If Drug Use Is Found
We truly hope that you will discover that your teen is not using drugs. If you received negative or positive results, please continue to test on a frequent and random basis. A home testing program really does give kids a "peer pressure free" to say "NO...my parents drug test me".
Results of a positive drug test should not be used merely to punish your child. Drug and alcohol use very often leads to addiction, and punishment alone may not necessarily halt this progression. However, the road to addiction can be blocked by timely intervention and appropriate treatment.
A positive test result should be reviewed and confirmed for illegal drug use. In most cases, the child will "fess up" after a positive home test...if not, please give them the benefit of the doubt, and take the urine that you received the positive test on to your doctor if your child insists that the test is wrong.
Every situation is different, but you need to know that anger, accusations, and harsh punishment could make the situation worse. The best approach for parents is usually to stay firm and to treat their child with respect as they work together as a family to change his or her behavior.
You very well may need a trained substance-abuse counselor, who can perform a drug assessment and determine whether the child needs treatment or other specialized help. For frequent users or those in danger of becoming drug dependent, treatment will likely be necessary.
Parents just finding out that their kids are using drugs need to utilize all the resources available, and educate themselves completely about drugs and drug abuse.
There is no easy answer for how to deal with teen drug and alcohol use. Be careful of your own tendency to deny the existence of a problem. Again, if you have any doubt about the accuracy of a test result, take the specimen to your child's doctor for confirmation. If you determine that the drug use has been purely recreational, you may only need to clearly state your position regarding abstinence and then closely monitor their behavior, and continue to test them frequently and randomly.
If your teen is more deeply into substance abuse or has other emotional, behavioral, or academic concerns, immediate consultation with a behavioral health or substance abuse professional is apt to be the safest option.
If The Problem Is Serious
Some kids get caught up and can't get out. This is no time to be a wimp. Don't overreact and lose your temper, but your teenager needs a strong message that drug and alcohol use is not acceptable. A parent support group may prove useful. Consider joining Parents Anonymous or Al-Anon.
Get to know the typical drugs of abuse, what their effects are, and what your adolescent is likely to look like if using a drug. Talk with your teen. Don't lecture, be clear, and keep your message short and to the point. Be open to communication from your teen.
Get to know your kid better. Find out how he sees himself, where he wants his life to go, and what's important. Find out what drugs and alcohol do for him. Spend time with your son or daughter in recreation and family activities. Learn the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your teen's friends. Get to know the kids. Form a network with the parents of your child's peers. Keep in touch with one another. Don't be put off if other parents don't share your concern about substance abuse. Make agreements to "watch each others backs".
Check your adolescent's whereabouts regularly. Don't be too shocked if you find that another parent is using drugs with them, allows substance abusing parties at their home, or is supplying the kids with drugs and alcohol. If you learn that one of your teen's friends is involved in drugs, don't keep it a secret from their parents - you would probably feel sabotaged if another parent hid that information from you. I have been known to put drug tests in the parents mailbox!
Use discipline that is apt to be effective. Restrict or eliminate use of a car, take away cel phones, or beepers, and limit unsupervised free time until your teen is committed to being 'clean and sober.' Teens want their freedom more than anything, let them know that freedom is earned. Set clear, firm, and reasonable limits. Be consistent.
If your teen says that she wants to spend the night at a friends, check with the other parent to insure that your child is telling the truth. Kids often select homes of absent parents for sleep-overs and all-night drug/alcohol parties.
Make sure your child is not sneaking out after you go to bed. Nothing good happens after midnight.
Get "Caller ID" and "Anonymous Call Rejection" on the phone line that your youngster uses so that you know who is calling your son or daughter. If you question their whereabouts when they go out in the evening, require that they call home from a "land line" phone so that the location they are calling from appears on your "Caller ID." You'll probably want to have "Caller ID" and "Anonymous Call Rejection" on the main phone line to the house as well.
Strongly consider encouraging your son or daughter's involvement in a twelve-step self-help support group like A.A. or N.A. (teen group), or a support group provided by the guidance department at your son or daughter's high school. Go with them or link them with a friend or relative so that they don't feel uncomfortable about attending.
If other members of the family have a drinking problem, abuse prescription medication, or use illegal drugs, it may be important to deal with these issues at the same time as your son/daughter's use.
Kids dealing with substance abuse need to avoid the people, places, and events that have been associated with their use. It is extremely unlikely that your teen will stay sober if they attend unsupervised 'parties' where drugs and alcohol are available. Monitor or remove alcohol from the home if alcohol use is recognized as a problem. Help them locate sober activities.
Find out where the money is coming from to purchase drugs and/or alcohol. If it's from your ATM card, wallet, or purse, keep them out of reach. Think about the amount of money that your supply your son or daughter for allowance, lunches, gas, etc. Don't be too surprised if you find them stealing from you or others to finance their use of drugs and alcohol.
If you decide to work with a professional for counseling, be sure to check the credentials and experience of the therapist. Most counselors and psychologists are generalists who do not have specific expertise in substance abuse. They may actually make the problem worse by addressing the wrong issues. It may take a few misses to find the right match.
If the problem is very serious, inpatient care may be the only way to keep them safe.
Most important, don't ever give up on your kid. Parenting is hard work, but with the right help, you will make it.
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