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7 Steps to Take After Finding Your Teen’s Drug Stash

With more and more teenagers experimenting with drugs and alcohol, we naturally have more and more parents wondering how to handle the situation.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

An April 2012 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry revealed that parents had plenty of reason for concern. According to their results:

  • A staggering 78 percent of American teens had tried alcohol
  • More than 81 percent had been offered drugs
  • Nearly 43 percent actually tried those drugs

Pretty frightening numbers, huh? Especially when you take into account that some experimental substance use turns into full-fledged addiction.

Growing Brains and Drugs Don’t Mix

Teenagers suffer more damage than adults long-term alcohol and drug useNumerous studies have shown that the still-developing brains of teenagers suffer far more damage than that of long-term alcohol and drug use among adults.

Using addictive substances at a young age also leads to a much higher likelihood of becoming dependent later in life.

And yet, despite all the facts and figures, teenagers still gravitate towards these dangerous substances.
So, as a parent, what should you do? And how should you handle the situation?

Think Before You Act

When you find a drug or alcohol stash that belongs to your teenager, a wave of emotion will likely hit you like a ton of bricks. It’ll feel like going from 0 to 100 in just a few seconds.

When you find a drug or alcohol stash that belongs to your teenager, a wave of emotion will likely hit you like a ton of bricks. It’ll feel like going from 0 to 100 in just a few seconds.First comes the anger, which will be quickly followed by concern…and then there’s the confusion.

Before you act on any of those emotions, stop and collect yourself. Most experts agree there are some very specific actions that parents should take after finding a stash.

So, without further ado, here’s a look at 7 steps that will help you get your point across and stop any further substance use.

    • Take a TimeoutThough you’ll probably want to run in your teen’s room with the force of a hurricane, don’t let yourself do it. You’ll be at your most emotional and, more than likely, volatile. And think about it; setting that tone all but guarantees the conversation is going nowhere. You don’t want your child to shut down; you want him to talk to you. Give yourself some time to cool down, collect your thoughts and figure out exactly what you want to say.


    • Go in PreparedGet some knowledge about the substance before doing conversationYou’re going to need to be prepared for this conversation…and the possibility of what you might hear. Do some research about the drugs, put a call in to your family doctor or reach out to a local addiction expert. Find out what you’re dealing with, some signs and symptoms of teenage drug abuse and addiction. If he feels like you’re educated on the substance, he’s likely to pay attention. But if you talk about marijuana like it’s the same thing as crystal meth, the conversation’s doomed.


    • Set Solid Ground RulesAfter he knows you’re informed and understands the risks, you need to make it clear that you will not tolerate drug or alcohol use. That means no using at home, at a friend’s house, at school – no substance abuse means no substance abuse. Explain the consequences for breaking these rules and be very specific about them. Once he agrees, it’s up to you to enforce those rules. Failure to stick to your own ground rules is detrimental.


    • Let Him TalkDon’t make the conversation a one-sided lecture. Ask questions. Give your teen the opportunity to explain where he got the drugs and why he felt the need to use or experiment with them. In many cases, drug and alcohol abuse among teens is done to mask symptoms of depression or feelings of low self-esteem.


    • Show Your SupportAlthough you need to position yourself as an authority figure, make it clear to your teen that you love and care for him. This is the time to set up a line of communication with your teenager; you don’t want to make it feel as if he can’t come to you with questions or concerns. The more he can talk to you about these things, the better. Make it clear that he doesn’t have to be afraid of punishment when he confides in you.


    • Use Available ResourcesUse available local resources when you find your teenager is addictedNo parent wants to think their teenager is already struggling with an addiction, but it does happen. If your child’s drug use is advanced, you’ll want to search out and utilize local resources. Addiction isn’t something you can ignore and just hope it goes away. Start by looking to your family physician for some names and phone numbers of local resources. Also, most Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups offer meetings for teens. Be open to all the help you can find, then work with your teen to figure out which resources fit him best.


  • Admit Him to TreatmentThings can get difficult if your teen is not willing to accept help or open up about his drug use. In most states, parents can legally admit their child into an inpatient rehab program for teens without consent – at least until the age of 18. Naturally, you want him to be receptive and participate in the recovery process, so this should be a last resort option.

Additional Reading: 7 Addiction Myths About Teens and Their Parents

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