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Could your teen be using drugs?

A scary time in the lives of many parents occurs when they begin to suspect their teens are using drugs. Whatever the causes for suspicion, it is important for parents to remain relatively calm and to take action as soon as possible. Below are a few ideas of what you can do if you think your teen is using.

Discuss

Chat with your teen, and try to do so in the most comfortable and welcoming situation. For instance, have the discussion while playing basketball, watching TV or knitting. Making a big deal out of, "I want to talk to you," could make the teen defensive.

You know your teen well, so use your judgment when opening the conversation and asking relevant questions. Saying something such as, "Do you feel like you're angrier lately?" is better than, "Why are you so emotional lately? Is it drugs?" Frame your concerns in terms of the teen's behavior rather than any firm conclusions you may seem to have.

Keep in touch

It is good to have regular talks with a teen to touch base on how his or her life is going. The teen years are a scary, confusing and exhilarating time. Running away from home, stealing things and drinking under the legal age are some illegal activities that may happen. Also, depression does occur often, and some teens try to self-medicate with drugs. Thus, if you suspect depression and/or drug use is occurring, you can suggest activities that will keep your teen busy and less likely to turn to drugs.

Arrange for counseling

In cases of actual drug use, counseling can help a teen identify why the use is occurring. Boredom, peer pressure, a need to feel accepted and self-medication are common reasons. Counselors can help teens find healthy outlets for their time. Enhancing their confidence and sense of self may also decrease or end the drug use.

Listen to your gut

Perhaps the most important thing is to listen to your gut. If a voice is telling you that your teen's explanation for an arrest is flimsy (ex. "The police arrested everyone at the party, even people like me who weren't smoking"), listen to that internal voice. A pediatrician or family doctor can refer you to a counselor, and even if your teen is not on drugs, a counselor can help in many ways.

A teen using drugs is at risk for arrest. If something like this happens, talk with a lawyer as soon as possible to prevent juvenile detention, keep your child's adult record clean and help him or her get treatment.

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