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My kid is on drugs! What do I do now?

My kid is on drugs! What do I do now?

Q: I found a baggie of marijuana in my son’s pocket when I was doing the laundry. I am just devastated that he is using drugs. What do I do now? How can I keep him away from this stuff?

A: On laundry day, we get used to emptying pockets full of rocks and tidbits that are too irresistible for our children to leave behind. But the transition from childhood to adolescence becomes all too concrete when a parent ends up holding an illegal substance in front of the washer.

Call on your own support system. A first reaction might include the desire to storm into your son’s room waving the baggie around and demanding answers.  A confrontational approach isn’t likely to yield positive long-term results. Instead, call on a trusted member of your own support system who will understand how devastated you feel.

Arrange for an uninterrupted discussion. See if a relative or neighbor will let younger children come over for a short time. Have older teens visit friends. Turn off the cell phones. Ask your son to tell you how marijuana became a part of his life. Was he curious? Seeking novel sensations? Was it an accepted behavior in a new clique of friends? Has he had an experience that he is trying to escape?

Does he see why this is a problem? What if he had been arrested for possession?  Does he understand the consequences? Does he have dreams that involve college? THC affects the hippocampus, which influences short-term memory; this could make a difference in school performance. Does he want access to the family car? Those who use marijuana, just like those who drink alcohol, need to be concerned about driving under the influence. Reaction times can slow down under the influence of THC.

Increase parental monitoring and involvement. See if the high school, your parish or Catholic Charities have any programs focusing on substance abuse that parents and/or teens can attend. Create a “parent peer group,” if possible, so that you get to know the parents of some of your son’s friends. See if other parents support mutual rules, such as supervised parties and similar curfews. Make your home a welcoming environment for the teen crowd with plenty of snacks, such as nachos or pizzas to put in the oven.    

Call 1-877-NIDA-NIH. This is NIDA’s DrugPubs Research Dissemination Center. Ask for the Mind Over Matter: Marijuana brochure. Your family physician is an important local resource. Also, the SAMHSA Web site (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) has more than 11,000 different facilities that provide treatment. You enter your state, city and how far you would be willing to travel for treatment. A list of available services is provided. Go to www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov.