Parenting an adolescent with an addiction or substance use problem can evoke fear, anger and hopelessness. Sometimes people begin to think that things will never get better with their teen’s behavior. It is common to be overwhelmed (under statement) when you are dealing with the stresses of parenting anyway, but when your son or daughter is also using you can begin to feel “crazy.” In fact, many parents seeking help for their son or daughter report that they are often told that they are crazy for being suspicious and asking too many questions! Where were you? What is this object I found? Are you using drugs? How come you look so tired? Why are you so moody????
Although you might feel crazy, the reality is that you are not. If you have a son or daughter that is using you will be suspicious, concerned and worried- Not crazy. The list below provides some common things that parents hear when they are dealing with a young person who is using.

1) I can quit on my own/ If you let me… I will…
The reality is if your son or daughter has been using for some time, they have attempted to quit. Or you may have set limits and expectations that you were hoping would create change- therefore, they are not able to quit on their own. Love, kindness and all the “talking about things” in the world will not change their behavior, only help will increase the chance of progress. Plus how many broken promises are you willing to take?

2) You don’t understand.
This one is simple, the reality is you do understand. They just don’t believe that you do. Adolescents, as we have experienced, are attempting to find their identity, get a handle on social feedback and cope with the changes in their body. We have all been there. We know what it’s like to navigate these problems. Just because they believe you don’t understand doesn’t permit them to make poor choices. The most important thing for an adolescent is consistent limits presented by an experienced person (you), otherwise they will not know how to handle a limit when someone in society gives them one (employer, bills, car payments, legal, education, mortgage payments, all the things in the adult world).

3) Treatment will only make me worse/ If I don’t want to go to treatment it won’t help, you will waste your money.
All three of these comments must be evaluated through the weighing of pro’s and con’s. If you want your son or daughter to get better, treatment is your best bet. Yes it will be difficult, challenging and may cause life interruption but it will be worth it in the long run. Treatment isn’t about “just quitting drugs” it’s about way more than that. Treatment focuses on the emotional problems, social difficulties, behavioral problems and drug use. In addition, there are several studies that show people who are forced into treatment are more successful than those who willingly go in. Last, when someone enters treatment it might not work, but if it does, well then it was worth it.

4) It’s no big deal, all kids try drugs.
Reality: No not every kid uses drugs, not every kid tries drugs. At this point it is really important to know that the adolescent brain is undergoing significant neural changes and repetitive behavior at this time causes life long patterns. Since the adolescent brain is building and hard wiring patterns, whatever patterns are created at this time have a seriously better chance of sticking. So any drug use at this time is not good.

5) It’s just weed.
A whole book could be written on the impact of weed on adolescent brain development and functioning (and it probably has been). But let’s just say that since the adolescent brain is undergoing serious wiring, marijuana impacts and interrupts this wiring. It can cause problems with processing speed (burn out), in some cases cause psychosis and some studies have proven that regular use of marijuana can cause IQ to decline. Finally, the weed that people smoked in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s is not the same as today. Today THC content in marijuana is highly potent and with new trends such as “wax” it can be from 60-80%. For comparison, weed in 1970 was less than 10% potent and today it has been found over 20%… and in one study 30%!