By Dr. Laurence M. Westreich, M.D.
Author of A Parent’s Guide to Teen Addiction
When Your Kid Does Drugs
1. Call 911 If Necessary.
If you child is in immediate danger, you should call 911, now! Some examples of this “immediate danger” include:
- Alcohol poisoning.
- Intoxication with opiates like heroin or oxycodone.
- Agitation related to cocaine, meth, or another stimulant.
If your child is unconscious, or looks ill, or is seriously impaired by any of those substances, he or she needs to get to a hospital.
All of these are medical emergencies, and need to be handled immediately. You are much better off with a needless ambulance ride than a fatality from a drug overdose, or withdrawal. If your common sense tells you that an ambulance is needed, it probably is.
2. Take Your Own Pulse!
In his iconic book about medical training, House of God, Samuel Shem wrote that in a difficult situation,
“…the first procedure is to take your own pulse.”
When your teenager is using drugs, you are indeed in a difficult and scary situation, but you must remain calm and logical in order to help. If you truly can’t see the situation clearly because of your own:
…you must hand off responsibility to someone else, either a family member or a trained clinician.
Your goal should be to make a rational assessment of any immediate dangers and the more common potential problems, and then formulate a plan to help your teenager.
Often it is easier to make these sorts of plans in the (relative) calm of a clinician’s office.
3. Push your Kid towards Treatment.
If you don’t need to call 911, and you can contain your emotions, then you need to try to get all forces pushing the same direction to move your teen towards treatment. Although in most circumstances you can’t physically force your teenager to have treatment, you can come close.
Remember, it is absolutely false that a teenager has to “hit bottom” before getting better from addiction.
Plenty of teenagers have the bottom raised for them by parents who withdraw privileges, or set up consequences for drug use, or even demand that the teenager live elsewhere. Make sure that everyone – school personnel, family, and friends – knows that your child is struggling with drugs, and needs to attend treatment.
Addiction treatment works as well for those who are pushed into treatment as it does for that very small minority who choose treatment for themselves.
© Laurence M. Westreich, M.D., author of A Parent’s Guide to Teen Addiction