5 Behavioral Signs that Your Teen is Using Drugs (Pt.2)

Missing money. Late night sneak outs. Sports practices skipped. A sudden and drastic change of wardrobe that your teen insists on wearing every single day.

These odd behaviors suggest something big is going on with your teen, some new event, struggle, or presence that is instigating these activities. While typical teenage development and dilemmas may explain your teen’s behavior, these actions might also be the cause of a more serious issue such as depression, bullying, or drug or alcohol use.

Substance use often manifests itself in behavioral signs, which are unfortunately often missed because teenagers naturally undergo so many other emotional, physical, and social transformations during adolescence. Discerning new behaviors that are spurred on by drug abuse from those that are natural can be difficult, but it is possible when you trust your instincts and know what behaviors to look for. Our previous article covered apathy and disinterest toward hobbies and responsibilities, the mysterious absence or presence of money, matters regarding clothing and appearance, and issues at school as possible signs of use, but there are a few more behaviors to monitor.

In particular, pay attention to changes in behavior that are radically different from your teen previously, appear very suddenly, and seem to have no valid explanation otherwise (based on your child’s answers when you ask her about it and your own observations/knowledge). The starker the contrast of your child’s behavior then versus now, the more likely something significant (potentially drugs or alcohol use) is going on behind the scenes.

These warning signs should always be of concern, whether due to drugs or something else. You owe it to your teen’s well-being to find out what that something else is.

#4) Up All Night, Sleep All Day

We all know teens like to sleep and, biologically, their growing bodies require more sleep than adults. In addition, their natural internal clocks are adjusted differently, hence why youths are prone to staying up later and sleeping in longer. So don’t be alarmed just because your teen plays video games deep into the night, and you seemingly need a blow horn to wake him up in the morning.

That said, pay attention to his usual sleep patterns, noting stark changes. Suddenly sleeping all the time or not at all, erratic sleep, or unexpected shifts in when your teen sleeps can all be a physical side effect of substance use. They could also be an indirect consequence of your teen’s changing schedule and habits due to doing drugs.

All teens, even the most unmotivated of them, have some sort of usual routine or schedule they generally stick to made up of their job, homework time, practices, chores, when they typically eat meals, maybe a TV show they like to watch that comes on at a certain time, etc. At the very least, they have school most of the year. You probably know the general flow of your child’s day and when he’ll be where.

However, drug use may lead your teen to drop or ditch his responsibilities and former hobbies, hang around new people who are up to no good, and frequently attend parties or other opportunities for risky behavior. His once-usual schedule will alter as a result. He might leave the house very early in the morning though he is not required to by school or other obligation or stay out increasingly late—perhaps all night—and do so consistently.

If your teen does not already have a curfew, set one. If he does, make sure you take it seriously. Be reasonable in the time you set but create and follow through on consequences should your teen break it.

Eventually, if your child displays sufficient trust and communication skills you can be lenient with the curfew from time to time, but start out enforcing it firmly, and even if you let your teen stay out later on special occasion, uphold the curfew most nights. Teenagers are much less likely to respect and follow a rule if you yourself treat it more like a mere suggestion.

Be wary of your child insisting on going out all the time, especially at unusual hours or on school nights. Furthermore, what is his reaction if you do not let him go? Is he surprisingly or uncharacteristically upset or angry, even when you have a very valid reason for saying no?

Finally, there’s sneaking out.

There are a multitude of reasons why your teen might secretly leave the house (typically at night) without informing you:

  • To rebel against overly-strict rules (or at least what she believes to be so)
  • To get an adrenaline rush from the act of sneaking out itself
  • To go to some place or engage in some activity she knows you disapprove of. This could include vandalism or pulling pranks around the neighborhood, going to a party, meeting up with a significant other or a banned friend, drinking, smoking, using drugs, etc. Basically, if your teen resorts to covertly leaving in the middle of the night to do something, it’s likely not a good or safe activity.

No matter the exact reason for it, sneaking out, like not coming home all night, is always a sign of accelerated risky behavior. It demonstrates a willingness to hide things from you and break rules to serve her own agenda, attitudes and actions similarly employed in dangerous activities like substance use.

Even if your teen leaves to do something harmless, such as simply take a walk or stargaze, sneaking out can be dangerous. Depending on the area you live, it might night be safe for a young person to be out at night, particularly if she is alone. Even in a perfectly safe neighborhood, if your teen were to get hurt or into trouble you wouldn’t know about it and might be difficult to reach if you are asleep.

#5) Dirty Little Secrets and Big Fat Lies

Secrets and lies, lies and secrets. The two go hand in hand, and if your teen is doing drugs under your nose, they are sure to follow.

These final two behaviors, by their very definition, can be tough to spot but are perhaps the most frequent behavioral patterns of teen drug use. Lying and keeping secrets commonly pervade through all of the other behavior signs on this list, serving as a way to cover up or diffuse suspicion about teens’ new actions and activities.

Sneaking out, refusing to inform you about their plans, hiding failing report cards, stealing money, dressing in a way to conceal physical side effects, owning disguised drug paraphernalia, and more are all deceptive methods teenagers employ to keep their substance use, as well the consequences of such, a secret. In addition, if your child abuses drugs he may be incredibly guarded about his friends, possessions, whereabouts, plans, and activities. He never openly discusses anything about them with you, and your questions usually elicit responses such as “butt out” or “it’s none of your business.” Your teen might claim his room is “off limits” and freak out if you so much as enter to put a pile of laundry on his bed.

Don’t confuse an increased—but perfectly normal for a developing young adult—desire for privacy with nefarious secrecy. Just because your teen requests that you knock before going into his room does not mean he is using that extra time to hide his stash.

Rather, notice when your teen seems to actively or blatantly go out of his way to avoid sharing something with you or becomes strikingly alarmed when you see or learn about something you weren’t supposed to. Why does he have that reaction? If the situation doesn’t immediately make sense on why it was kept secret, perhaps you don’t have all the pieces yet. Press your child for answers.

If keeping secrets is one side of a coin, lying is the other.

Teenagers doing drugs will often become frequent, almost chronic liars, because the continuation of their substance-using habits largely depends on parents not knowing about it. They will give misinformation about where they are going or have been, who they were with, what they were doing, the reasons for their actions, and everything in between. When you confront your teen about other potentially troubling behaviors—why she suddenly lost interest in softball or, out-of-nowhere, completely changed her style of clothes, for example—she fails to answer honestly, instead giving the responses she knows will keep her out of trouble.

But how are you supposed to discern truth from fiction?

Some parents might luck out and have a terrible liar for a child or simply have an uncanny ability to tell when their teen lies. For everyone else, be observant, trust your gut instincts, and take steps to learn the truth for yourself.

Even if your teen is scarily good at lying, as she lies more and more, constantly maintaining a web of lies will become incredibly difficult. At some point she’s bound to slip up. Her stories may conflict with one another or not add up. She might initially cover the truth with one lie but later forget what she said and say a new one. Keep your eyes open and take notice when these clues appear.

Oppositely, perhaps none of these indicators occur. You never catch your child in a lie and have no actual evidence of deception. Yet…something just doesn’t sit right.

Don’t dismiss that feeling as mere paranoia. Parental instinct is a powerful thing, and while you shouldn’t punish your teen without any proof, having that reaction is a sign you should have a serious discussion with your child about drugs and alcohol and consider adopting more elaborate methods to see if there are lying and secrets going on.

Follow up on whatever plans your teen told you he has. For instance, drive by the restaurant he said he was going to see if you can spot him and his buddies through the window or find his car in the parking lot. Call the parents of the friend whose house your child is staying the night at to confirm it is truly happening.

Consider searching you teen’s backpack, purse, room, and car for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes/tobacco products, and related paraphernalia. Keep in mind that drug users often conceal these items in everyday normal-looking objects. Look through soda cans, mint boxes, makeup containers, belts, bottles/thermoses, books, old toys, and even markers/highlighters, double-checking for false bottoms and secret compartments that might store substances.

You—and certainly your teen if he knows about your search—might feel this is an invasion of privacy, a line you shouldn’t cross, but your cannot think this way. Your foremost jobs as a parent are to protect your child’s well-being and guide them to become a healthy, responsible, well-adjusted adult. Drug use critically threatens these goals. If you have just cause for a search—you’ve noticed other signs of drug use or have an overwhelming instinct that your teen is lying to you—then you have a duty to perform it.

Finally, throughout everything, always encourage and reward honesty. Once teenagers start using drugs, lying, and keeping secrets, it can be difficult for them to stop even when they want to. They continue down a dark path because they are too afraid of how you’ll react when you learn what they’ve done, leading them to further hide the truth.

To combat this, assure your teen you care more about him and his safety than punishing him, and that it is alright if he made mistakes if he’s willing to tell the truth and ask for help now. Give frequent opportunities for your child to come clean and go easier on him than if you learned what he did on your own.

Your teen will change a lot as she develops into an adult and might display some odd behaviors along the way. Remember not every new, strange habit or weird action means your child has some major issue happening behind the scenes.

More than likely it’s just her growing up and figuring out who she is, but pay attention all the same. If you notice extreme examples of these behaviors or multiple signs occurring together, however, then there might be an issue, and it’s time to intervene and put an end to your teen’s drug use.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

If you learn (or highly suspect) that your teen is using drugs or alcohol, read our tips on how to effectively intervene or click here for our first three behavioral signs that your teen is using drugs.

Pictures From

Group of Teenagers: From chiesADlbeinasco at https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiesadibeinasco/7361636130 

Paranoid Man: From Aaron Tait at https://www.flickr.com/photos/aarontait/4838674414

Funny Face: From Raissa Ruschel at https://www.flickr.com/photos/raruschel/5532915729

Sleeping Teen: From MC Quinn at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcquinn/2302823476

Jazz Band Practice: From San Jose Public Library at https://www.flickr.com/photos/sanjoselibrary/5731028595 

Checking Watch: From MrTime2give at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrtime2give/8064364626 

Climbing Out Window: From Guyinsuit1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Beer Pong: From Jirka Matousek at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jirka_matousek/9125052180

Lonely Walk at Night: From Christopher Cook at https://www.flickr.com/photos/133517056@N05/19934690626

Teen in Hoodie: From vanes_hud at https://www.flickr.com/photos/svenjajan/3128894157 

Do Not Enter: From Emma Craig at https://www.flickr.com/photos/98925031@N08/9571827657

Pinnochio: From  Walt Disney (Original trailer (1940)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nervous Girl: From Maxwell GS on Flickr [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Lion and Cub: From fortherock at https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortherock/3898643410

Cigarettes Hidden in Book: From High Contrast (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Messy Room: From Ben Babcock at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tachyondecay/2067319449/in/photostream/

Conversation at Table: From Matt @ PEK from Taipei, Taiwan (Conversation) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

5 Behavioral Signs that Your Teen is Using Drugs (Pt.1)

We all know drugs can have tremendous, detrimental effects on a person mentally, physically, and emotionally, especially teens and young adults whose brains are still developing. You never want your child to start abusing drugs or alcohol, but, should he start, you would hope to pick on it as soon as possible in order to step in and prevent future use.

Unfortunately, recognizing teen drug abuse isn’t always easy. Obviously, your child will do his best to hide his actions from you, and it can be difficult to spot signs of use if you don’t know what to look for.

In addition to differences in your teen’s personality or attitude, hearing frequent use of drug slang, and finding paraphernalia or other physical evidence, changes in behavior can be one of the most prominent indicators that your child has started doing drugs. This article will address six of the most prevalent behavioral signs, examples of these behaviors, and how to approach your teen about them.

#1) …Meh, I Don’t Care

By the time your child is a teenager, she has likely developed a personally unique combination of interests, hobbies, and passions. Basketball, cooking, comic books, running, art, skateboarding, underwater basket weaving, and everything in between—whatever it is she enjoys and is enthusiastic about is a big part of what makes her who she is. As are your teen’s friends and with whom she spends her time.

Drug use can change all that.

For many teenagers who abuse substances, drug use doesn’t become merely another “hobby” in their lives; it’s the hobby. Everything else tends to fall by the wayside.

Teens may lose interest in some or all of their favorite activities and passions, hollowly going through the motions, generally becoming lethargic toward doing them, or stopping altogether. They might abruptly quit the sports team after working so hard to make the squad or unexpectedly dump friends they’ve known for years and find new, unexpected people to hang out with. Even their appetites may change; your teen might become indifferent to foods she once loved, significantly eat less at all, or have sudden sessions of intense snacking (aka “the munchies”).

While it’s true teens’ interests and relationships often change naturally over time, a sudden disinterest in a hobby or apathy toward all or nearly all of his interests suggest something more is going on, which you should investigate. Ask why your teen stopped or appears to no longer care about a certain activity. Do her answers seem both reasonable and genuine?

Also look at how your teen approaches responsibilities such as his chores, job, and schoolwork. Is he all of a sudden neglecting these duties or is there a dramatic drop in his performance of them?

If your child is using drugs, he may seem to have absolutely no motivation to fulfill his obligations or routinely avoid them. Perhaps he gets fired from work for constantly showing up late or his grades unexpectedly plummet.

The starker the contrast between your kid’s former self and his actions now, the more worrisome this current behavior should be. If your teen has, since childhood, never been quick to embrace school and other responsibilities, his present lack of enthusiasm may not immediately suggest substance abuse (though it is an issue on its own). With teenagers who used to be honor roll students always on top of everything but now push off their chores and bring home failing report cards, however, clearly something is going on behind the scenes that is instigating this change. Substance use is a definite possibility.

Speaking of grades and report cards, discipline problems at school can also be a warning sign. Teachers and other school officials may see a whole other side of your teen and catch behavior that you either miss or your child does not display when around you.

Habitually ditching class, fighting, frequent detention, and suspension are all severe issues that are cause for concern and might be a consequence of drug abuse. They may additionally signify a disrespect for authority and rules, which could escalate to trouble with the law in the future.

If your child is getting in trouble at school, seek out a meeting with his teacher, counselor, or whoever else is close to the situation and can give you insight into what is going on. They can help identify the root cause of your teen’s behavior issues and develop a dual strategy—you at home and them at school—to mitigate or resolve the conflict.

Counselors are also an excellent resource and should be one of the first people you turn to if indeed your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol.

#2) Showers, Shirts, and Shades

This disinterest and neglect of hobbies and responsibilities can additionally spread to some of the most basic duties like personal hygiene and grooming. Beyond the visible, physical effects substance use can have on somebody, your teen’s general appearance might suffer as she showers, brushes her teeth, wears deodorant, and combs her hair less and less, perhaps even entirely. She might not care about her clothes at all, letting them get gross and dirty, or wear the same items day after day after day.

Sure, there are those teenagers going for an ironic “just rolled out of bed” look, limit their showering after embracing some water conservation movement, or just generally grow lazier as they get older, but any excessive, gross decline in taking care of these basic needs could be a sign of trouble.

This is especially true of any teen that formerly took great pride in her appearance and always kept up on hygiene. In other words, the more time it took your child to get ready in the morning before, the more a warning bell should go off when she doesn’t care at all now.

In regard specifically to clothing, the opposite of not caring—being very particular about certain articles and fashions—can also be a potential warning sign. Be on the lookout for your teen wearing the same colors, numbers, logos, or accessories every day and if his friends all have the exact same, specific style. Either of these trends could indicate gang involvement, which usually goes hand in hand with substance use, violence, and trouble with the law.

Even if neither of these signs occur, pay attention to how your teen dresses. What people choose to wear is often a big insight into who they are or their current beliefs and state of mind. A sudden and dramatic change in your teen’s style can be a big clue about changes in his life. Whether that change is ­­­­­­­simply a desire to try out new fashion, a personal crisis, experimenting with substance use, or anything in between, it is your job to take notice and find out what exactly the catalyst for change is.

Finally, be aware of clothing and accessories that celebrate drug culture or may be used to conceal the physical effects of substance abuse. Teens using drugs may frequently wear sunglasses, even at night or indoors, to hide their red, bloodshot, or dilated eyes, or dress in big sweatshirts or jackets, regardless of how warm the weather is, to cover up scabs and needle marks on their arms.

#3) It’s All about the Benjamins

Follow the money.

As any journalist investigating a scandal or detective solving a crime would tell you, money is almost always a key factor to pay attention to.

In the case of your teen possibly using drugs, the mysterious absence of money can be cause for concern.

Let’s say your teen has a job. You know she doesn’t spend much on gas or food or anything, yet she always complains she’s broke and constantly asks for money. It is possible she’s spending her money on something else she keeps secret from you.

Asking for money in itself is not necessarily a warning sign, especially if your child doesn’t have a job or allowance, as kids tastes in what to do for fun generally grow more expensive as they become teenagers. However, being unable to explain what she did with money you gave her is.

In addition, pay attention to how your teen reacts whenever you decline her request for cash or the amount she wanted. Is she shockingly and unreasonably angry (beyond typical hormonal teenage standards), clearly desperate for the money?

Whether your teen just reacted adversely to you refusing her money or not, it is always a troubling sign when your own money is unaccounted for. Lost cash, missing credit cards, perhaps even a mysteriously emptied, once-full coin jar—if these occur with any sort of frequency, it might suggest that your teen is taking them from you.

Stealing is never okay and a deeply troubling action that in itself, regardless of the reason behind it, is wrong and must be addressed. While your teen may have wanted the cash simply for a movie ticket or dinner, there is also a good chance that he took the money to buy drugs, alcohol, or some other illegal or dangerous item or service. Moreover, if your child is willing to cross the line and steal from you, he potentially is willing to cross other lines and engage in other activities he knows are wrong and disallowed.

Pay attention to how much money your teen has and where it comes from. Even if he is not stealing money from you, the mysterious presence of money can also be a warning signal.

Does he have a lot of unexplained cash around? Is your teen suddenly able to make numerous expensive purchases (such as all those clothes for his dramatic change in style)? This should be especially worrying if your teen does not have a job or does not work, make, or save enough to explain how he can afford them.

These may be signals that your child is not only using drugs but dealing them as well.

If your teen displays any of the aforementioned behaviors, don’t immediately panic. There are numerous reasons besides substance use that can propel these actions, from other serious concerns such as bullying or depression to simply naturally growing up. Your child is going to change as she transitions into a teenager and, later, adult, and her behaviors, choices, and interests will likely transform as well. It can be tough, knowing exactly what is causing what.

If a change strikes you as particularly odd, abrupt, or unnatural, start by talking to your teen about it. Embrace this opportunity for communication, honesty, and understanding instead of instantly jumping to conclusions.

At the same time, trust your instincts about certain behaviors and whether your child is telling the truth in her explanations. If things still don’t feel right, if her answers don’t add up or she continually avoids your questions, your teen is probably hiding something.

Keep track of her behavioral changes, as well as other possible signs of teen drug use. And should you learn of highly suspect your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, see our tips on how to best intervene.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 covering two more behaviors that might indicate your teen is using drugs or alcohol.

Pictures From

Concerned Woman: From Conor Lawless at https://www.flickr.com/photos/conchur/419990808

Cooking: From Seattle Parks at https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattleparks/5632134823

Bored Face: From https://pixabay.com/p-146915/?no_redirect

Dirty Dishes: From User:Mysid (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Studying: From Haque, Abul, Photographer (NARA record: 8467822) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Classroom: From ajari from Japan [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Women in Meeting: From https://www.pexels.com/photo/businesswomen-businesswoman-interview-meeting-70292/

Crazy Hair: From Joshua Rothhaas as https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshuarothhaas/2251211039/in/photostream/

Men All Dressed the Same: From Unitedgangsespañol (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Weed Shirts: From m01229 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/20988976518

Out Turned Pockets: From https://pixabay.com/p-1439412/?no_redirect

Money in Wallet: From 401(K) 2012 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/6722544475

Pile of Money: From Tracy O at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tracy_olson/61056391

Drug Deal: From Kelvyn Skee at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kelvynskee/5027288100

Thinking Woman: From http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=19972&picture=thinking-woman

New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones) Pt.2

Chances are your teen’s friends are pretty important to them (Understatement of the year?).

As kids grow into teenagers, friendships become increasingly vital, and all they to want to do is hang out with their buddies. Not to mention, the more they spend time with their friends, the less they seem to want to do so with you.

It can be tough as a parent to let go. It can be even tougher when you think about the tremendous impact these peers have on your kid’s attitudes, behavior, and beliefs.

Are they a kind-hearted group of pals? Do they respect adults and have good values? Will they encourage my teen to drink or take drugs? How can I make sure my child makes good choices when she is with her friends?

There are several key strategies to implement to best monitor and interact with your teen’s friendships. In our previous article, we discussed the importance of early steps like personally getting to know friends, exchanging phone numbers with both friends and their parents, and helping friends in times of need even when your child is not directly involved.

While these tips will all help build a successful bond with these pals—thereby strengthening your relationship with your teen as well—and help avert potentially dangerous situations, there is more you can do to keep your teen safe, having fun, and out of trouble.

Even if that means keeping her safe from certain “friends” and their influence.

As your teen starts spending more and more time out of the house with her friends, it is important to maintain a balance between overseeing safety and allowing autonomy. Until circumstances require otherwise, find that effective middle ground between overbearingly cautious and ignorantly laissez-faire.

Always be aware of your kid’s general plans when she is out—where she’ll be, what time she’ll be home. Know who she’s with, especially if it includes new friends who you have not been well acquainted with yet.

As we’ve recommended before, a great strategy to promote good behavior in teens is to give them the opportunity to gain a little bit more freedom by demonstrating responsibility. One approach is to allow your teen to alter his plans while he is out so long as he calls or texts to notify you first. For example, perhaps he and his group suddenly decide to go roller skating after their initial dinner plans, which will keep him out later than he originally thought.

Ultimately, it is your decision and you can always say no—simply telling you what’s going on doesn’t give your teen unbridled free reign—but generally permit these new plans. For most teenagers, if you show that you trust and respect them, they’ll be significantly more likely to want to uphold that trust by making good choices.

[The Edge of Seventeen Mom Texting Daughter clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsLO7CHInXM&t=24s]

Should your teen demonstrate that she can’t handle this freedom or takes advantage of it, explain to her that she is not ready and revert to a more rigid system. Similarly, if you have suspicions that your teen is not is telling the truth about her plans but don’t have concrete evidence or are wary of a certain friend that was mentioned, go check out the scene for yourself.

Did your teen say she’s spending the night at a friend’s house? Drive by on your own to see if her car is there. Is she going with a group to the movies? You might as well catch a flick at a similar time and check if you see them in the lobby.

This isn’t the time to bust out your spy moves or wear a disguise. Don’t suddenly jump behind a bush to avoid being seen or pretend you totally forgot she and her friends were planning to be there if they come to talk to you.

Be casual. Act like—or better yet, actually have—errands or other business in the area and are not purely there to check up on them. Teenagers will not respond well if you seem like you do not trust them, especially when you claimed to trust them previously.

What about those friends of your teen that you just don’t care for (whether you simply aren’t fond of their personalities or are legitimately worried about their influence on your child)? How should you handle those cases?

First, still behave toward these friends in person the same as you would any other. Treat them kindly and talk to them when you have a chance. Even if they are your complete opposite and you cannot fathom what your teen sees in them, try to find just one thing you have in common.

Be extremely careful in openly criticizing friends or labeling them a “bad kid,” which can be one of the quickest ways to infuriate your teen. And never outright say you don’t like one of them.

Many teenagers are very protective of their friends, and an attack on a buddy is viewed as an attack on themselves. Not only that, but your teen will likely interpret your comments as a condemnation of his social skills, of his judge of character and ability to distinguish and attract quality people. Conversely, it might cause him to doubt you and think you unfairly judgmental.

However, there may be kids who are legitimately negative influences upon your child’s life, and it would be best if your teen spent less time with these individuals. They might encourage illegal and/or unsafe behavior, or perhaps they emotionally harm your teen, taking advantage of him or lowering his self-esteem. You can’t stand idly by but must manage the situation deftly so that you do not alienate your teen in the process.

First of all, banning a friendship or forbidding your teen from seeing his pal(s) is risky and should only be considered in circumstances that truly endanger the physical safety or emotional well-being of your child. More than likely, this action will infuriate your kid and cause him to seek out these friends more often due to rebellious spite or fear of losing them.

Instead, adopt the following strategies, which together should limit or cease a bad friend’s power over your child. The first is to focus on your teen and her behavior, regardless of a friend’s involvement.

Talk to her about her actions that you disapprove of and clearly establish and enact consequences when your expectations are not met. Eventually—perhaps subconsciously—an equation will take root in her head:

This negative reinforcement will lead her to spend less time with that friend or greatly alter her behavior when with him.

The second approach more directly addresses an unfavorable friend but still without “attacking” him in the eyes of your teen. More so, the goal is to have your kid conclude on her own that said person is not a good presence in her life.

Have a conversation with your teen about friendship, asking her what she thinks makes someone a good and bad friend. Share your own opinions on these categories as well. She’ll likely reference her own experience regarding the matter, but if not, ask your kid what friends of hers exemplify these qualities.

Do certain buddies consistently live up to her and/or your characterization of a good friend? Are there those who do not meet these expectations and do or say things that place them on the negative side?

Your teen may come to some startling revelations about a friend or two when she takes the time to truly think about it, especially if those pals fail her personal definition of a good friend.

When you do need to discuss a particular friend, subtly reveal your concerns while figuring out how your teen feels about that individual. Acknowledge that you might not know the whole story.

Ask what your kid sees in a certain pal about whom you are skeptical. Say something along the lines of, “Hey, it seems like Chris gets in trouble a lot and sometimes bosses you around. Help me understand: What do you see in him?”

Maybe you’ll learn about a side of Chris not obvious when he’s in your company, or that he is currently going through a family crisis or other issue which is affecting his behavior.

Conversely, your teen might struggle to come up with an answer or only respond with something incredibly minimal like “he’s funny.” In the latter case, press on: “Okay, that’s great, but is there more to it than that? Is he _____ (kind, trustworthy, does he always have your back, etc.—whatever important quality you want to address)?”

Don’t force your teen to give up that friend immediately or keep pushing him if he’s clearly getting frustrated with your questioning. What’s important is simply planting that little seed of concern.

It might not mean much right away, but even if teenagers won’t admit it or realize it themselves, their parents’ opinions matter a great deal, and your periodic comments will get your teen thinking. He will likely start noticing the aspects of his friend you addressed even though he never had before:

“Huh, Mom was right; Paul really doesn’t seem to value my opinion,” or Wow, I do end up in situations I’m uncomfortable in a lot when I hang with Sarah.”

With time and subtle encouragement, your teen will start to limit his time with that friend or gradually phase her out altogether.

At the end of the day, you must also remember that many friends will not easily be summed up as the perfect “good friend” who never gets in trouble or fights with your teen or as the trouble-making bully of a “bad friend” that needs to go. Teens are teens, people are people, and most will fall in the grey area in between.

Friends sometimes argue and hurt each other’s feelings. Good-hearted kids make mistakes and sometimes drink. It doesn’t mean they are automatically a horrendous presence in your teen’s life that must be removed.

Approach each incident individually at first but notice trends. Give second chances but trust your instincts. You’ll know in your gut when a friend is a little rough around the edges but alright at heart versus a truly negative influence.

Finally, remind your kid that her true friends will respect her choices and stand by her side even if they are different from their own, and she does not need to choose between drinking and having a social life. Teach your teen the skills to resist peer pressure and how to handle herself in a situation where drinking, drug use, or other risky behaviors are present.

Be available, be compassionate, be concerned and adamant when you need to be.

Be a confidant, be a source of guidance, be a parent.

It’s not always easy but if you keep this all in mind and your eyes open, you can navigate through the fascinating world of teenage friendships.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 1 of “New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones)”

Pictures From

Friends Walking Away: From Skinny Casual Lover at https://www.flickr.com/photos/136920307@N06/28884337216

Smoking Woman: From Valentin Ottone at https://www.flickr.com/photos/saneboy/3050003040

Teen Texting: From Carissa Rogers at https://www.flickr.com/photos/goodncrazy/8466275231

Driving in Car: From Timo Newton-Syms at https://www.flickr.com/photos/timo_w2s/305245555

Disguised Dad: From Jeff Turner at https://www.flickr.com/photos/respres/2468996828

Smoking Teen Boy: From https://pixabay.com/p-484090/?no_redirect

Thought Bubble: Original image from https://pixabay.com/p-305444/?no_redirect. Text added by author.

Group of Friends: From David Amsler, www.flickr.com/photos/amslerpix

Teen Boy Sitting Outside: From https://pixabay.com/p-1098665/?no_redirect

Teen Girl Thinking: From Petr Kratochvil [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Line of Friends: From Vaibhav Sharan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/vibhu000/7279793602) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Friends Looking Up: From hepingting (CB106492) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones) Pt.1

Friends.

Pals. Buddies. Companions. Amigos. Besties and BFFs.

Whatever you call them, friends are one of the most important aspects of many people’s lives. They’re a source of fun, trust, and support, people to talk and listen to, and who can tremendously shape our beliefs, interests, and behaviors.

This is especially true for teenagers.

Teens are still developing mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially, still figuring out the world and their place in it. While parents typically remain the primary influence on their kid, the time adolescents spend with peers and the value they place in them grow substantially during the teenage years (who else are they going to send a texting rant to upon storming out of the room, after all?).

Because of the significant role friends play in teens’ lives, parents should always pay attention to with whom their child spends her time.

For although good behavior and attitudes can spread through a peer group, so too can unsafe or unhealthy actions like underage drinking, drug use, and more. Whole friend groups may turn to risky behaviors together as they get older, or these activities may be introduced by one or more individuals to the rest of the group that previously had no inclination toward them.

Sudden changes in friendships, in particular, might suggest substance abuse. Just as getting involved with alcohol or drugs often causes teens to lose interest in their hobbies, school, work, and family, they might also unexpectedly stop hanging out with their usual friends.

At the same time, teens may suddenly start hanging out with new people who share the same substance-using interests. These new friends might seem out-of-character for your teen to bond with and don’t seem to have much in common with your child otherwise.

Of course, we are dealing with teenagers here. Friendships do change, evolve, and sometimes end, with new relationships waiting to blossom right around the corner—especially in the teenage world of hormones and high school drama.

There are a thousand reasons why your teen might end a friendship or start a new one, and substance use is only one of them. Don’t automatically assume your teen is snorting coke just because she no longer rides bikes with Susie from 6th grade.

Instead, simply keep an eye on your teen’s friendships while looking out for other personality, behavior, or physical developments that signal possible drug use. Only when enough of these signs couple together should you seriously investigate the problem further and intervene if alcohol or drug use is occurring.

This article will cover how to best interact with your teen’s friends and approach and monitor his relationships, both new and old.

The first strategy is also the most obvious: Know who your kid’s friends are!

Ask your teen who he hangs out with. What are their names, what are they like? How did he meet them?

Then, at the first available opportunity you see these friends in real life, go over and introduce yourself. Shake hands. Even if it’s a pal your teen has had for a long time, whom you’ve kind of-sort of seen around the house for years but never formally met, make the next time you see her finally be that day.

Even better, take some time to talk to them. Figure out for yourself what the people who play such an important role in your teen’s life are like. Are they polite? Shy? Outgoing? Are they open to meeting and talking with you or counting down the seconds until you go away?

From that initial introduction on, try to chit chat for at least a little bit each time you see them. Ask about their hobbies, how school is going, if they have any fun vacations planned with their families—anything really, whatever topics that genuinely intrigue you, and help you get to know them as a person (this may also inform you more on what your teen is like, as friends often share interests and personality traits).

Over time, you’ll build your own sense of connection or relationship with each friend.

Try to be the parent your teen’s friends want to talk to. You hope your own child enjoys conversing with you and will seek you out for guidance, right? If you can act as this same source of help and advice for his buddies, that’s all the better.

Maybe they don’t have a strong relationship with their parents or another trusted adult in their lives that they can open up to or ask for help when they are embarrassed or afraid of getting in trouble. You can be that vital resource.

Offer to listen to thoughts, stories, and problems. Respond with understanding and honesty. Give advice if they seek it but also know that sometimes teenagers just need somebody to listen when they express themselves.

It is also a good idea early on to exchange phone numbers with your teen’s friends. That way you can still reach your kid despite her rushing out the door to meet a buddy, her phone down to 2% and dwindling fast. If ever for some reason your teen doesn’t or can’t respond to your calls or texts, you still have a way to make sure she is safe by communicating with her friends.

On the flip side, swapping contact information gives your teen and her friends another means to contact you. Perhaps your teen needs to update you on her plans while she is out, but her phone died, and she doesn’t know your number by heart (she should, of course, but when’s the last time a teenager memorized a number after plugging it into her contacts?). Now, however, because her friend also has your number, she can easily reach you.

In case of more dire situations, exchanging contact numbers is increasingly important. Say your teen binge drinks at a party and exhibits signs of possible alcohol poisoning, worrying his friends. Yet your teen refuses to call you for help or give up his phone for others to do so. Luckily, his buddies don’t need his phone to call you for help and explain what is going on (upon which you should tell them to call 911).

Friends might also reach out to you in situations that don’t even involve your teen, yet they require your help. One example is if a friend becomes intoxicated while out and cannot drive home. He thankfully recognizes that he should not get behind the wheel but is too scared or embarrassed to call his parents. Since you are a responsible adult he trusts (because you took the time to get to know him and build a relationship), he calls you for a ride.

Or perhaps he isn’t drunk but simply at a party or other environment he feels uncomfortable without a safe way to leave. In any case, you are able to remove the teen from a potentially dangerous situation, which could have jeopardized his safety or the safety of others. Even though your child might not be a part of the situation at all, helping your teen’s friend is the right, moral thing to do, and you should be proud that he admires you enough to reach out.

When you pick up your teen’s pal, you might feel angry and want to scold him, just as if it was your own kid. However, remember and implement our previous tips on picking up an inebriated teenager: Acknowledge you are grateful he asked for help and save the lecture or yelling. Your job is simply to get him home.

Remember that being the trusted, possibly even “cool” parent does not mean you are bound to secrecy regarding the situation. You are still an adult, after all, and must inform the friend’s parents of what happened. The friend might not have originally called his parents, but they need to know.

Certainly, you’ll have that chance when you knock on their door late at night carrying their drunken teen. If, however, you had to bring him to your home to stay with your teen for some reason—perhaps the parents are out of town—make sure to call them as soon as possible to let them know their child is safe and with you.

Give all the details you know about the situation and remind the parents that their kid made the smart choice of calling for help and that it is probably best to hold off on talking to their teen until he is sober.

Unsure of where your kid’s friend lives? Don’t know his parent’s phone numbers?

Of course, if the friend is coherent enough you can get this information from him, but he might not be if he is drunk or high.

And, sure, your teen may have swapped numbers with his folks (especially if they also read this article!), but maybe not. Or maybe your teen is at her grandparents’ house, which doesn’t receive much phone service, or is otherwise unreachable.

That’s why, with both your teen’s old pals and new, try to build some connection (or at least facial recognition) with her friend’s parents—ideally, before the friend is passed out in your passenger seat.

Just as you should meet your kid’s buddies, so too should you introduce yourself to parents at the first opportunity. Swap phone numbers. Small talk if there’s time.

Admittedly, a face to face meeting might be a tad difficult to come by once teenagers get their licenses and start driving themselves places, but try your best.

Perhaps make an excuse to drop off your teen at a friend’s house instead of her driving on her own one day. Or you can always take the direct approach and simply ask to meet a friend’s parents or invite the family over to dinner.

Getting to know friends’ parents will better keep teens of both families safe and show you even more what your teen’s pals are like. You might even make some friends yourself.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 where we will discuss interacting with friends you don’t like, ways to encourage your teen to end/limit a caustic friendship, knowing and checking up on your teen’s plans with friends, and more. 

Pictures From

Group of Girls: From db Photography | Demi-Brooke at https://www.flickr.com/photos/demibrooke/2577242406

Women Drinking: From https://pixabay.com/p-1173651/?no_redirect

Girls Smoking Pot in the Woods: From St. Gil, Marc, 1924-1992, Photographer (NARA record: 8464473) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shaking Hands: From Lucas (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Teen and Man Shake Hands: From https://pixabay.com/en/men-shaking-hands-hands-shaking-950915/

Woman and Teen Talk Outside: By John Benson at www.flickr.com/photos/j_benson

Exchanging Numbers with Teen: From Dave Proffer at https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepphoto/3939213937

Passed Out Woman: From Newtown Graffiti at https://www.flickr.com/photos/newtown_grafitti/7982820624

Talking on the Phone: From https://pixabay.com/p-1582238/?no_redirect

Getting into Car: From Lou at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfm49/1015256548

Women Talking: From https://pixabay.com/en/women-beautiful-talking-2079133/

Looking at a Map: From Victor at https://www.flickr.com/photos/v1ctor/4753184912

Adult Female Friends: From Lori at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolololori/2581438627

 

I Think My Teen is Using Drugs: 6 Essential Tips on How to Intervene (Pt.2)

Knowing how to effectively intervene when you learn that your teen is using drugs and/or alcohol is vital for getting her back on the right track. The process can be an emotional roller coaster that tests the strength of you, your teen, and your relationship, but ultimately your actions will better ensure the health and safety of your child.

You’ve already acknowledged there is a problem and are seeking measures to address it. For some parents, this is the hardest step. You should be proud of that.

But there is more that needs to be done.

In our first article, we covered the absolute necessity that you don’t ignore the situation, taking time to prepare before you intervene, and what to say and do while you have a serious conversation with your teen. The following three tips will address establishing a plan moving forward after your initial discussion with your teen, embracing outside help for both him and you, and seeking stronger treatment options when needed.

Getting your teen to quit abusing substances will not be easy, but with these strategies and knowledge in mind, your teen’s future is already looking brighter.

#4 The Talk Part 2: Where Do We Go From Here?

After asking about the reasons your child turned to drugs, vocalizing your concerns, and honestly answering questions you are asked, the next essential part of the conversation with your teen is outlining your rules and guidelines for the future and what the penalties will be if those expectations are not met.

While no teenager is ever going to start celebrating a whole set of rules to follow, teens are much more likely to buy into and respect this new system if they have a say in its creation. Work together. Give them some agency. While you define your expectations of your teen, allow him to likewise express what he expects from you.

Of course, his requests must be reasonable. “Mom and Dad will let me get completely plastered just one night a week” isn’t going to fly.

But for every “I promise not to drink or take drugs” and “I promise not to drive while under the influence” that you require from your teen, permit him to make a rule such as “I promise to always listen to what my teen has to say” or “I promise to always be available when my teen wants to talk or needs help.”

When crafting these rules, consider incorporating opportunities where you will reward honesty even when another expectation has been broken. For example, say your teen smokes some weed at a friend’s house but comes clean about it to you afterward. Or maybe he is drunk at a party but calls for your help instead of trying to drive himself home.

In these and similar situations it is a good idea to respect this act of honesty and the courage it required from your teen. Allow for lessened consequences or perhaps a sit-down conversation instead of a punishment at all.

In this way, you keep in mind that nobody is perfect. Your teen is sure to make mistakes along the way to getting clean, but telling the truth shows he is genuinely trying to change. Furthermore, your child’s safety should be your number one priority—it’s why you want her to quit abusing drugs in the first place, after all—and these allowances help create an environment in which your teen is not afraid to reach out when she is a dangerous situation.

But speaking of consequences, how should you handle those? Punishments and the way you enact them can greatly impact your teen’s progression in quitting drugs and alcohol.

Consequences should be firm but reasonable, resonating and powerful yet age-appropriate and generally short-term. For instance, while a moderate offense might justifiably warrant a week’s grounding, grounding your teen for six months is far overboard.

Penalties must be able to teach your teen a lesson and show that you are doing this for his well-being; punishments too intense or long (given the transgression) will only ignite resentment, and what you are trying to teach her will be lost.

Also, you need to make sure that you will and can impose consequences that you previously stated will occur if your teen disobeyed a given rule. Failing to follow through on punishments will tell your teen that you aren’t truly serious about the rules—so he’ll continue to break them. Likewise, attempting a consequence that you have no ability to enforce will tell your teen that you can’t really do anything about his violation of the rules—so he’ll continue to break them. Both will reduce your authority and make future efforts at discipline much more difficult.

One often effective penalty is temporarily revoking a teen’s car or driving privileges, especially if you caught her driving under the influence or as a passenger of an impaired driver (punishments directly connected to the action tend to be more powerful). Suspending your teen’s driving ability will better prevent her from driving while drunk or high or traveling to meet a dealer.

Now that you have co-created a set of rules, expectations, and consequences with your teen, consider compiling them into an actual, physical document, a written contract complete with agreeing signatures from both parties.

For most teenagers, this makes the rules truly official or “real” and thus more likely to be respected, while also proving that you are equally committed upholding your end of the bargain. In addition, a tangible contract permits you to point to your teen literally agreeing to a certain behavior should he later violate it (and vice versa).

[Click the link for an example of a teen-parent contract and suggestions for expectations to establish: http://www.drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Write-a-Contract-with-Your-Kids-2014.pdf]

However, even with contract in hand and all you have covered in your conversation today, remember that one talk will rarely be it. Very likely, this will be the first of many discussions you’ll share with your child as he quits using alcohol and drugs.

Some will occur when your teen comes to you on his own for guidance, and some will be after you catch him breaking the rules. Don’t be discouraged or feel like you aren’t making a difference; each and every one of these talks are a helpful and necessary part of the recovery process.

#5 Call in the Cavalry

One aspect that can be difficult for parents but will immeasurably help in confronting your teen’s drug or alcohol use is reaching out to others for help. There are two main categories of outside assistance: Help for yourself and help for your teen.

The first of these might seem out of place. Help for me? Isn’t my teen the one that needs help?

This line of thinking, however, ignores the turmoil many parents undergo when their teen uses drugs, feelings that only increase with the severity and consequences of the teen’s substance abuse. The emotional distress can be monumental, leaving a person mentally and physically exhausted.

Some parents keep their feelings bottled up, thinking it’s not appropriate to tell others what their teen is going through or are too ashamed to let anyone know. Their pain and frustration eventually eat away at them.

It is perfectly okay and normal to feel this way. However, you also need to realize that you cannot ignore your own struggles as you deal with your teen, if for no other reason than you can’t adequately help her if you yourself are emotionally unwell.

Don’t let the fear of shame force you to keep this a secret. Always communicate your feelings to your spouse as you help your teen together. Confide in a close friend or relative what you are going through. While you shouldn’t tell absolutely everybody what is happening, sharing with a few people you trust for support and to vent your emotions is encouraged.

Also, remember that you are not alone in this problem. Countless others are dealing with teenagers who abuse substances as well, and some people might find it easier to discuss their feelings to others whom they know are in the same boat.

Just as there are peer support groups for people facing addiction and recovery, so too are there meetings for parents, siblings, and others who are close to someone with drug use issues. Groups such as Al-Anon and Families Anonymous help lessen the stigma of the situation with your child, proving you are not alone while giving you a chance to share your story and listen to the experience of others.

Another resource that can both help you and aid in your teen’s recovery is toll-free helplines. These numbers, most of which are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, put you in contact with professionals trained to assist individuals and families prevent, cope with, and overcome drug and alcohol abuse. Some of the many helplines include:

Similarly, reach out to other professionals that you or your teen can meet with in person. The easiest way to begin is to contact people already connected to your or your teen’s world, such as school counselors or the family doctor/pediatrician.

These professionals can assess the extent of your teen’s drug abuse, root out and discuss underlying or compounding issues such as family struggles or mental health disorders, and develop a treatment strategy. Also, they will be able to connect you with more advanced specialists if needed. Doctors can administer drug tests as well.

Finally, it can be beneficial to share your teen’s issues with another adult who she admires and respects such as a coach, another relative, teacher, or religious figure. This adult can both monitor your child’s condition and behavior when you are not around and strengthen the argument that your teen should quit using drugs. Hearing that substance abuse is dangerous and should cease will hold greater power if multiple people who care about your teen, not just you, tell her. In addition, your teen might feel more comfortable opening up to this person than you, giving her an alternative person to seek guidance from and talk to in the face of making poor decisions.

#6 Advanced Recovery Treatment

In communicating with drug and healthcare professionals, they may determine that your teen requires a more advanced treatment strategy.
While teenagers with less extensive substance issues can recover with a combination of family support, discussions with parents and trusted adults, and a system of rules and consequences, those with more extreme abuse problems and addictions will require more intense treatment methods.

There are several different options that may help, and it is up to you and the professionals involved to decide which option—or, more likely, which combination of options—will be best for your teen. Some of the treatment strategies include:

  • Support Groups: Group meetings can build a community network that helps teenagers realize they are not alone in their struggles. They have other people rooting for their recovery and can see the value of recovery in others. Different types of groups will be more or less beneficial to each teen. Some will do well in a group composed only of similarly-aged peers, whereas for others this would lead to a negative atmosphere of reminiscing over “fun” memories of doing drugs. Some teens might have a better experience in a varied age group or a group made of teenagers and their family members.
  • Medication: Most often, medication is reserved for adults but may be prescribed to teens in some circumstances. Various medications are used for treating addiction or co-occurring conditions, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse prevention.
  • Talk Therapy: Also known as behavioral counseling or behavioral treatment, talk therapy has your teen meet regularly with a health counselor. This counselor aids your teen in modifying her behavior and attitudes toward substance use; focusing on positive life skills; and recognizing, avoiding, and coping with “triggers” and situations which commonly lead her to use drugs. The intensity and frequency of these meetings typically coincide with your teen’s progress.
  • Inpatient Rehab: One important aspect of your teen’s treatment that you must decide is whether to pursue outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation. Deciding which system is best for your child depends significantly on the severity of her substance abuse.The primary difference between these two programs is in where your teen will live as they undergo recovery. Whereas in an outpatient plan your teen still resides at home and may attend a rehab facility for specific sessions or meetings, he lives at the facility during inpatient treatment. Both involve support groups, counseling, medication, or any other treatments your child needs.

Outpatient rehab, which is typically recommended for people at a lower risk or are already recovering well, allows patients to continue to go to school, work, and any other activities or responsibilities; maintain a semblance of their normal lives; and have frequent contact with friends and family for support. On the other hand, by remaining in the “outside world,” your teen might still be exposed to people and scenarios that trigger substance use, as well as have access to alcohol and drugs.

Meanwhile, inpatient treatment is a full-time commitment that requires your teen to live on-site, where he will receive support 24 hours a day, seven days a week from a multidisciplinary team of professionals fully devoted to patients’ health and recovery. Inpatient programs are advised for users who would be exposed to substances at home, cannot commute to outpatient centers, were not previously successful in outpatient treatment, or also have a mental health condition, such as depression or bi-polar disorder, alongside their drug abuse.

Most initial inpatient programs last 28 to 90 days. The first part of treatment will be a detox to clear your teen’s body of drugs and start returning her bodily systems to normal. Although every inpatient treatment center is different, most days will typically begin by checking vitals, screening for illicit substances, taking any prescribed medication, and completing simple chores like making the bed, followed by several
therapy sessions (both individual and group meetings), and ending with quiet free time. Teens can receive tutoring to keep up with their schoolwork.

To discover treatment centers near you visit https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator.

Not every person should be treated for alcohol or drug use in the same way. These methods of combating substance abuse should be discussed with a counselor and/or health professional, in order to decide what is the best option for your teen’s specific circumstances.

Even once the best course of action has been determined for your teen, it is only the beginning. Now the recovery process must start. A long and difficult road may lie ahead for your family, but you must stay committed despite this adversity.

Just as one talk about drugs and alcohol may not be your last, so too can the path to recovery include missteps, re-dos, and times where it seems like your teen is backtracking on his progress. This is not uncommon; don’t feel like the whole process is a failure.

Keep working at it.

Stay vigilant.

Continue loving and supporting your teen.

Researching the topic and reading this article already proves you are a dedicated, concerned, and caring parent doing the right thing. Keep it up, and you and your teen will get through this.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here the first three tips on how to intervene when your teen is using drugs or alcohol.

Click here for warning signs that your teen may be using drugs or alcohol.

Pictures From

Consulting with a Counselor: From at U.S. Department of Agriculture at https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/19664890044

Sunrise: From https://pixabay.com/en/sunrise-sky-blue-sunlight-clouds-165094/

Adult & Teen Sitting at a Table: From Susan Krawczyk (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1338461) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Honesty: From thinkpublic at https://www.flickr.com/photos/thinkpublic/3042786561

Angry with Fire Background: From https://pixabay.com/p-18658/?no_redirect

Keys: From https://pixabay.com/en/keys-hands-own-buy-sell-home-1317391/

Sign Document: From https://pixabay.com/en/document-agreement-documents-sign-428331/

U.S. Civil War Cavalry: From The U.S. Army (‘cavalry charge’) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Two Men Having a Conversation: From Andrew at https://www.flickr.com/photos/polandeze/1206596658

Support Group 1: From U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District at https://www.flickr.com/photos/europedistrict/6683158541

On the Phone: From cellanr (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_5598) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Doctor: From Ilmicrofono Oggiono at https://www.flickr.com/photos/115089924@N02/16068674648 via www.audio-luci-store.it

Coach: From Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/776788) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Consultation: From CMRF Crumlin at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cmrf_crumlin/4838022938

Support Group 2: From Lwp Kommunikáció at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwpkommunikacio/16904900381

Rx: From © Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Talk Therapy: From Jty33 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Heroin Injection: From Psychonaught (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Doctor Examines Patient: By Unknown photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Drug Rehab Center: From Addictionresources (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Rehabilitation Center: From tokorokoko (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Just Breathe: From chintermeyer at https://www.flickr.com/photos/twentysevenphotos/5349693235

I Think My Teen is Using Drugs: 6 Essential Tips on How to Intervene (Pt.1)

It can be one of a parent’s worst fears, something you dread and hope never happens. You’ve discovered (or highly suspect) that your teen is using drugs and/or alcohol.

Maybe you’ve found a hidden stash or some drug paraphernalia or simply noticed a string of new and unusual behaviors and personality changes inconsistent with typical teenage development. Perhaps you’ve overheard your teen and her friends talking about “Texas Tea” or caught her high after a party.

The circumstances don’t really matter. What matters is what you do next.

You don’t want to push your teen away, yet you also need to steer him toward safer and healthier behavior. Knowing the right things to say and do—as well as what to not say and not do—will better ensure these outcomes, while still maintaining a positive relationship between you two.

Even with the best resources and help at your side, this process of confronting your teen and getting him to change his ways will probably be hard. It might be scary.

But it’s something you need to do.

Now stop, take a deep breath, and read our top six tips on what to do when your teen is using drugs. 

#1 Don’t Ignore the Problem

You might be thinking to yourself (perhaps in a voice eerily similar to your teen’s when she talks to you), “Well duh! [Cue eye roll]. Of course I wouldn’t ignore my teen drinking or using drugs.”

But how many times, in both real life and popular media, have you heard adults make excuse for teenagers such as “they’re just experimenting,” or “it is okay as long as they only drink at home,” etc.?

It’s not uncommon for parents to downplay their teen’s substance-using behavior. They may do this because they think the problem will go away on its own in time. Some may have dabbled in the same actions in their youth and suffered no long-term consequences and thus would feel hypocritical or that stepping in is not necessary.

Still others might choose to ignore the signs and refuse to act, because intervening admits the problem is real. Acknowledging your son or daughter abuses drugs can easily bring up feelings of guilt, shame, regret, anger, and more. Parents may fault themselves or each other and feel like failures. Some would rather live in denial.

But ignoring the issue, no matter the reason, only further puts your child at risk, as even minimal usage of drugs or alcohol can be highly dangerous.

Some substances, such as inhalants, can cause severe long-term damage or death upon first-time use. Moreover, alcohol and drugs play a significant role in all of the top three leading causes of teenage fatalities: Accidents (including auto crashes and drowning), suicide, and homicide. Anytime a teen is high or drunk, impaired judgment and motor skills leave them more susceptible to these dangers, as well as an increased risk of fighting, unsafe sex, risk-taking, and sexual assault.

Finally, dismissing your teen’s “experimentation,” hoping it will fade in time, risks that the drug use will only become more regular and detrimental. The younger people first begin to abuse substances, the more likely they are to develop a dependence or addiction that lasts throughout their life, because brains do not stop developing until the age of 25. No one knows how many hits or drinks it takes to trigger addiction and it is not the same for everyone; addictions can develop suddenly and unexpectedly, and once your brain is hooked it is never the same.

At this critical time, it is important not to blame yourself. This reaction is normal, but your focus should be on ways to move forward. Teens drink
and do drugs for a multitude of reasons, and you are far from the only parent dealing with this difficult issue. Playing the blame game and imagining “What If” scenarios about the past only distracts from finding solutions for your teen in the future.

#2 Be Prepared

When you discover that your child is abusing a substance, talking with him is one of the most important, effective, and certainly first steps you should take.

But don’t just rush in there half-cocked, guns blazing. With a situation this delicate and crucial, you need to step back and take the time to make a proper plan.

First and foremost, setting aside time to prepare allows you to reign in your initial, more volatile emotions. You shouldn’t approach your teen while blinded by anger, sadness, or the like, as it won’t do either of you any good. Reel in those intense feelings and do your best to remain level-headed. Taking preparation time will aid in that.

You may also want to mentally ready yourself for the trying tribulations ahead. Confronting drug or alcohol use can be an intense experience for you and your teen. Though you can never fully anticipate or prepare for the emotions you may undergo, prepping your mind and heart beforehand will keep you from becoming overwhelmed.

If applicable to your family situation, the next step is to ensure you and your spouse, partner, or other heads of the household devise and maintain a united front. Think, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

No strategy to solve your child’s substance abuse will work if one or both parents blame or contradict the other, fail or refuse to enforce established rules, or enable the teen’s behavior.

Teenagers will immediately recognize any division between the two of you, leaving them confused or ready to exploit these discrepancies. Instead, you must both be equally vigilant in your disapproval of and tactics against drinking and drug abuse.

Finally, you must plan for the actual conversation with your teen. Decide an appropriate time and location, a place where your teen will feel comfortable. Review what evidence you have of her drug use. Know what you want to say and what questions you will ask, as well as formulate responses for common questions that may be asked of you (more on these three points in the next section). All of this preparation will help keep the discussion focused and retain your authority during the conversation.

#3 The Talk Part 1: What to Say and Do

Now that you’ve sufficiently prepped, it is time to sit your teen down, address his alcohol or drug use, and outline what your expectations are in the future.

To get the most out of this time, limit distractions by putting away or turning off cell phones, televisions, laptops, and other electronics (I can hear your teen gasping in shock already). As previously stated, choose a place to talk where your teen feels at ease but make sure it has minimal distractions and is not in a public setting.

Also do not try to have a serious conversation with your child while she is drunk or high. For instance, should she come home late at night after party, clearly intoxicated, you may want to talk right then and there. But in this state your teen will be more prone to anger, sleepiness, and not remembering your conversation the next day, all of which will render your message ineffective.

Begin your talk by presenting evidence of your teen’s substance use so it does not seem like you are randomly accusing him. Share the signs you have noticed such as changes in behavior, personality, and friends, and bring in any confiscated drugs or paraphernalia. Teens will undoubtedly deny using drugs and say they have no idea what you are talking about, but that’s a lot harder to do when they are staring down a clearly-used pipe pulled from under their bed.

On the other hand, don’t assume you know everything and avoid direct accusations. Perhaps you misinterpreted the changes in her attitude, which are actually the result of a different issue like depression or puberty.

On the other, other hand—hang in there, this is a complicated process—teens will make up stories and try to wriggle out of admitting their actions. It’s up to your instincts, judgment, and knowledge of your child and the acquired evidence to discern fact from fiction.

Do not tolerate lies but reward honesty. Let your teen know you want to work together, and that telling the truth will make everything easier. You may want to give some sort of short-term immunity or lessened consequences for honesty or, at the very least, tell your teen you are proud of him for telling the truth.

As you continue, clearly define what actions you do and don’t approve. Teenagers often misunderstand or take advantage of grey areas, and you should not just assume they know your stance on every issue, even those as basic as not using alcohol and drugs.

Address why these risky behaviors worry you. Here you can reference some of the dangers of substance use, anything from drunk/drugged driving to the increased likelihood of violence and unsafe sex.

However, only mention a few of these potential consequences and stick to topics relatable to your teen. You don’t want to overload her or refer to dangers too long-term or otherwise obscure for her to care about.

And never, ever, ever start listing statistics. Teens will zone out faster than you can say, “half of all traffic fatalities among 18-24 year-olds are alcohol-related.”

Ask your teen questions to root out the reason(s) why she turned to drugs. As an act of rebellion? Peer pressure from friends? Loneliness or depression?

When you understand the specific contributing causes of your teen’s substance abuse, you’ll be able to better tailor your approach to get her help according to her personal needs.

Additionally, to acquire a better understanding of your child’s world, ask about his friends. Doing this will also divert some of the pressure your teen may be feeling due to all of the focus on her. However, because people usually hang out with like-minded individuals, you can learn a lot about your kid based on what you learn of his friends.

What are their attitudes toward drugs and drinking? What do they think of people who do and don’t use? Are there friends that push your teen into doing things he’s uncomfortable with?

Let it be up to your teen whether to reveal specific names. Otherwise she’ll feel like you are demanding her to rat on her friends and will shut you out. Likewise, never say you don’t like one of your child’s friends or pass judgement (“I don’t like Kimberly, she’s a pothead”). This will only anger your teen and cause her to lash out or divert the discussion away from her behavior.

Throughout your talk always keep in mind the internal struggles your teen could be facing. Perhaps the reason he turned to drugs is because he is depressed or emotionally vulnerable. Maybe he wants to quit using but has become physiologically addicted and cannot stop on his own. Or he could be deeply ashamed and embarrassed by his behavior and that you found him out.

With that in mind, don’t heap on guilt or call your teen a failure. Certainly stress that you severely disapprove of her drug use, but continually emphasize that you love her and will be supportive in all her efforts to get clean and make better choices.

Even if your teen was not driven to substance use because of some deep-rooted vulnerability and does not show any signs of regret over his actions—he is brazen or proud of them, even—be firm but still handle the situation with compassion. Bringing in anger or attempts to shame will only evoke the same responses from your child, further pushing him away, leaving him no closer to pursuing more positive behavior. The goal of intervening is to stop your teen’s drug abuse, not to yell and emotionally punish for the sake of it. Issuing (tangible) consequences can be a tactic in service of the former but is not itself the objective.

Your talk should be a conversation, not a confrontation.

Take the time to genuinely listen to her answers to your questions and try to see her point of view, as well as encourage her to ask questions of her own. Check yourself throughout the conversation.  Are you talking a lot more than you are listening?

Keep in mind, however, that periods of silence are okay.  Teens need longer to think and express themselves than adults.  And remember, while you have been thinking about this conversation for some time, your teen has not.

Teenagers will likely ask about your personal experiences. Did you feel peer pressure growing up? Did you ever go through ______ like me? And, of course, the main one they’ll want to know: Did you ever drink underage or use drugs?

If you didn’t partake in substance use as a teenager, that’s great. Handling this situation will be no problem. However, if you did consume either in your youth, you might panic upon hearing this query, fearing it will unravel everything you are now trying to do.

First, know that you do not have to answer the question if you don’t want to. You are not on trial, and it is not your behavior that called for this conversation. This talk is about your teen, and it is his actions that need to change. Responding to your teen’s asking can lead teenagers to think you are unfair and commanding them to do as you say, not do as you do.

Instead, recognize that your child is asking you for a reason. For the majority of teens, when they ask if you have tried drugs, the heart of their question is what should they do?

What you were like when you were his age matters to your child, even if she doesn’t show it or realize it herself. By asking about your behavior, your teen hopes to justify her own actions or learn how to do things differently, based on your example.

Whether or not you drank underage or used drugs, share with your teen ways to handle peer pressure and specific methods avoiding or saying no to drugs and alcohol.

Again, you are not obligated to respond to your teen’s initial question; however, if you choose to, keep your answer short and simple. “Yes, I tried pot a few times,” or “Yes, I sometimes drank at parties,” are more than sufficient. There’s no need to go into any more detail than that.

Furthermore, preface your answers by saying that you wish you had made better choices, the dangers of drugs and alcohol (especially to youth) were not as well known when you were young, and many drugs are much stronger today than they were in the past.

Make sure you do this before you give your answer, though. If you attempt to give these qualifications after you’ve admitted using substances, your teen will interpret them merely as lame excuses. All he will hear is that you got to do it, but he cannot. You can explain some of the consequences you suffered because of drinking or doing drugs and how situations would have turned out better if you had made different choices, but, unless you underwent something truly traumatic and life-altering, even this can fall on deaf ears.

Therefore, re-directing your teen’s question about your past, instead of answering it straightforward, is often the best strategy. Put the focus on her and what she needs.

Remember the fact that reading this article shows that you are a caring and responsible parent who only wants the best for their teen.  No one has all the answers and no one always says the right thing.  If the conversation doesn’t work the first time, keep trying.  Continue reading and researching and don’t give up.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for our Part 2, which covers tips on establishing rules and consequences, reaching out for help, and treatment centers.

Pictures From

Smoking Joint: From Chmee2 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You Can Do It: From Steven Depolo at https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/3968766889

Teen Boys Smoking: From https://pixabay.com/en/weed-smoke-drug-marijuana-joint-837125/

Overwhelmed Woman: From jazbeck at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazbeck/8025692978

Fallen Person with Pill Bottle: From Manos Bourdakis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Parent Blaming Self: From https://pixabay.com/p-111426/?no_redirect

Angry Woman: From Lara604 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lara604/2369412952/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Parenting Disagreement: From https://pixabay.com/en/argument-couple-disagreement-female-2022605/

Planning: From https://pixabay.com/p-593333/?no_redirect

No Phones Allowed: From Pmox (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Crack Paraphernalia: From Espiritusanctus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Honesty, Trust, and Respect: From Zaneology at https://www.flickr.com/photos/zaneology/8407967205

Car Crash: From Damnsoft 09 at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sitting Teen Girl: From Nathan Csonka at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nathancsonka/3685178495

Teen Girls Smoking: From Valentin Ottone at https://www.flickr.com/photos/saneboy/3595175373

Depressed Girl in Corner: From Baker131313 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shouting Silhouettes: https://pixabay.com/en/arguing-female-male-man-shouting-1296392/

Talking on Bench: From https://pixabay.com/en/west-friends-sit-bench-peace-826947/

On Trial: From https://pixabay.com/p-1587300/?no_redirect

Teen Hugging Parent: From Tulane Public Relations (Move-In Day  Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

THC Levels: Original Image from Pauk (Transferred from ru.wikipedia) [CC BY 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Text added by author.

Talking to Teens: From Shane Global Language Centres at https://www.flickr.com/people/shaneglobal/?rb=1

A Parent Guide to Drug Paraphernalia & Physical Evidence of Teen Drug Use

Whether your teen is an all-around upstanding citizen or known to get into trouble here and there, peer pressure and the inclination of teenagers toward risky behavior always make drug use a possible avenue in your child’s growing up. As a parent, it is vital to keep a vigilant watch for signs of substance abuse, which can be difficult to spot if you don’t know what to look for.

drug-paraphernalia

Changes in personality and attitude, behavior, and friends can all be indicators of possible drug use, but here we are going to focus on perhaps the most tangible sign: drug paraphernalia and other physical evidence. Of course, finding actual drugs is a surefire sign of substance abuse, but there are additional objects and materials that might indicate your teen is doing drugs.

Drug paraphernalia refers to a wide assortment of devices used to store, transport, make, prepare, do, or consume drugs. In this article, we’ll help you recognize some of these items and the drug(s) with which they are most associated.

paraphernalia

Now you might be thinking that this is all pretty self-explanatory. Obviously discovering a bong tucked under your teen’s bed is going to raise a few red flags that he’s smoking the wacky tobacky.

However, the tricky part is that although the paraphernalia connected to certain substances, such as marijuana, may be more familiar to non-users, ecstasy or LSD paraphernalia (for example) might not be. Even trickier is the fact that while some items are made exclusively for drug use or are instantly connoted with certain substances—rolling papers, syringes, etc.—many are normal, everyday objects. You yourself may have purchased them for their intended purpose, unaware of how your teen is actually using them.

Take straws for instance.

Everybody loves a good straw. Especially if straw-memeit’s of the bendable or silly variety. Why crane your neck to take a drink when you can use this nifty little device to miraculously transport liquid straight from your cup to your mouth?

But did you know straws, particularly if they have been cut into smaller pieces, are also commonly used to snort heroin, meth, and cocaine?

So let’s say you buy a box of plastic straws for normal drinking use. What might indicate that your teen uses them instead for nefarious purposes? For straws and any other common object that can be involved in substance use, pay attention to these factors:

  • Do you ever actually see your teen use them for their intended purpose?
  • Where did you find the item(s)? Somewhere unusual? In a hidden or secret spot? do-not-enter
  • Does your teen have a lot more of the item than would be typical?
  • In instances where the items are used communally by the household, do they run out much faster than expected? Are they gradually disappearing (in accordance with typical usage) or do many go missing at a time?

So without further ado, what are some of these paraphernalia—mundane or otherwise—often involved in drug use?

Marijuana

Also known as cannabis, weed, pot, Mary Jane, reefer, and dozens of other names, marijuana is the most used drug by teens (and adults) after alcohol and tobacco. Roughly 20% of high school seniors have used marijuana in the past month. Despite its legality in a handful of states, weed is still illegal under federal law and has been shown to cause detrimental effects on the still-developing brain of adolescents and young adults.

grinders

  • Grinders: Used to shred up marijuana buds into smaller bits in preparation for smoking. They are small cylindrical objects comprised of two halves with grinding teeth and a tiny magnet in the middle.rolling-papers
  • Rolling Papers: Small sheets of (usually white or translucent) paper or plant material used to make marijuana cigarettes called joints. Pot smokers will also use cigar wrappings to roll weed, which is known as a blunt.roach_clip_statsRoach Clips: Any sort of clamp or holder, typically made of metal, which a smoker uses to grasp a marijuana cigarette as it burns smaller and smaller, primarily to smoke as much from the joint as possible and avoid burning fingers. Common examples of roach clips include forceps and alligator clips.bongs
  • Bongs: Vertical water pipes that vaporize the smoke of the drug for inhalation. They are most often made of glass or plastic and range in size from eight to fourteen inches, though they can be much bigger.
Heroin, Cocaine, and Meth

heroin

Though derived from very different materials, heroin, cocaine, and meth are all highly addictive and dangerous substances. All three are commonly found in powdered form, though cocaine and meth also frequently come in crystal form (aka crack cocaine and crystal meth).

Since heroin, cocaine, and meth can all be snorted, smoked, sniffed, and injected, they share much of the same preparation and consumption paraphernalia.

cocaine

  • Razor Blades and Cards: Powdered drugs are prepared for snorting typically by being separated, or cut, into thin rows called lines. Razor blades and any type of card (credit card, playing card, gift card, etc.) are the most regularly used, though any other firm straight-edged item will work.
  • Mirrors: Cutting drugs into lines requires a hard surface. Most often a reflective surface is preferred as well. Therefore, users will often carry small portable mirrors.

snorting

  • Pen Tubes, Straws, and Tightly Wrapped Dollar Bills: Numerous objects can be utilized to snort drug lines—empty pen tubes, (cut up) straws, and rolled up dollar bills among the most regular—but any hollow cylindrical device could be used.

powder_meth

  • Tin or Aluminum Foil: The drugs may be placed on napkin-sized sheets of foil which are then heated over a flame or other source of heat. As the drug smokes and evaporates, users inhale the fumes. Afterward the foil will usually be charred on the bottom.
  • Spoons: Frequently found with burn marks, spoons are used to hold the heroin-spoondrug while the user places a lighter underneath. The dissolved or melted
    form of the drug is then sniffed or injected.
  • Glass Tubes: In addition to their potential use as snorting paraphernalia, glass tubes—such as those often sold with fake miniature roses—are also employed in inhaling the rising fumes of a heated drug (such as from foil or a spoon). They may be chipped, melted, or charred on one end with a white residue in the middle. Additionally, they are sometimes accompanied by bits of steel wool or cotton, which are placed on the inside of the tube.
  • Syringes: Used to directly inject the drug into the bloodstream, syringes injecting-519389_1280pose an added danger via potential infections and transmission of bloodborne pathogens from dirty needles and needles shared between multiple people. Users may keep around disinfectant supplies like rubbing alcohol in their efforts to sterilize needles.
  • Belts, Bungee Cords, Strips of Cloth and Shoelaces: Drug users create makeshift tourniquets out of these and other rope-like objects and tie them around the site of the injection, typically the arm, in order to enlarge veins.
Inhalants

Inhalants refer to aerosols, solvents, gases, and nitrites that are breathed through the mouth or nose to produce a high. They are the most commonly abused drug by 12 and 13 year-olds.

spray-paint

  • Commercial Products: One of the reasons inhalant use is so prevalent among younger teens is that many of these high-inducing substances are already in the house. Always be aware of chemical products in your home, keeping tabs on how much you should have versus if any is missing. In addition, finding an inhalant substance in some place other than where you keep them—in your teen’s closet, perhaps—is a strong sign of possible abuse. Among the products to monitor are:

-Gasoline and lighter fluidglue

-Paint, spray paint, paint thinners, and paint remover

-Glue

-Shoe Polish

-Degreasers

-Detergent, bleach, and other laundry or dry cleaning products

-Any product in an aerosol can including whipped cream, hair spray, deodorant, and cooking oil

huffing

  • Brown Paper Bags: Users will also inhale substances from inside a bag, a method known as bagging.

rags

  • Rags: Huffing is a method of inhalant use in which a person soaks a rag in a chemical and then breathes in the fumes from it.
Ecstasy

Ecstasy most commonly comes in pill form and is frequently associated with dance parties, music festivals, and raves. Other common names for ecstasy are Molly and E.

ecstacy-03

  • Bags of Candy: Users will often hide ecstasy pills among similarly colorful candy.pacifer
  • Pacifiers, Lollipops, and Jawbreakers: When on the drug, users tend to tightly clench their jaw. These items help make them more comfortable.
  • Vapor or Mentholated Rubs: Allow users to breathe easier and enhance the drug’s sensations.
  • Surgical or Painter’s Masks: Abusers will often use vapor rubs by applying them to these or similar masks.

glow-stick-693843_1280

  • Glow Sticks: These and other colorful, neon items are often collected by users to enhance their sensations while high.
LSD

LSD, or acid, is a powerful hallucinogenic drug, and an LSD high, known as a trip, can last as long as twelve hours per hit. LSD is typically synthesized into a liquid but may also be found in pill or capsule form.

blotter-paper-2

  • Blotter Paper: Small sheets of absorbent paper composed of smaller perforated sections which are soaked in LSD and ingested. They are frequently decorated with colorful patterns or illustrations.
  • sugar-cubesSugar Cubes: The original delivery system when LSD first became popular, sugar cubes are likewise coated or filled with LSD then sucked on or ingested.
  • Eyedroppers: Used to take LSD directly via placing drops on the tongue.

Multiple/Various Drugs

Some objects are utilized across a wide variety of drugs, thus finding such an item can make it difficult to ascertain what the exact substance your teen might be abusing. Nevertheless, discovering any of these objects (or when paired with shady circumstances in regard to the more mundane items) should raise some red flags.

  • Scales: A teen may possess a small portable scale, roughly the size of a smart phone, for the purpose of buying or selling drugs to ensure the amount of the drug agreed upon in the transaction is accurate.small-drug-baggie
  • Baggies: Re-sealable, sandwich-sized plastic bags are a typical method of storing a drug stash. Though a common item in transporting food, teens using drugs can be found with an unusually high number of empty baggies in their pockets, rooms, backpacks, etc. Users also commonly shift the drug to a corner of the bag, use a twist tie or other knot to secure it, and then cut off the remainder of the bag. Also be on the lookout for tinier baggies, containing a single dose or hit of a substance.

bottles-681901_1280

  • Glass Vials, Boxes, and Other Small Containers: In addition to baggies, teens will use any type of vial, box, or container to store their drugs. Drug users may even buy storage paraphernalia that look like normal items or alter such objects themselves to house a secret holding compartment. Examples of items used to store drugs include:

-Mint or candy boxes

-Stuffed animals or other toys book-cut-pages

-Books with the middles of pages cut out

-Makeup containers and lipstick tubes

-Battery boxes

-Soda, snack, cleaning supply, shaving cream or any other type of cans

-Bottles and thermoses

Since such paraphernalia are designed to evade suspicion, you may not realize an object is storing drugs, even upon thorough inspection. Therefore, take note of certain behaviors that seem odd given the item.

In the case of a stuffed animal example, for instance, let’s say your teen says she keeps it for sentimental reasons. Why then does she bring it to school and parties? Or in another example, your teen finished all of the chips in that can of Pringles weeks ago. Why does she still have the can in her room? And how come she absolutely refuses to share a mint even though you see lighterher carrying around that metal Altoid box all the time?

  • Lighters: Numerous drugs, in one form or another, can be smoked including weed, crack cocaine, salvia, PCP, meth, opium, and heroin, as well as tobacco.
  • Pipes: As with lighters, pipes can indicate any number of drugs that are smoked. Pipes are commonly made of anything from wood to porcelain to glass to clay.

Drug users can be clever and persistent in their smoking and have been homemade-pipeknown to craft their own pipes. While perhaps some people have the whittling skills to carve a pipe out of a wooden block, smokers frequently devise makeshift pipes out of apples, pens, plastic bottles, paper towel tubes, and other household items.

Furthermore, head shops and paraphernalia producers continually develop new pipes concealed within or designed to look like everyday objects. Some might even function as the item normally should. More common examples include pipes disguised as belt buckles, markers/highlighters, lipstick, and video game controllers.

Other Physical Evidencepaint-on-clothes

Beyond paraphernalia, there are other physical signs and tangible objects that indicate your kid might be using drugs. Repeatedly finding unexplained stains, paint, or powders on your teen’s body or clothing—even if you can’t explicitly identify them as an illicit substance—is one such example. Many others are methods your teen may employ to hide his abuse.

Case in point, unless you are Corey Hart, there’s no reason to wear your sunglasses at night. Teens who constantly keep their shades on after dark or indoors might be concealing bloodshot eyes or dilated or constricted pupils, a common effect of substance abuse. Eye drops also indicate this behavior.

Similarly, have you noticed your teen always wearing arm bands or long sleeves even during really warm weather? He might be covering needle marks or scabs.

Next, drug use is a smelly business. Whether from the substances themselves, the process of preparation or consumption, or the effect they have on a person’s body, drugs often come with a strange assortment of odors, aromas, and stenches, smells teens will want to hide.

incenseThey might burn incense while they smoke to mask the drug’s burning scent or frequently spray air fresheners. A sudden or heavy use of breath mints, mouthwash, perfume or cologne might also suggest your teen is covering the smell of drugs on his clothes or body.

Finally, monitor your child’s interest in drug culture. Does he frequently visit websites, listen to music, watch movies, or read magazines the regularly glamorize substance use? Of course, simply liking a song now and again that references drugs doesn’t mean your kid is an addict; however, increasingly delving into a culture that celebrates abuse can quickly lead to him joining that lifestyle.

weed-shirtAnd how about his clothes and other possessions? It’s not difficult to find t-shirts, posters, jewelry, mugs, and countless knickknacks plastered with images of drugs or drug use, marijuana in particular, at a flea market or novelty store at the local mall. While not every belt buckle shaped like a pot leaf secretly hides a pipe or weed stash, your teen’s possession of one is troubling all the same.

Drug use can be difficult to spot, but with this guide you will recognize some of the most common objects connected with substance abuse.

Furthermore, although drug culture will evolve and develop new paraphernalia and consumption methods, asking the same questions—why is my teen so protective of his ______ (fill in the blank with any item),  how come he has so many ______, but I never see him use them?, etc.—can help you identify other objects not popularly used or invented yet.

But finding drug paraphernalia is just the first step. Next, with physical evidence in hand, you need to confront your teen.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for tips and strategies on how to intervene when your teen is using drugs or alcohol.

Resources

“Drug Paraphernalia Associated with LSD.” LSD Abuse Help. http://www.lsdabusehelp.com/drug-paraphernalia-associated-with-lsd

“Drug Paraphernalia: Spot the Warning Signs of Teen Drug Abuse.” Teen Rehab Center: Substance Abuse Resources & Treatment. Teen Rehab Center. https://www.teenrehabcenter.org/resources/drug-paraphernalia/ 

“Drug Paraphernalia, What Every Parent Should Know.” Addiction Search. http://www.addictionsearch.com/treatment_articles/article/drug-paraphernalia-what-every-parent-should-know_113.html 

“How to Identify Drug Paraphernalia.” Get Smart About Drugs. Drug Enforcement Administration. https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/content/how-identify-drug-paraphernalia 

“Identifying Drug Paraphernalia.” Teen Rehab Newport Academy. Newport Academy, 2016. https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/substance-abuse/identifying-drug-paraphernalia/ 

“Inhalants.” DrugFacts: Inhalants | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). National Institutes of Health. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/inhalants 

“Recognizing Methamphetamine Use.” PoliceLink: The Nation’s Law Enforcement Community. Police Link. http://policelink.monster.com/training/articles/12184-recognizing-methamphetamine-use 

“The Truth about Crack Cocaine,” “The Truth about Crystal Meth,” “The Truth about Cocaine,” “The Truth about Ecstasy,” “The Truth about Heroin,” “The Truth about Inhalants,” “The Truth about Marijuana,” & “The Truth about LSD.” The Truth about Drugs. Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 2016. http://www.drugfreeworld.org/home.html

“Tools of the Trade: How to Spot Ecstasy Paraphernalia.” Alcohol and Drug Rehab Programs – Addiction Treatment Centers. Project Know. http://www.projectknow.com/tools-of-the-trade-how-to-spot-ecstasy-paraphernalia/ 

Yoder, Robert. “The Parents Guide to Drug Paraphernalia.” Palm Beach Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment. The Palm Beach Institute, 2015. https://www.pbinstitute.com/parents-guide-drug-paraphernalia/

Pictures From

Table of Paraphernalia: From Frank Boston at www.flickr.com/photos/fixersphotos

Paraphernalia: From Espiritusanctus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Straws: Original image from Horia Varlan from Bucharest, Romania (Eight drinking straws in rainbow colors) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Words added by author.

Do Not Enter: From Emma Craig at https://www.flickr.com/photos/98925031@N08/9571827657

Grinders: From Liquid Splitter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rolling Papers: From Erik Fenderson [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Roach Clips: From Spydercanopus at English Wikipedia, edited by Craig Pemberton at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bongs: From IN HL at www.flickr.com/photos/100443193@N08

Heroin: From United States Drug Enforcement Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cocaine: From Zxc (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Snorting: From https://pixabay.com/en/cocaine-drugs-death-396752/

Meth on Tin Foil: From United States Drug Enforcement Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Burnt Spoon: From Psychonaught (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Injection: From https://pixabay.com/en/injecting-medical-shot-veins-519389/

Spray Paint: From Kufi Smacker at www.flickr.com/photos/kufismackerpck

Krazy Glue: From Mike Mozart at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/15014590012

Inhaling Aerosol Cans: From Evil Erin at https://www.flickr.com/photos/evilerin/3424970624

Old Rag: From https://pixabay.com/p-245431/?no_redirect

Ecstasy: From DEA (DEA, US) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pacifier: From inner.child (www.ebay.co.uk) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Glow Sticks: From https://pixabay.com/p-693843/?no_redirect

Blotter Paper: From Psychonaught (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sugar Cubes: From david pacey at https://www.flickr.com/photos/63723146@N08/7164573186

Baggie: By Mikeaz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Glass Vials: From https://pixabay.com/en/bottles-antique-old-glass-vintage-681901/

Book with Cut Pages: From Mork (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lighter: From David J. Fred (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/bysa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Makeshift Pipe: From Whitney from Scottsdale, USA (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Paint-Covered Man: From The Pug Father at www.flickr.com/photos/fleur-design

Incense: From https://pixabay.com/p-699434/?no_redirect

Pot T-Shirt: From m01229 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/7552600614

Thinking: Original image from https://pixabay.com/p-1701188/?no_redirect. Words added by author. 

5 Helpful Tips for Parents When Your Teen Goes to a Party (Pt. 2)

Party on, Wayne. Party on, Gar—

Hold it right there.

Before anyone does any partying, parents need our remaining tips. With movies, TV, music, and more often emphasizing alcohol and drug-fueled excess as the central theme of every big get together, it’s understandable for parents to be nervous when their teen mentions a party next weekend.

We’ve already covered gathering info on the party, communicating with other parents, and sitting your teen down for a serious talk before the party even begins. But what else can you do to protect your child while still allowing her to go out and have a good time?

#4 Safety Must Be the Number One Priority

safety-first

While a teen’s primary objective for a party is fun, yours must always be safety.

First, remember you have the ultimate say in whether you allow your teen to go to any particular party. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. While this will very likely be an unpopular decision with your teen, as a parent you sometimes have to make hard choices when looking out for your child’s well-being.

Once you permit your teen to go, one of the most important safety precautions you need to observe is ensuring safe transportation to and from the party. Find out how your kid intends to get there.

Walk? Get a ride? Drive herself? Each entails potential dangers against which you should prepare.

walking-454543_1920For instance, we all want to save gas and should do our best to go green. If the party isn’t too far away, your teen might be thinking, “Sweet, I can just walk there” (or bike, skateboard, etc.). And though this health-conscious, environmentally friendly decision automatically seems like the best choice, there are certain safety considerations to bear in mind:

  • Is the neighborhood/general area safe to walk around at night?
  • Will your teen’s route be well lit?
  • Does she have to travel alongside busy streets or roads that have little to no shoulder?
  • Will she be traveling alone or with friends?pedestrian-925850_1920

Depending on the answers to these questions, driving might be the better option after all. Even if walking is deemed safe enough, still remind your teen to travel in groups, stay in well-lit areas, and be careful of hazardous roadways.

Driving, of course, poses its own dangers, especially if alcohol is even remotely involved. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers and one third of all these driving fatalities are alcohol-related.1 In surveys reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten teens in high school drinks and drives.2

teen-driverRegardless if your teen is the driver or a passenger in a carpool, you absolutely must make sure she understands to never get into a car with a driver who’s been drinking. Even if your teen’s friend has told her he will be the designated driver and abstain from booze during the party, it’s vital she sees him keep that promise and find a new safe ride if he doesn’t.

Too often teenagers will get in a car with an impaired driver or try to drive themselves after drinking in order to get home and not get in trouble for staying out too late. Since your person-woman-apple-iphonechild’s safety is your first and foremost concern, tell her that she can—in any condition, at any time of night—always call or text you for help.

No matter whether your teen spotted her supposed DD taking shots or is herself intoxicated and unable to drive, assure her that you care more about her well-being than getting her in trouble. You never want her to put herself even greater danger because she feared reaching out to you.

questions-1014060_1920One approach to this that will help encourage your teen to contact you when needed is to implement a “No Questions Asked” rule. If she calls saying she has drank and cannot drive, your reaction might be to yell, get angry, or ask how she let herself fall into this mess.

But remember, her safety is your top priority. If you want her to call for your help, you need to create an environment where she won’t be afraid to ask for it.

When you pick her up from the party, don’t drill her with questions or begin (heatedly) lecturing. Instead, tell her you are happy and thankful she reached out. Remind her that doing so was the smart, right decision, even though it was probably hard to do. If you don’t think you’ll be able to speak without losing your cool, just stay quiet. Sit back. Listen.

trafficjamfrustration

Following up with your teen on the night’s events and the choices she made, however, is crucial. Find out what happened and go over what she should have done differently during the party. Give out suitable consequences but take that she did the right thing by calling rather than try to lie and sneak around into consideration.

Just not tonight. Tonight is about getting her home safely.

#5 See Your Teen Home

In a newsflash that will surprise no one, parties tend to go late into the night. That said, for those of you that hit the pillow face first before 9:30, this next tip might be a bit of a challenge. But if you’re a Night Owl, or can at least pretend to be one for an evening, try it out.

coming-homeStay up and see your teen come home. Depending on when you set curfew, it might be tough, but this tip will accomplish two worthwhile goals.

1).  For your own peace of mind, you can go to bed knowing that your child is safe and sound for the night. Letting him go to a party is a potentially stressful experience, but you now can rest easy.

2). Staying up allows you to see whether he followed through on his curfew and, especially if you were suspicious, examine his physical condition. Verify with your own eyes whether he drank or did drugs.

Be casual while you observe. The last thing you want to do isdetective-1424831_1280 seem like you’re purely inspecting your teen to get him in trouble or act like you distrust him. Teens hate that. Talk to him as you normally would (it’s not an interrogation). Tell him you’re glad he is home and ask if he had fun.

As you do, check for some basic signs of alcohol and drug use:

  • Is your teen stumbling through the door?
  • Does his breath or clothes smell like smoke or booze?
  • Are his eyes red, dilated, or unable to focus?
  • Can he follow the conversation?
  • Is he slurring his words or speaking abnormally loud?

If your teen has indeed been drinking or taking drugs, again, yelling-manas in Tip #4, you may get angry and want to yell.

But is shouting at a drunken teenager really going to convince him to make better choices in the future? Will he even comprehend what you’re saying?

It is essential that you have a serious conversation with your teen and determine appropriate punishments. Both, however, will be more effective in the morning when your teen is sober and coherent.

silhouette-1082129_1280

Parties can be a lot of things.

Fun. Scary. Exciting. Stressful. Stress-relieving. Casual. Wild. Memorable. And that’s for both the teenage party-goers and the parents waiting at home.

But so long as you talk early and often with your teen, communicate with other parents, and always place your child’s safety as your top priority, you can make sure the party is memorable for all the right reasons.

*         *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 1 of our first three tips for when your teen goes to a party!

You might be apprehensive to allow your teen to go to a party if you don’t have a strong, trusting relationship or don’t know if she is aware of the risks posed by drugs and alcohol. If either of these statements is true, it can be difficult to figure out where to even start to reverse them.

Luckily, Omni Youth Programs is here to help. Our Active Parenting of Teens, Teens in Action, Families in Action, and Families Matter programs focus on giving families the tools and strategies to communicate effectively, end power struggles, and build trust together, all while illuminating the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. For more information check out our Program Details page or visit omniyouth.net to schedule a training.

Pictures From

Safety First: From Matt Crampton at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattcrampton/3249191779

Walking Shoes: From https://pixabay.com/p-454543/?no_redirect

Walking at Night: From https://pixabay.com/p-925850/?no_redirect

Teen Driving: From State Farm at https://www.flickr.com/photos/statefarm/7838240744

Teen Girl Texting: From https://pixabay.com/en/smartphone-woman-girl-iphone-569076/

Questions: From https://pixabay.com/p-1014060/?no_redirect

Stressed Driver: From Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sneaking In: From Marcel Oosterwijk at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wackelijmrooster/3177929150

Inspector Cartoon: From https://pixabay.com/en/detective-searching-man-search-1424831/

Yelling Man: From Paul Cross at https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcross/5819125499

Sunset Talk: From https://pixabay.com/p-1082129/?no_redirect

Works Cited

  1. Stim, Attorney By Rich. “Teen Drunk Driving & Underage DUIs: The Sobering Facts.” Drivinglaws.org. http://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/dui-and-dwi/dui-basics/the-sobering-facts-underage-duis.htm. N.p., n.d.
  1. “Teen Drinking and Driving.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/teendrinkinganddriving/. 2012.

5 Helpful Tips for Parents When Your Teen Goes to a Party (Pt. 1)

The Adicts at SO36. Kreuzberg-Berlin

Parties.

From Halloween celebrations to Girls Night sleepovers, poolside bashes to fancy dress-up jamborees, parties come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in activities, occasion, location, and attendees. In one form or another, parties are likely to be a part of your child’s teenage experience.

They can be an important setting for your teen’s growth, an opportunity to make new friends, learn to be more comfortable in large groups, and develop vital social skills needed for life as an adult. Not to mention they can be a lot of fun.

flip-cupHowever, some parties are also a place of alcohol, drugs, and risky sexual behavior. It’s not difficult to think of a wild, toga-clad John Belushi in Animal House or the characters of American Pie and Superbad desperate to drunkenly get laid at the End of the Year Party or a dozen other pop culture examples that glamorize high school and college parties as consequence-free nights of intoxicated outrageousness. Just about every teen movie depicts all parties as having lots of booze and zero supervision—even if that doesn’t reflect reality.

With all this in mind, it can be nerve-racking as a parent to allow your kid to go to a party, whether it’s their first one or their hundredth. This article will discuss steps you should take when your teen goes to a party that will help keep him or her safe.

#1 Start with the Basics
calendar-819617_1280

This might seem simple, but it’s all too important.

Who, what, when, where? Heck, add the why in there too (Is there a specific reason the party is this weekend? Parents out of town or something like that?).

Always know information such as the party’s address/location, start and end times, and who is throwing the party. Who all is going for that matter? Just some close friends or practically the whole student body? And the kicker: Will the parent’s be home?

hanging-not-drinking

Set a curfew and make sure your teen knows it. Also establish rules on whether or not he’s allowed to go other places during the night—a different party, a friend’s house, maybe a fast food joint.

Depending on your child and the level of trustworthiness and integrity he generally upholds, allowing a little bit of freedom in these matters might prove beneficial.

Bouncing around to different places? Hcall-parent-for-helpave him send a text updating you each time his plans change. Realizes he’ll be out later than he initially thought? That’s fine, so long as he calls to let you know.

Again, not every teen can handle this level of autonomy, and you will need to ensure that this policy is not taken advantage of, but for teens that are up to the challenge, showing that you have faith in them will encourage them to prove that your trust is not unfounded.

#2 Use the International Parent-to-Parent Communication Network

Okay, so maybe there isn’t a global parental communication system, but talking to other parents the old-fashioned way about the upcoming party is still a good idea.

First of all, other parents can be an invaluable source for getting the information in Tip #1 if you don’t learn it from your teen.

conversation-799448_1280

Reach out to parents of other teens that are attending as well as the parents of the party’s host.  If you don’t currently have their contact information it can be a little more difficult than the days of looking up a family’s home number in the phone book, but there are other methods.

Of course, simply askiknock-on-doorng your teen is the first and easiest step. Or ask your teen’s friends next time you see them for that matter. In addition, you can always do a little Facebook stalking, ahem, research, to find and message parents online. Finally, you can use the direct approach and knock on their door for the ol’ face to face (again, their address will have to be something you ask your teen or teen’s friend if you’ve never dropped her off or otherwise know where their home is).

When you do get a hold of other parents, share what you know about the party with each other and take note of any discrepancies you discover from what you have heard from your respective kids. Indication that your teens are lying or hiding things is a sign that the party may not be a good idea.

For that matter, check that the host’s parents are aware there even is a party. They might be surprised to learn that their teen has such plans while they’re on their weekend get away.

One key element to discuss with other parents is whether or not there will be booze-presentalcohol. Even if only one teen shares this with her parents, inter-parent communication will ensure no one is left in the dark about this important fact.

Furthermore, don’t assume there won’t be alcohol simply because parents will be home. Sure, they might physically be in the house, but do they plan on actually supervising or at least checking in on the party periodically? How will they handle the situation if some of the guests sneak in booze or other drugs?

cartoon-boozeMoreover, some parents (incorrectly) believe that it is safe for teenagers to have alcohol if they are around and won’t care if it is at the party. Despite alcohol’s effects on the developing brain and studies that show that minors who are supplied alcohol by their parents are actually at increased risk for continued drinking in their teenage years and problem drinking later in life,1 some parents will even provide booze themselves.

#3 The Birds and the Bees and the Booze and the Weed

Whether you know there will be alcoholic drinks or not, a party right around the corner is a perfect occasion to have a serious conversation with your teen about alcohol, drugs, sex, and/or whatever other precarious subject he may be in need of.

serious-talkYep, that’s right. It’s awkward talk time.

Well, hopefully it won’t be too bad. And even if it is uncomfortable for you, him, or the both of you, it’s necessary to push through the awkwardness. These conversations are important, and, luckily, the longer you talk—not to mention the more often you have these talks in general—the easier and more natural things will become.

As you prepare for a conversation—and it will certainly go better if you prepare at least a general idea of what you want to say—keep these points in mind.

disapproveDon’t assume your teen already knows your exact stance on the subject matter. Make sure he knows by explicitly telling him what you do and don’t approve. Set ground rules. Teens that know their parents would disapprove of them drinking are 80% less likely to drink.2

Go above and beyond simply stating that you don’t want him to drink. Ask your teen what he’ll do if there is alcohol, pot, or other drug use going on. Together, brainstorm and discuss strategies to turn down a drink. Simply saying from the outset that he will abstain from drugs and alcohol is great, but it might be hard to follow through once surrounded by the peer pressure of a party environment. Knowing and practicing specific ways to say no will make it immensely easier to do so.

*         *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 on our remaining tips on when your teen goes to a party!

You might be apprehensive to allow your teen to go to a party if you don’t have a strong, trusting relationship or you don’t know if she is aware of the risks posed by drugs and alcohol. If either of these statements is true, it can be difficult to figure out where to even start to reverse them.

Luckily, Omni Youth Programs is here to help. Our Active Parenting of Teens, Teens in Action, Families in Action, and Families Matter programs focus on giving families the tools and strategies to communicate effectively, end power struggles, and build trust together, all while illuminating the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. For more information check out our Programs Details page or visit omniyouth.net to schedule a training.

Pictures From

Dance Party: From Montecruz Foto at www.flickr.com/photos/28328732@N00/5807760586

Drinking Games: From stangls at https://www.flickr.com/photos/8068440@N08/509538615

Calendar: From https://pixabay.com/p-819617/?no_redirect

Backyard Party: From brad_bechtel at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wellvis/1262802262

Young Girl Texting: From Carissa Rogers at www.flickr.com/photos/goodncrazy

Silhouettes Talking: From https://pixabay.com/p-799448/?no_redirect

Knock on Door: From Eden, Janine and Jim at https://www.flickr.com/photos/edenpictures/6247800223

Girls Drinking: From Incase at https://www.flickr.com/photos/goincase/5143421728

Old Cartoon: From Warner Bros. (https://archive.org/details/TheBoozeHangsHigh) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Serious Conversation: From University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment’s photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/snre/6721655935

Disapproval: From hobvias sudoneighm at https://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/2191404675

Works Cited

  1. Feliz, By Josie. “Myths Debunked: Underage Drinking of Alcohol at Home Leads to Real Consequences for Both Parents and Teens.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. http://www.drugfree.org/newsroom/myths-debunked-underage-drinking-of-alcohol-at-home-leads-to-real-consequences-for-both-parents-and-teens/. N.p., n.d.
  1. Staff, By Join Together. “Parents Influence Teens’ Drinking Decisions: Survey.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. http://www.drugfree.org/news-service/parents-influence-teens-drinking-decisions-survey/. N.p., n.d.

10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink (Pt. 2)

Offered a cold one at a party? At a wedding reception where everyone pressures you to take advantage of the open bar? With friends who smuggle a six pack into the summer music festival?

Thirsty for more tips on how to handle these situations and more?

Modeselektor_at_Melt!_music_festival_in_Germany

Deciding to abstain from alcohol is a positive and healthy choice, particularly if you are still a teen, but it can sometimes be a difficult one to make. Other people may put enormous pressure on you to drink, and it can be hard to turn them down. And while avoiding or leaving events and situations where there is alcohol is certainly an option, sometimes it’s not always possible or desirable (you did pay good money for that music festival ticket, after all).

Here are five more tips for people who don’t want to drink.

#6 Explain Your Reasons Effectively

As explained in Tip #5 in our first article, simplicity is always useful when turning down a drink, with basic responses like “no thanks, I’m good,” proving quite successful. If somebody asks you why and you choose to give an answer—remember you can always avoid the question and use the Broken Record Technique—quick, straightforward answers are likewise the best tactic. Some examples include:

  • I’m the designated driver (more on this in Tip #10)
  • I have to get up early tomorrow
  • I just don’t feel like it
  • I partied pretty hard last night/weekend so I’m taking it easy
  • My parents will kill me and they somehow find out everything I do
  • (In the case of beer) I’m allergic to gluten

Of course, some reasons may be more effective than others explainingdepending on the crowd around you, but generally any will suffice. A good idea is to know your reasons ahead of time and even practice saying them, especially if you’re shy or nervous about telling people no. It will allow for a confident delivery (see Tip #4).

When giving any sort of reason for your sobriety there are two key points to remember:

1.) While it’s definitely simpler when your reason is true—you really do need to get up early—it doesn’t have to be. If you’re comfortable with it, a little white lie sometimes makes things easier if you’re around people you don’t know well (I don’t recommend lying to friends, and they probably know enough about you to discern the truth anyway).

In my own life, I’ve used this technique when I was feeling self-conscious or wanted to avoid the hassle of telling people I outright don’t drink. That included letting on that I drank earlier that night or in my past, even though it wasn’t true. Sobriety is nothing to be ashamed of, but telling a small lie can be less intimidating for some people.

2.) When explaining why you aren’t drinking, the best defense is not a good offense. Whether your reasons are personal or you don’t think anyone should consume alcohol, a house party is neither the time nor place to start lecturing people about impaired driving and brain trauma.

No one wants to feel attacked. So just as you want people to be chill with your decision, so too do you need to be chill with theirs.

So instead of answering with “I don’t drink alcohol and neither should you,” stick with “It’s just not my thing” or “I don’t like the way it makes me feel.”

That said, if you truly do think your friends should stop drinking, or alcohol is becoming a serious problem, do reach out. Just know that mid-kegger is probably not the most practical opportunity.

#7 What’s in Your Red Cup?

One of the easiest ways to deter pressure to drink alcohol is to already have some other drink in your hand. Whether it’s soda, water, juice, a virgin cocktail, or something else entirely, just by virtue of holding a cup or bottle, a lot of people won’t even bother you. They’ll either recognize that you’re good with what you have or assume your drink is already of the booze variety. It’s completely up to you whether you inform them it’s non-alcoholic.

You can pretty much count on any event having some sort of water source, and a lot of parties will have soda or juice available for chasers and mixed drinks. In the case of the latter, however, make sure you don’t personally drink all of it. Turns out—as I’ve come to learn—this tends to upset other people.

A good tip is to bring your own drink to the party to ensure there’s something for you. You could even bring over a big liter of soda, jug of juice, etc. to share with everyone. Not only is this a good way to thank your host and contribute to the event, but also people can’t really complain you drank most of it if you are the one who brought it.

#8 Loosen Up without Boozin’ Up

Alcohol is often called a social lubricant, a way to help people lower their guard and feel more at ease in a social setting. People generally want everyone else to have fun, especially if they are the host of the event, and might offer you a drink so you can loosen up and join the fun.

239092944_b575509fb1_zIf this happens, it’s important to show them what you already know: You don’t need alcohol to have a good time.

Open up, laugh, joke, dance, sing karaoke, be silly! Whatever is going on or whatever the general mood is, make sure you are a part of it.

Depending on your personality, this might be difficult. You may feel awkward shakin’ it on the dance floor, for instance, but trust me, no one will notice—you’re just another person enjoying the party. Being a wet blanket skulking in the corner, on the other hand, will attract negative attention and isn’t fun for anybody.

Are people playing drinking games at the party? See if you can play with something non-alcoholic. In plenty of games, from Beer Pong to Down the River to Flip Cup, swapping in a beverage of your choice for yourself is easy and has no effect on other players. Sure, this won’t work with games like Rage Cage or King’s Cup which involve communal drink(s), and not all people are going to accept non-drinking participants in such an alcohol-centric activity, but should circumstances permit it, go ahead and try. Many drinking games are fun just as regular games.

Warning: Completely fail at a game that requires coordination when you are sober, and you absolutely will be the butt of some jokes. I speak from experience.

#9 Roll with the Punches

It’s not uncommon to get a little teasing for deciding not to drink, even from friends and others who accept your choice. You might be called a prude, goody two shoes, or maybe Mom or Dad. People may joke that you’re secretly a narc or an outer space alien.

The best way to hanLaugh at yourselfdle this is to take it in stride and learn how to laugh at
yourself. I bore the nickname “Sober Sally” for years, but instead of letting it get to me, I wore it with pride. In some sense it even made things easier, a way to get a laugh out of people who asked me to drink.

“Hey, Tyler, want a beer?”

“That’s alright, man, I’m actually a bit of a Sober Sally.”

“Haha, no worries, dude.”

Remember though, a little bit of joking is okay. Bullying is not. If something truly bothers you, speak up.

Also know that at the end of the day, there might always be that one jerk guy or girl who just can’t get over your sobriety no matter what you say or do. Just remain calm, jovial, and confident, and pretty soon they’re the one who is going to start looking like an obsessive creep.

Not drinking is your decision, and if someone dislikes it, that’s their problem not yours.

#10 Use that Clear Head of Yours

If you plan on attending places where there is drinking, you need to get used to being around drunk people. Intoxicated people often don’t think clearly and are much more susceptible to their emotions. Sometimes troubles arise, and it would help to have someone around who can think logically.

That’s where you come in.

BiffFightsStrawbBlonde1941TrailerMake sure everyone has a safe way home and nobody gets taken advantage of. Try to cool down arguments that might turn into fights. Learn how to take care of a person who’s had too much and to tell the difference between somebody who needs immediate medical attention and who is fine to go to sleep.

Don’t act like you’re Superman or the next Mother Theresa about it, though. As helpful as you might be, people won’t respond well to you portraying yourself as some sort of savior just because you aren’t drinking. At the same time, don’t feel like must sacrifice your whole night looking out for others. Have your fun but keep a subtle eye out for anything troubling.

passed out

On a similar note, since you will be sober, offer to be the designated driver.

While it can be annoying when others automatically assume you’ll DD, overall it works out for the best for you and everyone else. It ensures that your friends will have a safe ride, and it gives you an easy out for staying sober.

And because people tend to be so desperate not to be the DD, you definitely hold some leverage.

After my friend Kenny puked in my van—he got most of it in a bucket, but I still had to scrub the seat the next day—I insisted on only driving other people’s cars. You can call dibs on the music or ask for gas money; like everything else about the night, the choice is up to you.

*        *        *

By Tyler Wroblewski

We hope this list proves useful if ever you find yourself surrounded by alcohol while staying sober. Deciding not to drink doesn’t mean giving up friends or a social life, and with these tips, you can keep both and still have fun and stay safe.

Pictures From

Concert: From Alec Luhn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Talking on Steps: From Akuppa John Wigham at www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00

Juice: From https://pixabay.com/en/beverage-juices-drink-food-healthy-882652/

Karaoke: From Kyle Taylor at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyletaylor/239092944

Laugh at Yourself: From Celestine Chua at www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua

Fist Fight: From Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons from film “Strawberry Blonde.”

Passed Out Man: From https://pixabay.com/en/alcohol-hangover-event-death-drunk-428392/