Q & A

Frequently Asked Questions:

We have a lot of alcoholism and drug addiction on both sides of our family. Are my children at higher risk for addiction?
The short answer is yes. Children of alcoholics or addicts are three times more likely to develop problems and, if both parents are addicts or alcoholics, the risk increases fivefold. This is due to heredity as well as learned behavior. Because you have some great real-life examples at your fingertips, use them to talk to your kids about the dangers of drugs and how rampant addiction is in your family history. Explain to them they are at higher risk for addiction themselves because of this. Talk to them about the warning signs of alcoholism and/or drug addiction. Make sure they can always come to you for help or with questions. Set zero tolerance expectations in your family for drug and alcohol use and stay informed about what is going on with teens in your community.

Are alcoholism and drug addiction the same thing?
Yes – they are the same disease process. Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive use of one or more substances that results in physical, psychological or social harm to the individual and continued use of the substance or substances despite this harm.

What are some signs of alcoholism or addiction?
Some signs may be aggression, denial, depression or paranoia, emotional outbursts, poor motivation, inability to sit still, irritability, sweating, weight loss, excessive sleeping, change in friends, drop in grades, secretive behavior. Some parents report they saw no signs prior to finding out about a problem.

I don’t want to lose my son’s trust by drug-testing him. Is there another way to find out if he’s using drugs?
Yes, you can catch him red-handed, but by waiting until that happens, you have let precious time go by. Explain to your teen that you love him so much, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep him safe. That includes random drug testing. Early intervention is the best chance for successful intervention. Try to think of drug testing as a way for your child to EARN your trust and to prove he is trustworthy.

Unfortunately, kids are so good at covering up their drug use that, by the time you catch him, it may be that he is well down the road to abuse. Remember, statistics show that by the time a child is caught using drugs or alcohol, the average time that child has been using is 7-8 months. Don’t wait. And, remember that drug testing gives your teen an excellent excuse to “say no to drugs” that is accepted by his peers.

I suspect my child is using drugs but his drug tests are coming up negative. What should I do?
First of all, remember to listen to that “gut-check” that tells you something is not right. Here are a few suggestions:

• Make sure you are randomly testing.
• If possible, make sure a same-sex parent or trusted friend or relative is observing the test. Kids have been known to substitute another person’s clean urine.
• Take a urine sample on a Friday night, but don’t test the sample, just throw it away. Some teens think that after they’ve been tested, it is a license to party for the next few days. Surprise him with another test on Sunday morning.
• If this still comes up negative, try searching his room or car when he’s not around and look for signs of drug paraphernalia.

If all else fails, just keep doing what you’re doing and time will tell the rest. Either he has truly stopped using or he will go deeper into the cycle of addiction and other signs and/or symptoms will emerge.

I found pot in my teen’s room – now what?
Act on it immediately. Stay calm and develop a game plan so that when you confront your teen you will be prepared for action.

• Obtain a drug test kit.
• Call your Health Insurance Company and research where you can take your teen for an assessment, if the drug test turns up positive.
• Confront your teen at the earliest opportunity and be ready to administer the drug test.
• Remind your teen you love him or her and will do whatever it takes to keep him or her safe.
• Levy consequences for your teen for having brought drugs into your home or for having a positive drug test.
• Destroy the marijuana and all drug paraphernalia.
• Disregard any claims by your son or daughter that the marijuana isn’t his/ hers.

My teen tested positive on a drug test. What should I do?
Take your son to a drug treatment counselor to be assessed. A drug treatment counselor is a professional who can properly assess whether your teen needs treatment. Remember, kids lie about drugs – don’t buy it if your teen states the pot is not his or hers or says he’s only smoked it once or twice. Better to be safe than sorry. If the counselor determines your teen does not have a serious problem warranting intervention, at least your teen got the message you are serious about drugs and alcohol and you have a zero tolerance for it in your home.

My son refused to take a drug test. What do I do?
A child, who has nothing to hide, hides nothing. A refusal equals a positive drug test. Follow the same recommendations as if he tested positive. Contact a drug treatment center and schedule an assessment.

What do I do if my teenager refuses to meet with a drug treatment assessment counselor?
As the parent you have some control over the situation. Your number one priority must be to get your child to attend the assessment appointment. Withhold all privileges until your child agrees to go. This can include car, computer, cell phone, going out, etc. – any privilege your teen values. You may need an extra authority figure to help deliver your plan of action. This could include your school resource officer, school counselor or local law enforcement personnel. Be patient, this may take some time. Don’t give in. Once your teen realizes that you mean business and he is not going to get his privileges back, he will eventually agree to meet with a drug assessment counselor.

I confronted my teenager about suspected drug use. Now he’s run away. What do I do?
Usually kids run away as a threat to get you to back down from your rules. Calling the police and reporting him or her as a runaway sends the message to your teen that you are serious.

I confronted my teen about her drug use and now she’s missing. I don’t want to call the police because I don’t want my child to have a “record.”
How can I keep her out of the “system?”

A phone call to the police to report a runaway does not put your child into the “system.” However, for some teens, getting into the system might be exactly what’s needed to stop the cycle of drug use. I suggest you call the police and file a Missing Person Report. If you don’t intervene now, your daughter may continue a downward spiral into drug addiction or worse. The juvenile justice system is designed for rehabilitation as opposed to the adult criminal justice system that focuses mainly on punishment. Early intervention is critical to successful intervention.

My daughter told me the drugs I found in her car belonged to a friend. She said she’d be in danger if I confiscate the drugs. What do I do?
Do not believe her story. People who use drugs do not entrust them to others to “hold.” People who do drugs rarely risk the consequences of drug possession for a friend. Act on it immediately. Stay calm and develop a game plan so that when you confront your teen, you will be prepared for action.

• Obtain a drug test kit.
• Call your Health Insurance Company and research where you can take your teen for an assessment, if the drug test turns up positive.
• Confront your teen at the earliest opportunity and be ready to administer the drug test.
• Remind your teen you love her and will do whatever it takes to keep her safe.
• Levy consequences for your teen for having brought drugs into your home or for having a positive drug test.
• Be sure to destroy the drugs and all drug paraphernalia.
• Disregard any claims by your daughter that the drugs weren’t hers.

My son has suddenly started to hang around with some new friends that seem so different from his other friends. Should I be concerned?
Yes and no. A sudden change in friends can often be a warning sign of drug use. However, my first suggestion is to take the time to get to know the teens and trust your instincts before making a judgment. Do not allow your son to go to his new friends’ homes without speaking to a parent first to determine their rules and supervision standards. If, after getting to know his new friends, you still don’t have a good feeling about them, pay attention to how your son’s behavior changes with the new friends. If he becomes defiant or moody, has emotional outbursts or other behaviors not consistent with his usual personality, drug test your son.

I’ve caught my daughter drinking several times, but I never really thought it was much more than normal teen behavior – should I be concerned?
Yes. Remember, alcohol is a drug. It affects every part of the body, including the central nervous system and brain. Alcohol is the number one cause of death of teenagers. The younger a person starts drinking, the more at risk he/she is for developing alcohol dependence. Please take your daughter to a drug treatment counselor for a proper assessment to determine if your daughter needs further intervention.

My 10th grader, who used to get A’s and B’s on his report card, is now failing several courses. He just seems to lack motivation to do homework, or even turn in assignments. Could this be a symptom of drug use?
Failing grades are always a red flag for possible drug problems. If you haven’t already drug tested your teen that should be your first step. If you discover your teen is using drugs, follow through by having your teen assessed by a drug treatment counselor. Regardless of the drug test results, set up a meeting with your child’s counselor at school to develop a plan of action the school can support. In addition I would recommend you look for a local chapter of Parent Project, a parenting class that targets destructive adolescent behavior, including poor school performance. Check out www.parentproject.com for information.

Teens are going to drink anyway. Wouldn’t it be safer if I let them drink under my supervision and keep them off the highway?
Absolutely not! Remember, the earlier children begin drinking, the higher their risk of becoming alcohol dependent. You are also assuming a high risk. All states in the United States have social host liability laws wherein adults can be prosecuted for serving alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. Liability can include medical bills and property damage. Parents who are not home can even be held accountable for underage drinking. Social host liability laws can apply to parents who don’t take adequate steps to prevent teenage drinking in their homes.

My 19-year-old son is living at home and he’s using drugs. Is it too late to intervene?
No. It’s never too late to try to save a loved one from drug dependency. If your son is dependent on you for support, you still have an opportunity and obligation to intervene regarding any destructive behavior. When a child is over the age of 18, parents still have a lot of influence if they are supporting that child. Even though an 18-year-old is considered an adult and must agree to drug treatment, you can help steer him in the right direction by not giving him money or providing a soft place to “land.” (Your home, food, warm bed, etc.) If your child is using drugs, you must declare your home as a zero tolerance, drug-free zone. You must not let him live with you if he is unwilling to stop using drugs. You can tell him how much he is loved and how he has your full support after he has checked himself into treatment. This way you are offering your son help to get help, but not enabling him to continue a destructive life pattern.

No-Nonsense Action Plan
If you find evidence of drugs or alcohol:

1. Stay calm and develop a game plan so that you will be prepared for action when you confront your teen.
2. Call your Health Insurance Company and research where you can take your teen for an assessment. Make an appointment.
3. Confront your teen at the earliest opportunity and if necessary, be ready to impose consequences, to get your teen to the assessment appointment.
4. Remind your teen you love him or her and will do whatever it takes to keep him or her safe.

Advice from local Author and Anti-Drug Advocate Christy Crandell excerpted from her book: Lost & Found: A Mother and Son Find Victory over Teen Drug Addiction.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 02 June 2009 15:11 )

  • #1 written by peggy carper
    about 4 years ago

    How can it be that no one has commented on all the valuable information given in this Q & A. ? All parents should have the benefit of this information as it can prevent a lot of grief for the child and also the parents. I recently completed the classes needed to be a substance abuse counselor because I wanted to be of assistance in the field of addiction because there is such a need for it. Prevention is the first step to prevent the harm of substance abuse, and this Q & A is a helpful guide for parents in that end.

    Thank you posting the information.

  • #2 written by Robin DeLorenzo
    about 4 years ago

    Hi, my sister is Michele Adams, who is a friend of Erin Johansen. I checked the website for pictures of the winter fundraiser. Excellent site. I have one comment about a Q&A. There is a question from a parent with a 10th grader whose grades had dropped, and who lacked motivation. The question was whether this could be a sign or drug use. The answer is yes, but another possibility is that the kid could be suffering from depression. I don’t know whether drug counselors are trained to detect depression. Maybe the answer should also recommend that the parents have the kid evaluated by a doctor.

  • #3 written by erin
    about 3 years ago

    Hi Robin,

    I didn’t know we had a comment section until just now. Shows how technoligically savvy we are! Sorry to take so long to respond but your question is a good one. Our Clinical Director is trained in diagnosing what is known as “co-occurring disorders” of which depression in one. It oftens goes hand in hand with substance abuse as kids try to self medicate. A trained substance abuse professional will look for both while a medical doctor or psychiatrist may not look for substance use. It is very hard to diagnose properly if a person is masking symptoms. The best thing to do is drug test your teens. If they come up clean then a mental health professional is the correct resource. They can evaluate whether or not the child should then be seen by a Psychiatrist and consider medication. If they come up dirty, you have to consider a substance abuse issue and drug and alcohol counselors are trained to make that assesment. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • #4 written by Mary Roper
    about 3 years ago

    Finally, after raising children for 34 years and having a very challenging 17 yr. old without drug issues but who suffers from bipolar, depression, and mania , I have been steered in the right direction. Thanks to my councelor from the White House counceling center and my own persistence I now believe that we will survive and not be just another statistic. Looking forward to learning more parenting tools and skills. This organization and information must get its face out to the public. Its taken way to long to be sent in the direction of answers and solutions Again Thank You

  • #5 written by Jennifer Foster
    about 1 year ago

    Amazing advice! We need so much more addiction and prevention education for parents and communities. I am thankful for everyone dedicated to providing information, resources, and support to parents and promoting lifesaving prevention techniques.
    Having good treatment facilities available to anyone in need is also critical. Full Circle Treatment Center is a blessing to many people!