How do I chasten my teenager for using drugs?
What do I do if I find my teenager is using drugs?
The use of drugs causes numerous problems for the parent as well as the child. Some of what I'm about to write will need to be modified for your particular situation and for the age of your teenager. For example, the options you have for a minor child are different from those available to you after your child has reached the age of emancipation or the age of legal adulthood.
First, understand that in the United States possession of illegal drugs is a crime. If the presence of drugs is discovered in your home and a case can be made that you knew about them, but then did nothing, it is possible for you to face charges.
Second, your response to the drug use will be depend on whether the child is willing to give them up in order to remain home. Addiction is a difficult thing to overcome. Many users think they can leave drug use behind any time they want, but they never get around to wanting to end their usage.
Third, every drug user I have worked with is a compulsive liar. It is the nature of the beast. Drug use is illegal, so a child must hide what he is doing. The result is he lies and the drugs reinforce the behavior. Soon it is more natural to the child to tell a lie than to tell the truth. I spend a good deal of time making former users face the truth, even after they have been freed from drugs for years. Though they technically know that lying is wrong, they automatically turn to it even when it is unnecessary.
Fourth, drug use modifies the way a drug user thinks. The length of the effect varies with the type of drug that was abused. However, expect that your child will not be clearly thinking for several months.
1) Once you are aware that you child has used drugs, you must take steps to protect your home. When the child is out of the house, such as at school. do a very thorough and complete search of your child's room and any other place your child might use to hide things. You cannot simply ask your child if they have additional drugs stashed away because you cannot be certain that you will get the full truth. If you are uncertain how to recognize drugs, go down to the local police station and talk to a juvenile officer. He should be able to inform you or direct you to a good local source. While there, find out what needs to be done to dispose of any substance that might be found.
Some parents are concerned about the privacy of their child's things. Privacy is a minor point when drugs are the issue. Read through any journals, mail, e-mail, etc. that they might have. Your child had to have gotten the drugs from somewhere and you need to cut off the source. Check the Caller ID on your phone and record the ones you are suspicious about.
2) Find out what drug or drugs your child used and read up on that drug. Find out what the effects of the drug are and how long the drug remains in the system after use. Learn what the symptoms are that denote usage.
3) Depending on the type of drug used, the length of time they were used, and your own abilities, you should look into have your child enrolled into a drug rehabilitation program. Not only will they help your child get through the withdrawal symptoms, but the good ones will also teach them and you about drugs and how to deal with the problems caused by drug usage.
4) If you find drugs in your child's room, drastic action is needed. Strip the room of everything, and I mean everything! Leave only the absolute bare minimum needed to live: a mattress and a minimal set of clothing. Remove all personal items from the walls and closets; remove all the furniture; and put everything into storage. Do this while the child is away so you have no arguments. What you are doing is removing all privileges and at the same time removing all potential hiding spots.
In addition, the child should have no private phones or pagers. You will be monitoring all their interactions with the outside world. If they have computer access, install a monitoring program so you can review everything they did while on the computer.
5) Enforce a rigorous schedule. Bedtime and wake-up times will be fixed. Your child will inform you at all times where they are at and you will have to verify during and afterwards that they kept their schedule. Plan on continuing this for at least one year.
6) Insist on absolute truth, even if it is painful. Double check everything that you are told. While you and I would like to think the best of a child, drug usage encourages lying and the only way to deal with lying is to make sure they can't get away with something by lying. Each instance of lying should be clearly explained and then promptly punished.
7) Have your child randomly screened for drug usage. Even if they are staying clean, you want them concerned that they never know when you might check again, and hence they will be more hesitant to use a drug.
You are in it for the long haul
Quite a number of drugs take months to get out of the body. You won't be able to reason with your child during that time. The steps above sound severe and hard on the parents, but they are necessary to get your child back on track. You have allowed a number of bad habits to develop. Not only must the bad habits be stopped, but you must also instill good habits to replace the bad. Yet habits don't stick unless they are enforced for a long period of time.
Your child will react very emotionally. You will be called every bad name in the book. He will fly into rages and try to leave. Depending on his age, you can either let him leave to take his lumps, or you need to report him to the police. Most states have laws for dealing with incorrigible youth. You, as a parent, have to stiffen your backbone and turn off your emotions. Do not compromise. You have a very serious problem and weeping or giving in will just further promote the misbehavior. Unless you are prepared to turn your child over to the law if they will not obey the rules of the house, you may not succeed. Your child must understand that you are serious and mean to follow through on what you say.
As progress is clearly made, you can return privileges -- one or two at a time. Match each returned privilege with an added responsibility. It might be something as little as being allowed to put a poster on his wall, being able to go to a friends house, or to watch a movie once a week. The responsibilities might be an added chore, an agreement to put so many hours per week in on homework, or to get and hold a part-time job. Be prepared to remove the privilege if the responsibility is not kept.
Don't ever think that you have won. Drugs modify the desires of the body. Once a person is addicted, they remain addicted. There is no such thing as trying a drug just one more time. You will need to be constantly on watch so long as the child remains in your house.
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