Over the weekend Sirius XM’s Doctor Radio Reports ran a show called Is Your Kid High?—Teens Speak Out, which offered advice to parents on how to tell if your tweens/teens are doing drugs. I read with great interest the summary of the wisdom offered by Elizabeth Urquhar and Naveed Etemadipour of San Diego’s Phoenix House during this program, since I went through this complicated process myself with a teen.
Here’s Naveed’s advice:
- If you are concerned your kid might be doing drugs, go into their rooms and open their drawers when they are not there—it’s ok to cross that boundary.
- Pens are sometimes used to smoke marijuana and other drugs. Check to see if the pen smells burnt. You can take a pen apart and make a pipe out of it and then put it back together so that nobody knows that you’ve smoked out it.
- Broken glass could indicate methamphetamine use because glass pipes are commonly used to smoke meth.
- Crumbled tin foil is a possible indication of drug use.
- Marijuana can be smoked out of almost anything.
- Light bulbs can be used to do drugs.
Well, you can decide that it’s “ok to cross that boundary,” but rest assured, your girl or boy won’t. Let’s face it, if they’re late 12 to early 14, they’ve probably already got you down as Nurse Ratched or Uncle Fester—see above photo for the latter; perhaps not the most apt analogy since the Urban Dictionary defines an “Uncle Fester” as a way to smoke pot. In any event, doing a J. Edgar Hoover on their their room, opening their drawers, pulling apart their pens and light bulbs, or rummaging about for “almost anything” because you think they’re smoking doobies is going to kill any trust left between you and them for years. So do this only if you think it’s absolutely necessary.
The Phoenix House duo also offer these “warning signs and changes to look out for in your child’s behavior and personality:”
- Staying awake all night or sleeping all day.
- Suddenly not eating with the family or not eating very much.
- Eating lots more than they normally do.
- Suddenly doing poorly in school.
- Dropping out of once cherished activities.
Fine, but keep in mind that just about every one of these “warning signs” can happen to kids who aren’t doing drugs. Facebook has kept more than one teen up until four AM. I was a skinny high schooler who rarely took drugs but stayed out until one AM consistently through my mid- and late-teenage years. As for binge eating, doing poorly in school, and dropping out of favorite activities—depression, anxiety, and family problems can provoke these behaviors just as easily as dope.
So why don’t you start with the obvious—by just asking your child if they’re taking drugs. You can’t pose this question too early, to my mind; certainly as age 13 approaches. Ask the lad or lass in an unexpected but friendly and casual style—like on the way to the ice cream parlor—with a smile on your face. “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask . . . you taking drugs?” Something like that. Make sure you’ve got eye contact while you talk.
If they’re getting stoned, you’ll know, even if s/he claims otherwise. Then you’ll need to explain and justify your Policy regarding drugs (you should figure this out in advance). Needless to say, unless your Policy is “take all the drugs you want,” it probably won’t be enforceable. But at least you’ve made several things clear: (1) you don’t want your child taking drugs and, more important, (2) you care about the kid.
If your tween/teen gets exasperated with you, just throw in something nonchalant like, “say, while we’re at it, it’s time for us to have a conversation about sex . . . ” That’ll show everybody who’s the boss.
Parenting. What fun!
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