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Calming worries about drugs

Answers from YouthZone
by Terry Shanahan

I have a suspicion my child is involved in using drugs, what should I do?

An admired parent once told me that, “Worrying about your children is part and parcel of parenting; it never stops no matter how old they are.” Fortunately, some worries are less concerning than others. One of the primary fears that parents of adolescents bring to YouthZone is centered on their suspicions that their child is involved with drugs. It is a disconcerting but very real concern that parents must face especially in light of these facts from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

– Approximately one in six youths (16.7 percent) reported that they had been approached by someone selling drugs in the past month. Those who had been approached reported a much higher rate of past month use of an illicit drug than those who had not been approached (36.2 and 6.7 percent, respectively).



– The percentages of youths reporting that if was fairly or very easy to obtain specific drugs were 25.0 percent for cocaine, 19.4 percent for LSD and 15.8 percent for heroin.

(Results from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings)



If you feel your child might be involved in using drugs, there are four distinct concepts to consider: communication, listening, role modeling and observation.

First, it is extremely important to establish an environment in which your children will feel free to talk with you about their lives. Set aside time on a weekly basis just to visit with your child. Demonstrate in every possible way that you are a resource for your child. Give your child a strong message that you want to hear what is going on in his or her life, including how your child is dealing with the question of drug use.

Second, listen to your children. Listen not only to what they are saying, but also the message behind the words. Young people may not know why they are feeling they way they are; talking about their experiences will help them clarify their feelings.

Third, it is imperative that parents role model the behaviors and messages they want to give to their children. If your message is that you don’t want your children to have anything to do with substance use, then your behavior has to demonstrate that clearly.

Finally, pay close attention to your child’s life outside the home. Regardless of your children’s age, it is important that you give them proper supervision. Know your child’s friends and keep in touch with their parents. Watch for any marked changes in your child’s behavior or lifestyle. For example, has your child’s peer group changed suddenly, or has your child had a noticeable drop in school performance?

If you have questions or concerns around substance use or abuse in your child’s life, contact YouthZone and set up a parent consultation.

Have a question? Ask YouthZone. E-mail your question to mjcarnevale@youthzone.com.


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