Even more, do not hesitate to find the right type of help for your teen. There drug treatment centers out there who are dedicating to helping young people overcome addiction. They have teen rehab programs that are tailored to each individual’s needs, and staff who are specifically trained in the experiences of youth as they relate to drug abuse. 

My Teen is Using Drugs: What Can I Do Now?

As a parent, it is important to seek help for your son or daughter now, to prevent further problems down the line. You can also begin implementing strategies to safeguard your teen, including more consistent monitoring of your teen’s activities, and more regular conversations together. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites that “parental monitoring and supervision are critical for drug abuse prevention. These skills can be enhanced with training on rule-setting; techniques for monitoring activities; praise for appropriate behavior; and moderate, consistent discipline that enforces defined family rules.”

If you are interested in finding professional help for your teen, do not hesitate to contact Turnbridge. We are dedicated teen rehab center for young people battling addiction and other common, co-occurring mental health disorders. Every experience and therapy at Turnbridge is designed to engage teens in the recovery journey. Call us today to learn more, or explore our adolescent program online here.