If you’re a parent the last thing you want is for your child to become addicted to drugs.
Sadly millions of American children fall victim to addiction every year. Parents find them selves battling drugs in their neighborhoods, schools and sometimes their homes. As a good parent we try to do all that we can to make sure our children don’t do drugs. Yet try as we may sometimes even the best of kids wind up on drugs.
What then? What does a mom or dad do once they discover that their child is a drug addict? Unfortunately for most family members who have a loved one on drugs; they become victims too. When faced with that fact that you have a child on drugs, many parents find themselves asking where did I go wrong?
As devastating as all this might seem you the parent can choose to be the victim or the champion in this situation. Either way you first have to look at the situation for what it truly is, don’t ignore obvious signs or downplay the problem. Know what to look for and take the appropriate action. If you miss the signs or refuse to confront the problem head on you could become an enabler and promote the drug problem rather help to end it.
Know the signs:
1. Change in appearance (dirty or wrinkled clothes, he or she no longer bathes; hair skin and teeth are neglected).
2. Sharp drop in grades
3. Violent outburst
4. Change in vocabulary (Begins using street slang and/or wearing gang colors, using gang style hand signs).
5. Unexplained weight loss
6. Change in friends (brings the thuglets home with him or her).
7. Becomes reclusive, (spends all day in his or her room, doesn’t eat with the family or participate in family time).
8. Lying, (about their behavior or whereabouts or simply lying when they don’t have to).
9. Missing valuables
10. Possessing unexplained valuables
11. Lethargy, slurred speech,
12. Change in sleeping, and or eating habits (staying up for days with little or no sleep, going on eating binges or not eating for days).
13. Skipping school or not showing up for work, losing job for tardiness or absenteeism.
14. Marked irresponsible behavior, if your child is mature and perhaps a parent themselves ( not paying rent or utilities, being evicted or services be disconnected for non payment, grand children being left alone or neglected).
15. Extreme paranoia
16. Lesions on the skin, blisters, persistent mouth sores, dark circles under the eyes. (Crystal Meth)
17. Prolonged use of eye drops or persistent eye irritation
18. Disobedient to parents and teachers
20. Disregarding Consequences
The above list is not a conclusive list there are many other signs, and they will vary with the individual. Remember, early intervention is the key. Most parents are unaware their children are using drugs for sometimes years. By this time the addiction has such a hold on the child that it takes years to help them get free of the addiction.
Once you are sure that he or she is using drugs and /or alcohol you must take action to help them. It is important for you the parent to understand that when a person is suffering from addiction the only thing important to them is that next drink or fix. They are not concerned with the consequences of their actions. Therefore threats and/or ultimatums won’t faze him or her.
Before you can adequately help him or her, parents must first know what they are dealing with. If at all possible find out what type of drug that he or she is taking and then learn as much about the drug and its effects on the person. Parents should pay particular attention to the withdrawal symptoms and gestation time it stays in a persons system. This will aide parents in dealing with their child during the recovery process.
Proceed with caution! Parents must understand that this is not your little boy or girl that you are dealing with; this is a person under the influence of a mind altering drug. As was stated earlier a person suffering from addictions only concern is their next high. With this in mind he or she will cheat, lie, steal and possibly even kill to get that high. Never put yourself and/or other family members in harms way when attempting to confront a person about an addiction.
When you are ready to confront your child about his or her problem it is important to choose your battle. Pick the time you want to discuss this problem, even if you catch him or her in the act don’t allow the situation to control you, you control the situation. If you catch he or she in the act and you lose your temper react instead of act it could cripple your effort to help the addicted person.
Pick a time and a place where you are both comfortable and relaxed (don’t make an appointment with them, chances are they won’t keep it. It is better to catch them when they are not expecting it and confront them. Example they are watching T.V. or playing video games). Don’t accuse, just state the facts, “I found this in your room, I saw you smoking this, the Principle called us and said they found this in your locker. If you don’t have the physical evidence to confront them with the straight out ask, “are you smoking marijuana?
An array of emotion comes into play when you confront an addict about his or her addict. Some will cry, others will storm out of the room, but most all of them will do the following three things.
1. Deny, “No! of course not I would never do anything like that.”
2. Lie, ” That wasn’t my drugs, someone must have dropped them in my car.”
3. Justify, “Ok so it was mine and yes I have been using drugs but it is because you never understand me, you always judge me, nothing I ever do is good enough for you.”
Regardless of the tactics him or her may use the parent must be persistent and focused. For example; If they deny as above a good rebuttal would be:
“We know that you are having problems and we just won’t you to know we are here to help you.”
When he or she lies: Come back with the facts,
“Ok if it isn’t your drugs and someone dropped them there why was a person with drugs in your car to begin with?”
Lastly when they attempt to justify their addiction, here again stick to the facts, this is the part where you will really need to know all you can about the drug and it’s effects on the user. Be real,
“Yes I am sure we have made some mistakes but hurting yourself won’t change any of that. If we aren’t treating as you feel we should then you should tell us what we are doing wrong so we have an opportunity to fix it.”
Maintain control of the conversation at all times, addicts are deceitful and love to blame shift, making the parent the bad guy. Stick to the facts: you’re the person, this is the problem and here’s what we can do to fix it. Let them know that you are there to help them. Parents should make it very clear that the addictive behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
The Cold hard facts:
While we as parents want to do everything we can to help our children the fact remains, people don’t change for people, nor do they change for circumstances or situations. People change because the get tired of being the way they are. It is for this reason that parents must invoke some tough love practices in order to help him or her know they need to change.
This could mean drug testing your child-home drug test are now available at your local pharmacy or online.
Cutting off financial support – This should probably be the first step once it has been established that they are using drugs, thus making it harder for them to get the drugs.
Taking away privileges- Vehicles, computers and cell Phones, just to name a few.
Some parents feel that it is better to let their children drink or smoke pot at home. Thus giving the parents control over the situation, and preventing them from getting hurt or killed in an accident. This sets a dangerous precedent, after the death of his son Hugh, in March of 1995, actor Carroll O’Conner spent the rest of his life telling parents to do whatever it takes to keep your child away from drugs.
In one of his commercials O’Conner stated that he knew of his son’s experimentation with marijuana, having caught Hugh and some friends smoking it in the O’ Conner home. The elder O’Conner stated he yelled at them but did little else to stop it. He then admitted it was one of the biggest mistakes he had ever made and if he had it to do over again he would do whatever it took to keep his son off drugs. This parent found out the hard way that condoning gateway drugs was not the answer.
Sometimes parent’s life style choices and/or lack of knowledge of drugs can contribute to a child becoming addicted to drugs. Children live what they learn and learn what they live to coin a phrase. Children whose parents use drugs have a far greater chance of becoming drug abuser than those whose parents abstain from drugs. Parents who abuse drugs and alcohol sometimes are the motivation for the child becoming an abuser. The usually start young and innocent, having a child bring a parent a beer, light a cigarette or roll marijuana joint are just a few examples of how the abuser may be unwittingly recruiting the child.
Once you confront him or her it is important have a positive follow-thru, let them know that you care and there is help available. There are several great recovery programs out there for both parent and child. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, are two great support type recovery programs, there is *Life in focus which sponsors the A.C.T.S.
Program(Alcohol Chemical Treatment Series)which is a great educational oriented recovery program. These are just a few depending on your location and financial situation there are programs out there to help you. (See our sources for links)
Once again those who abuse drugs are not interested in treatment while he or she is actively using. If your child is actively using drugs and it has progressed past the point of a gateway drug, say cocaine, crack or crystal meth. Then extreme measures may be called for, such as a mental writ. A mental writ is an order to commit on the grounds that the person named in the writ is believed to be a danger to themselves or those around them. Writs are obtained through your local chancery court.
This article is meant to be a referral source only and should not be used in place of a proven recovery program. Drug abuse in children is a growing problem in America and it can cripple our country. We must do all that we can as Parents to help our children be drug free. Don’t miss our next installment in this series “Are you an enabler”.