How to Confront your Child if you suspect they are using Drugs

How to Confront your Child if you suspect they are using Drugs

How to Confront your Child if you suspect they are using Drugs

How to Confront your Child if you suspect they are using Drugs

Parents don’t suddenly wake up one morning with the fear that their child is using drugs; it is usually something that develops over time because they have noticed signs that something is not quite right.

It could be that a previously good student has started to drop their grades.  Perhaps they are hanging out with a bad crowd, becoming more secretive or their behavior has deteriorated.   There could be more concrete reasons why, as a parent, you have become suspicious; you are finding your money gone, they look different or maybe you have found drugs or equipment.

No matter why you have grown suspicious, the thought of a child using drugs is something that most parents find terrifying.  It is easy to become angry, scared, afraid or confused and your mind may seem to be all over the place.  The big question most parents in this situation asks is what can I do now?

A child using drugs is something that must be tackled head-on but it is really hard to know how to raise the subject.  Although your thoughts and emotions are likely to be in turmoil you must keep your feelings in check and collect your thoughts before saying anything to your child.  Preparation is the key to what is an undoubtedly difficult and challenging conversation, but getting ready beforehand can make all the difference in the outcome, avoid any backlash, and enable your family to move forward constructively.

Starting the Conversation About Substance Abuse

Whatever substance your child is using, be that drugs or alcohol, make sure you are prepared, calm and know what you want to say before you try to start a conversation. This article is intended to help teach you How to Confront your Child if you suspect they are using Drugs.

The direct approach is always the best.  There is no way around the fact that abusing drugs or alcohol is dangerous but you must avoid getting emotional and try to make sure that your child does not pick up any feelings of anger or frustration.  Avoid making accusations.  If you fall into any of these traps or you start to shout and threaten the result will be that your child will shut down and won’t be willing to talk at all.  Tackle the problem with some delicacy to have a chance that they will open up.

The best approach is from a place of caring – that you are concerned for their well-being.  A child who abuses any substance will try to play it down so keep calm and express your thoughts without getting angry, shouting or making accusations.

Make it clear what you expect.  There are many ways to tell someone that substance abuse is not acceptable or safe and that there are consequences they have to face without getting aggressive, angry or confrontational.

Don’t try to talk to them if they are obviously under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  They will not engage with you and it could make it harder when you approach them again when they are sober.

Instead of accusing them of anything try to ask some more open-ended questions so that they have an opportunity to explain, expand upon and discuss the issues.  Avoid judgmental questions but steer the conversation in the right direction.  Try asking how they are feeling, what they are using, when and how often and always ask how you can help them.  Let your child know that you support them and want to help: That you are there for them.

If they open up and engage with you tell them how much you appreciate them doing so and how you know this is hard for them.  You can then move on to how you can go about getting them the help they need.

Although it is often a parental instinct to punish wrongdoing, this will be counterproductive in this case.  Taking away their phone, removing privileges or grounding them is not going to help them to stop abusing alcohol or drugs.  It can have the opposite effect by causing the child to withdraw, turning more and more to the substance they abuse.


The main priority is to get them the help they need and this is non-negotiable.

Make sure you are clear that the best solution is treatment and give them options depending on what is available.  If your child is under 18 it is often easier to get them onto a treatment program.  However, for over 18s you may need to use some leverage such as an offer to support their treatment financially or by removing any existing financial support.

Boundaries are essential in these situations – you must tell your child what is and is not acceptable and stick to these no matter what.  This can have a far-reaching effect on things like living arrangements, financial support, and multiple other factors which depend on whether or not your child will accept help, treatment and support.

At The Last House we know how frightening and painful it is to find that your child is using drugs or alcohol and we know that sometimes the first conversation may not go the way you want it to.  Be prepared to accept defeat and come back to the topic later.  Even if they will not admit to having a problem it is important that you try to move the situation forward so they can get the help they need.

If your child is currently using drugs you will need a plan in place to speak with them about this, but also some suggestions on where to go after the conversation, contact our experienced admission counselors.  At The Last House, we can offer advice on a variety of options and interventions. Give us a call and we will help teach you how to Confront your Child if you suspect they are using Drugs.

Please fill in our contact form or call us and we can help you take the first step towards getting the help you need for your child.


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