It’s one of every parent’s nightmares. During a routine cleaning of your child’s room or while borrowing ‘their’ car – you accidentally come across a benign little baggie. Curiosity gets the best of you, and you open it up only to be shocked to find your teen’s stash of drugs. At first, you think your eyes must be playing a trick on you. After all, your child would never do drugs, especially after so many candid discussions about the pitfalls of addiction and the dangers of drugs. Right!?

Wrong.

The truth is that you are not alone, and you if come across your child’s stash of drugs, you can count yourself as one of the lucky parents. At least you know. According to 2012 data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse – around half of all teenagers have been exposed to some sort of illegal narcotic. And while not all of these teens go on to become addicts, or pursue their drug use beyond experimentation – 90% of the teens admit that their parents don’t know.

One of the most popular drugs among teens today is marijuana. Not only is it inexpensive when you consider the cost of other street drugs, but it is fairly easy for teens to maintain. Since the 1990’s, marijuana has consistently been a ‘starter’ drug for teens as young as 14 and 15 years of age. More recently, synthetic forms of the drug (Dubbed spice or K) are popping up for sale in drug and alcohol stores –as well as through drug dealers are becoming problematic due to the inconsistent experiences that people have after consumption.

Broken down by age, statistics from the National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates the following in regard to teenage drug use.

  • 6.5 percent of 8th graders have used marijuana or some other illegal drug.
  • 17 percent of 10th graders have used marijuana or some other illegal drug.
  • And a whopping 30% of 12th graders have used marijuana or other illegal drugs.

They also report that 6.5 percent of high school students are using drugs of some sort on a daily basis. Far too many parents believe that their child – could not be among the percentages of teens doing drugs. Keep in mind, that drug use among the teenage culture does not show any sort of cultural or societal trend. It is widespread among all ethnic and economic groups.

All of this despite anti-drug campaigns in public schools and despite candidness of conversation among parents with their children about drug use.

The trick is knowing what to do once you find the drugs. Of course, you are angry, and most parents’ FIRST reaction is to blow a gasket and take away all freedoms that their teen has. While experts agree that consequences are necessary and should be immediate in when parents realize their child is experimenting, it is also important for parents to keep the lines of communication necessary so they can ascertain the extent of their teens drug use.

The questions that you need answered about the stash of drugs are?

  • Is your teen just experimenting, or are they on the road to addiction?
  • Where did they obtain the drugs? (Most teens won’t fess up to this part)
  • How long have they been doing drugs?
  • Why does your child feel the ‘need’ to do drugs?

For most parents, the secondary response to the shock of finding out your child is using drugs is to question their parenting. You might be asking yourself where you went wrong with as a parent that your child would turn to drugs. Experts in the field of teenage drug abuse believe that while this is a normal response, your child’s drug use/experimentation is not your fault. Alcohol and drug use among teens is a normal part of the process for many teens who are pressured by peers. The key is to find out why your child is doing drugs and get them the help they need to stop. Recognize that sometimes, punishment by the parents is just not enough to get a child to stop using illegal substances.

Many teens have a watered down perception of the effects of drug use. Chances are if you scroll through your mental file, you may have noticed the tell tale signs of drug use with your teen that are often mistaken for the normal growth of teens. Withdrawal, anger, depression, falling grades, change of friends, secretiveness, excess sleeping or eating, lying, and perhaps even theft of money. (More than half of all teens admit that they steal money from their parents to get drugs).

So what should you do now?

First, sit down and have an open, clear-headed conversation with your child. Avoid blaming yourself, and do your best to remain level headed with your teen during the conversation. This is a time to build trust, to encourage your child to open up to you, to find out what is going on in their head and in their life. If you are too accusatory – your teen will think that you ‘just don’t understand’ and will clam up, only hindering a happy ending.

The next step, regardless of the admitted level of drug use – is to seek some sort of drug and alcohol counseling from a professional experienced in the field. Seek out a local group at your hospital, or even a faith-based group (many of these are free) that deals with high-risk teens and MAKE THEM GO to the appointments. Additionally, expose them in some manner – to the life that is ahead of them should they continue to use drugs.

You should also impose a heavy dose of consequences. Consider drug testing your teen on a weekly basis, and taking away ALL privileges until they can remain drug free for a certain period of time. Privacy, and trust are privileges, and until you can remain certain that your child is following the rules and abstaining – you should keep them on a tight leash. And be persistent! Don’t just assume that your child will stop using drugs just because you found their stash. Don’t be fooled by the thinking that your child is above drug use, and no matter what you do – don’t fall for the stories that the drugs you found are not theirs, or that they have never done it. Remember, finding your child’s stash is actually a ‘good thing’ in the scope of teenage drug use, because you are being provided with proof that your child is using drugs. You know! And now you have to act accordingly, and perhaps more aggressively than ever before in your parenting career.

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