HELP – I THINK MY CHILD IS USING DRUGS
This section is for parents who have a drug using child – either late teens or early adults. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone – and that you need to get help, advice and support for yourself before you can help your child. Giving a drug user money (or paying their mobile phone bills for example) is just enabling them to continue in their use.
Some of the warning symptoms of drug use could be:
- Any noticeable difference in behaviour – a child who had been very outgoing and cheerful may become withdrawn and depressed. Alteratively a quiet child may become hyperactive.
- A change in friendship groups – especially if the new friends are older and never visit the house – instead the child goes out to meet them.
- Odd phone calls from unknown people – notice if they don’t have a mobile phone are they hanging around waiting for a phone call ? Do they rush to pick up the phone when it rings ?
- School or college work suffer. Grades go down – homework isn’t completed on time and generally interest in academic work wanes.
- Pocket money never seems to be enough – sometimes items go ‘missing’ and never turn up – things are even stolen from a handbag left around by a parent.
- Child may appear agitated and unable to sleep – or conversely too tired to wake up at the correct time.
- Different tastes in music and clothes become obvious. Membership of clubs that were previously important are allowed to lapse – music, sport or other hobbies are given up and all social contact with ‘friends’ is outside of the home.
Sadly it is often several years before parents find out that their child is using drugs. This is why we suggest that you discuss drugs from an early age. Use ‘teachable moments’ – if there is an incidence of young people using drugs in a tv soap, or an item in a newspaper about a celebrity found with a drug habit – ask your child ‘what do you think about this ?’ ‘Do any of your friends know people who are using drugs’? (note – never ask if their friends use drugs, the loyalty to friends may be misplaced but it may encourage them to lie about this).
Watch out for comments like “I think drugs should be legalised” or “….after all it’s only a bit of dope”.
Talk with your child – not at them ! All parents will know the reply after school when mum asks “How was school today ?” – the answer will invariably be “alright” ……. Instead when they get home from school (or even college) share a cup of tea (or coke) and begin the conversation with something like “ When I got into work today I noticed …..” or “guess what I did at lunchtime today “ or “I chatted to gran on the phone and told her about that film we are going to see” ……. This is more likely to encourage conversation. If you do ask questions try to word them in such a way that a one word answer is not acceptable !
If your child begins to tell you something about a friend who has done something wrong please don’t jump in with “I hope you never do that” or “don’t let me catch you saying that” – just listen.
The article below was published on a great site with lots of very helpful information for parents. Log on and read for yourself:
How to Listen to Your Teen
Remember: the best way to find out what is going on with your child is to, well, find out what’s going on with him. Lecturing won’t get you there. A back-and-forth conversation could. Just talking to your child is only half the job. You can keep the lines of communication open by knowing how to listen and when to talk.
- Create a safe environment for your child to share the truth. Assure your child that he can always be honest with you – without fear of ridicule or blame.
- Put your smartphone down and don’t allow any interruptions while you’re talking to your teen.
- Listen to your child vent. Sometimes she just needs to complain and get things off her chest.
- Rephrase your teen’s comments to show him you’ve heard what he’s saying or give nonverbal support and encouragement by nodding and smiling.
- Be attentive for topics that lead into drugs or alcohol (Example: perhaps your teen describes someone at school who is “always high” or mentions a celebrity who has gone to rehab.) Ask your teen what she thinks about those people or their behavior.
- Focus completely on your child and try to see things from your child’s point of view. This will help you sympathize with his situation.
- Be aware that your child could be hiding his true feelings out of fear, embarrassment, or something else, and you should be careful to not just take what the child says at face value.
- Listen between the words. Pay attention to body language, facial expressions, difficulty finding the right words to use, etc.
- Recognize and confess when you don’t have the energy to be a good listener and agree to restart the conversation (as long as it isn’t dire) at a later, better time.
For parents who have a drug addicted child – often a late teen or early adult – living with them , many will not know what to do and how to get help for their child and for themselves.
Either use Google on a computer or just check the local phone book and you will almost always find a phone number a local drug agency or for Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous – either of these self- help groups should be able to direct your enquiries to a Family support group where you will find other parents facing the same problems – and helpful advice and support will be gained from attending such a group – they are, of course, always confidential.
In any difficult conversation comments like “you upset me” or “you treat this house like a hotel” immediately set up a confrontational dialogue and the young person will go on the defensive and often on the attack – which usually results in a row and one or other person storming out of the room. Instead with comments like “I am very upset by your behaviour” or “ I feel used when you only come home to sleep and don’t take any part in family activities” you are not blaming but explaining how your feelings are influenced by the behaviour of the other person.
The letter below was written by a mother in America to her adult son – she is telling him how much she loves him and how worried she is about his drug use – and she is also saying what she will and will not accept in his behaviour.
You will notice that this mother carefully used ‘I’ messages – not ‘You’ messages
I am hugely concerned about your marijuana use. I have seen changes in you over the past few months that lead me to worry about your current and future health and well-being. I love you dearly and can no longer stand by and let this happen without taking action.
In my view, you are suffering from substance abuse with marijuana and this is evidenced by the fact that you are smoking it virtually daily and are unable to have a period of a week, or even a couple of days, without using marijuana at all. I believe you are using marijuana in order to function right now and that is addiction to a substance.
From reading scientific research I know that there are likely effects of prolonged use of marijuana. I have seen a lot of the following with you recently : anxiety, sleep disturbance, irritability, moods swings, lethargy, explosive outbursts, minimal interaction with me, Amanda and the rest of your family, changes in eating patterns, frequent absences from school and now Uni, changes of friends, spending large amounts of money, decrease in other activities. Long term I am worried about impaired brain function, memory loss and respiratory illness.
I believe that you use marijuana as much as you do to lessen anxiety, stress and feel better able to cope. I believe that there are issues that need to be resolved in your relationship with your Dad, and me. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to help resolve these issues – I promise you I will take ownership of things I can be doing better and I ask you to do the same. If these issues aren’t addressed I believe that you will suffer long-term with anxiety and that your health and future relationships will be severely affected.
What do you want? Do you think your use of marijuana – and the subsequent effect it is having on you – is acceptable and good for you now and in the future?
What I offer to help:
- Love and support in any way I can
- I will support you to take ownership of this problem yourself and to be responsible for your own physical and mental well-being.
- Professional support by trained, experienced professionals used to dealing with drug dependency
- I will pay for you to attend a gym (e.g. GI)
- I do not wish to live in a home were drugs are being used illegally
- I do not wish to live in a home where people are in bed until midday or later then watch TV all afternoon and evening
- I do not wish to continue paying the living expenses of my children if they choose not to work or study
- I do not wish to enable my children in any way to use Marijuana and become lethargic, anxious, and unmotivated.
• not to have any marijuana on you, in the house, or in your car at any time
• to be out of bed by 9 am each day
• to shower and tidy your room each day
• to work three nights per week
• to have your car serviced by the end of the month
• to have the bumper back on your car by the end of the month whether it is repaired or not
- My car and parking card will no longer be available to you – including to go to Uni
- I will no longer top up your phone
- I will sell the car immediately if I can prove you are driving under the influence
- You will hand back the keys to your car after 1 May if the work above is not complete
- If you haven’t rectified the situation by 1 June the car will be sold for parts
- If your marijuana use continues to be as extreme as it is now I will call in the relevant support from drug and alcohol abuse support centres.
The reason I have raised the ‘car’ issue here is that I think this is important to you and that it’s something you would like to achieve. I believe that decreasing your marijuana use will increase your ability to achieve some of your goals.
I love you dearly. I admire your personal values and respect you as a person. I am extremely proud to call you my son. I believe that you are on a track that will lead you to personal happiness with your dreams and aspirations for your future. However, recently things have begun to change and I can no longer stand by and see you sink deeper into yourself and live a life that is as painful as you have recently described.