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Healthy Women's World

I Think my Child is Using Drugs

  • By: Wendy McLellan

  • What is a parent to think? I see behavior changes in my child. They used to be social, outgoing and communicated with the family. Now my child is secretive, isolated & uncommunicative. Is it possible that my worst nightmare has come true? My child is using drugs?

    In today's world, pressure to use drugs is quite significant. When we were children, back in the 60's, 70'sand 80's; the drugs of choice were marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Today's world is much different. The children of today are exposed to numerous other "rave" drugs. They include ecstasy, (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), Khat, Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride), GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) this is the date rape drug.

    Is my child going through normal adolescence, where they begin to separate from their parents, or using drugs? There are very important signs that you will see when your child is using drugs. Some of the most important signs are:

    Less attention paid to grooming. "My child used to take care of themselves, brush their hair, brush their teeth, now they seem indifferent."

    Loss of appetite or an increased appetite, loss of weight or increased weight, without current medical issues. "My child has lost/gained 5-20lbs over the last few months and I don't know what is going on. My PCP reports all blood-work and physical examination appeared fine."

    Red and glassy eyes and frequent use of eye drops. "My child is using Visine on a regular basis. I smell breath mints when they walk in the door. Is it possible that they are drinking/smoking pot?" Decreased attendance and performance at school. "I have received phone calls from the school stating my child is tardy/late to some/all classes."

    Loss of interest in school, sports, or other activities. "My child used to be involved in baseball, basketball etc. Now it seems they just want to sit and watch TV all day."

    Newly developed secrecy; deceptive or sneaky behavior. "My child locks his bedroom door, appears uneasy when I am within "earshot" of their phone calls. My child is telling me that they are at the mall with their friends, but I find out that they were at a friends house instead."

    Withdrawal from family and friends. "My child used to be very athletic, had at least 5 ? 10 good friends. Now I am seeing "other friends" that I do not know. My child is no longer hanging out with their old friends and my child is reluctant to introduce me to their new friends".

    Lying and stealing. "I have caught my child stealing and lying from me on several occasions during the past year."

    Disrespectful behavior. "My child was always brought up to respect other people, but is now very disrespectful to others."

    Changes in mood. "My child's mood is very liable. One minute they are happy, the next minute they are sad and the next minute they are angry. I feel like I'm walking on "eggshells" every time I speak with my child."

    Goals for the future. "My child used to have dreams and goals for the future. They used to talk about going to college or a trade school or entering a specific market field. Now they are consumed with nothing."

    These are all prominent signs that your child may be using drugs. There are various ways to deal with this problem. The most important is to begin counseling, specifically with a drug and alcohol counselor whom is up to date with the current drugs of abuse and is able to test for drugs of abuse, via urine screens. If you determine via urine screens that your child continues to use drugs, then you may be best served by enrolling your child into an Intensive Outpatient Program, specifically for drug use. If your child has continued drug use, even with the Intensive Outpatient Program, then a residential drug and alcohol treatment program is suggested.

    Your child's future is at stake. I have seen some children do extremely well with counseling and others that ended up in the prison system or worse (accidental overdose). The most successful cases however, had very prominent parental involvement in their child's treatment, even though the child did not want treatment or parental involvement.

    Wendy McLellan MA, LCDPII is a licensed mental health and substance abuse counselor, with more than sixteen years of experience. She has recently devoted time to the efforts of in their goal to provide parental internet safety tools and resources to the public.