It’s hard to believe that your child could be using alcohol or other drugs. Many teens experiment with drugs and you need to know how to recognize the signs that they may be experiencing problems.

You already know more than you think you know. Remember that you know your child better than anyone else.

If you have a teenager at home, there is a good chance that you worry about the impact of drugs in their life. Teen drug use continues to be a serious problem affecting families across Australia.

If you worry your teen is on drugs, learn the facts about drug use and create a strategy to address the concern effectively.

Core Signs:

Before deciding what to do when your child is on drugs, you must be reasonably sure that teen substance abuse is occurring.

Warning signs include ·

  • Changes in school performance.
  • Changes in attitudes toward sports and other activities.
  • Changes in weight or physical appearance.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Changes in friends.
  • Changes in behaviour.

Mental Health Symptoms

When looking for signs of drug use in teens, be sure to consider the impact of mental health symptoms. Often, mental health symptoms can appear similar to signs of teen substance abuse. A teen who seems restless, stressed, isolative and resistant to leaving the house could be using substances or they could have an anxiety disorder.

What Should I do?

If you suspect that your children are using alcohol or other drugs, you may feel that you need to catch them using. Perhaps you feel that you should search their room, or control their activities and friends. These are normal feelings. After all, you want them to be safe.

If the signs of drug use and addiction are present, it is time for you to take action, but what should you do? In the beginning, there are essential actions to avoid, including:

  • Ignoring or denying the problem.
  • Waiting for the problem to resolve itself.
  • Shaming your child for their actions.
  • Reacting with anger and hostility.

Communication, Communication and More Communication

Good communication with your teen will be the centre of your action plan. Having a conversation about drugs and teen addiction is intimidating, so you should:

  • Pick a good time to talk: If your teen is intoxicated or you are too angry, the conversation will suffer.
  • Limit distractions: Having a serious conversation in a noisy environment with a bunch of distractions will not produce a good result. Instead, find a calm place to discuss substance use.
  • Have a plan: Practice and prepare for the communication to provide your evidence for their substance use and what you would like to happen next. If you want them to end use, help them seek outpatient treatment or go to rehab.
  • Practice patience: If you are unsure how to talk to your teenager about drugs, always come from a place of love, support, patience and understanding. Otherwise, your teen could become angry and defensive.

Don’t Push but PULL

Helping your teen addict is challenging and full of uncertainty. Are you truly helping your teen or are you only helping to enable addiction?

Unintentionally Push is a common mistake many family members make. When you hard talk/push your teen, you allow their drug use to continue by:

  • Making excuses for them
  • Blaming other people for your teen’s behaviour.
  • Believing your teen’s outlandish stories.
  • Bailing them out of trouble.

Instead of pushing your teen, it will be key to set and enforce appropriate boundaries and expectations (PULL Technique). Establish consequences for their behaviours as a way to punish substance use. Though it may be heartbreaking, you must allow the natural consequences of substance use, including financial problems, trouble with the law and relationship issues to motivate your teen toward change.

Along with the consequences of behaviours linked to substance use, you can reward your teen when they engage in healthy behaviours. If they spend time with positive friends or attend drug-free activities, find ways to praise and reinforce these actions, so they are more likely to continue.