What to Do if Your Child is Doing Drugs

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Teen drug use and overdose deaths have seen a significant increase over the past decade, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCAS). The latest data indicates that about 1-in-8 teenagers misused an illicit substance in the past year. While teen drug use is less of an issue here in Texas compared to other states, the problem is still very real.

 Teen drug use shouldn’t be waved off as just harmless experimentation. Substance misuse has been linked to drastic, permanent changes in adolescent brains. It’s also worth noting that a majority of adult residents at drug rehabs in Dallas started using drugs in their teens.

If you find out that your child has been doing drugs, it’s not the end of the world. One-off or occasional drug use, while still potentially dangerous, won’t necessarily lead to a lifelong problem if parents act on it immediately. Even more serious problems can also be readily addressed through modern rehabilitation. Below are some tips on what to do should you find out your child has been doing drugs.

1.) Try not to panic 

It’s natural to be angry and emotional after you discover your child’s drug use. However, it’s important to keep your emotions in check and to avoid doing anything impulsive. If you catch them in the act or if they tell you outright, you can just leave right away if you feel that you can’t keep your feelings in check. 


If you discover it without your child knowing, don’t confront them until you’ve processed what you saw and talked to the other parent.


Take a day or so to process your discovery and your confrontation with your child, if any. You can do some research on substance use disorders from sources like the National Institute on Drug Abuse. You can also check out how the substance your child used affects younger people. This will give you some idea of what to expect moving forward.

 2.) Involve the other parent

Before you take any serious action such as sending your child to rehab, for instance, you will want to let the other parent know what’s going on. Children who get found out may turn to manipulation and try to have one parent go against the other. 

Consulting the other parent, even if you don’t have a good relationship with them, can prevent this from happening. If both parents are on the same page, then it will be much easier to enforce any boundaries that are set for the child, later on.

3.) Talk to your child in a non-judgmental way

As soon as you get your emotions in check, you’ll want to talk to your child about their drug use, preferably with the other parent or people involved in their upbringing. 

Try not to be judgmental and try to keep any feelings of anger productive. No script will work for everyone but you will want to know their side and why they engaged in such behavior. You’ll want to tell them that you’re laying down some ground rules to keep it from happening again. Make sure that they understand they you’re doing this out of love and not because you’re ashamed of them.

4.) Take time to understand the whole context

Even though all types of drug misuse are dangerous, there’s still a difference between trying out pot one time and using it frequently. There’s also a difference between the relative harm of different substances.

Additionally, there may be a number of different reasons why your child may be using drugs. If they tried drugs due to peer pressure, the approach taken may have to be somewhat different than if they did drugs because of recent trauma or because of a desire to do better in school, as can be the case with some kinds of stimulant misuse.

5.) Seek the help of a qualified child counselor or psychiatrist

While teen drug use is a common occurrence, it may not necessarily be something you have experience with. Drug use often comes with underlying mental health issues that most parents are not yet equipped to handle. A visit to a qualified child counselor can help you find out if there are any specific issues that you might have overlooked. It may also give you an idea if your child is a candidate for a drug rehab program.

6.) Set clear boundaries and guidelines

Whether or not you decide to enter your child into rehab, it’s important to set some boundaries and ground rules. While you cannot realistically cut off all their access to substances that could be misused, setting boundaries can go a long way in preventing one-time or infrequent drug use from becoming worse.

  Some things you could do include the following:

  • Not allowing friends into the house when you’re away
  • Not allowing outings without parental supervision
  • Taking them to and from school each day
  • Not allowing outside sleepovers unless you get to talk to their friends’ parents
  • Forbidding contact with friends who are proven negative influences
  • Requiring them to tell you where they are at all times
  • Installing a specialized tracking app on their phone
  • Set specific limits on car use

These are just some things you could try to minimize the odds your child will continue to do drugs. It’s important to be reasonable and to be somewhat open to negotiation, depending on your circumstances.

6.) Consider everyone else’s mental health — including your own

Drug use can affect everyone in your family. If you have other children, they may also be negatively affected by the affected child’s drug use. The other children in your family may not understand what’s going on or they may not be getting the attention they need. You may also find yourself traumatized by the experience. This can collectively create more challenges in your child’s recovery experience.

Given this, it’s important to not only keep an eye on how other family members are doing, but also to take care of your own mental health. Should you decide to send your child to rehab, their temporary absence should be taken as an opportunity to take a breather and practice self-care. This can help everyone come to terms with their feelings, dramatically improving interactions later on.


Finding out that your child does drugs is can be devastating. Thankfully, parents aren’t without solutions for this increasingly common phenomenon. By setting clear boundaries and seeking professional help, you can ensure that your child’s brief experimentation does not have a lasting negative impact on their future.

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