While some people are able to use recreational or prescription drugs without ever experiencing negative consequences or addiction, for many others, substance use can cause problems at work, home, school, and in relationships, leaving them feeling isolated, helpless, or ashamed.
If you’re worried about a family member’s drug use, say maybe a child, it’s very important to learn about the nature of drug abuse and addiction—how it develops, what it looks like, and why it can have such a powerful hold— as this will not only give you a better understanding of the problem, but how to best deal with it.
Therefore, as a parent or guardian, the greatest challenge is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse. These include:
- Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils; using eye drops to try to mask these signs.
- Skipping class; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school.
- Missing money, valuables, or prescriptions.
- Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry, or depressed.
- Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group.
- Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities.
- Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around especially when the rest of the household is asleep.
When you discover your teen has a drug problem, it may lead to fear, confusion, disappointment and even anger. But it is importannt to make it known that your concern comes from a place of love as it is important that your teen feels that you are supportive.
Here are five, make it six steps you can take as a parent to help:
- Lay down rules and consequences. Your teen should understand that using drugs comes with specific consequences. But don’t make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce. Make sure you are in agreement with your spouse on the rules and its enforcement. At this point, you both don’t want to be seen as ‘divided’.
- Monitor your teen’s activity. A lot of kids will disagree with this aprticular point but I say, monitor! It is for your own and teen’s good. Know where your teen goes and who he or she hangs out with. It’s also important to routinely check potential hiding places for drugs—in backpacks, between books on a shelf or in a drawer, in DVD cases or make-up cases, for example. Explain to your teen that this lack of privacy is a consequence of him or her having been caught using drugs.
- Encourage other interests and social activities. Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as church programmes for youths or an Islamiyya (Islamic school) after school. If available, encourage him/her to join a Boys Scout or Girls Guide in the area.
- Talk to your child about underlying issues. Drug use can be the result of other problems. Is your child having trouble fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress? Try to know the source of his problems.
- Get Help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a well respected personality familiar to the family (when I was younger and used to be involved in troubles, there was always one neighbour my parents knew to reach out to because I listened to him), family doctor, therapist, or counselor or even a religious figure.
- Pray. We can never ignore the place of God in directing the affairs of men. He is the one we run to when all other options are exhausted. As you implement the above steps, why not include your teen more in your prayer supplications? Embark on fasts and maybe even suggest you do it together? God hears prayers and He still makes the impossible possible!