Drug addiction: teens, parents, and taking responsibility

When teens start taking drugs, parents step in. But what can you do if you caught your teen drinking or using drugs? This mother of two tells more about teen drug addiction from her personal experiences. We invite parents to talk more about drug addiction, teens, parents and responsibility here.

minute read

Teen drug use – are parents prepared?

I am the mother of 2 adult children. One is an addict who is currently incarcerated due to his addictions, whereas my other adult child rarely has a drink and doesn’t touch drugs.

A parent’s role in their child’s addiction is a very uncomfortable place to be. As parents, we all think we will protect our children as they grow and steer them towards appropriate choices. We have all read the news accounts of a parent providing alcohol to a group of underage drinkers or a parent using drugs right in front of their children, and collectively shook our heads at their poor parenting. We all think we will notice the signs of abuse, have a plan in place in case of problems, and that a frank talk or some strict rules will keep things on course. We all have read the warning signs of a troubled teen and feel we will recognize that our child is in crisis.

Young people, alcohol and drugs

When my children were entering their teen years, I expected that many teens experiment with alcohol, marijuana, and even other drugs as part of their maturing into adulthood. I didn’t plan on condoning this behavior in my children, but neither did I think it was going to be a big deal, as long as we had open lines of communication and had rules and expectations that were in place.

As my children entered their teen years, we talked about how it was very likely that at some point they would encounter and be offered alcohol or drugs at a party or social situation. We talked about ways to say “no” and how to deal with those situations when they arose.

My daughter never once exhibited any indication that she had been drinking or using drugs. I would guess that at some point during high school she probably tried alcohol or pot, but I feel to this day that her experimentation was minimal. Overall, I got off terribly easy in her case.

Adolescent drug addiction – when does it become a problem?

My son was not such an easy case. I caught him and 2 friends with some alcohol once when he was 14. They felt sick the next morning and I thought it was going to be an isolated incident. I caught him with marijuana about a year later but I took it as fairly normal experimentation.

As it turns out, he was using MUCH more alcohol and drugs during these years than I ever suspected. Sometimes I did suspect he had been drinking or catch him with a beer cap in his pocket or red eyes or rolling papers. I would confront him and he would minimize and even deny. I thought when he looked me in the eye he was being honest. There is no excuse for me thinking any of this was “OK” except that for awhile I still felt that it was falling under normal teen behavior. His grades were average, he wasn’t getting in trouble, and he seemed to be happy and well adjusted. He didn’t seem secretive or moody and he didn’t have a new group of friends or new pastimes. He liked video games, playing his guitar and swimming – He seemed normal.

As he became 17 and then 18, it became much more obvious to me that my son was drinking and smoking. Yes, as time went on I became concerned that he wasn’t just using, he was abusing. Yes, I felt that he was developing bad habits and that someday he might find himself with a drinking problem to be addressed. And yes, I felt that there was a huge potential for him to get in trouble legally.

Adolescent chemical dependency

I would confront him, argue about it, threaten him, and then things would settle down and days marched on in this manner. But – the question remains – how could I not notice that my child was turning into an alcoholic and addict right under my nose? What could I have done differently to prevent it from happening? I don’t know. I wish I did, I would share the answer to this question with the whole world if it was possible.

Having no real answers, I can only suggest. Based on my experience, my advice to parents suspecting a problem would be if you suspect a problem it’s probably bigger than you think. Act on it and don’t allow any wiggle room. I wish I hadn’t allowed for “normal” teen experimentation as part of the equation. I wish I had demanded my son conform to my rules and that I had been tougher on him when he didn’t. I wish that I could have foreseen then what I see now.

Parents, teens and drugs … responsibility matters

Have you caught your teen drinking or using drugs? How did you handle it? Have there been any further incidents?

About the author
Francis Rivers is the single mother of an adult son who is an addict currently in recovery while he is incarcerated for drug possession. His addiction and efforts at recovery have greatly impacted her own life and taught her some difficult lessons about loving an addict child. Learn more at In a Texas Prison.


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  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your, “Parent of drug addict help: Top 10 truths to help parents”. It has helped me immensely to see a glimmer of light in some very dark hours.

    1. Hi Linda. If You are experiencing some problems, I suggest that you call the helpline you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant who can help you find a good rehab program for your son.

  2. I don’t understand how there letting marjwana become a legal after these young people smoke it because at one time they said it fried your brains but now its OK I have a 18 year old son that doesn’t think its wrong because I’m fighting with him to stop everyday please help

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. My story is somewhat similar. My brother is in prison for crimes directly related to his drug use. I on the other hand, was addicted to drugs and alcohol but had the god fortune of getting clean and sober at a young age. It sometimes drives me insane thinking about why I got my live saved and my brother is stuck in a cage. I can never come up with a good answer to that riddle. What I do know is that I am extremely grateful for the life that I have today. I am glad that my mother does not have two sons in prison or one that is dead or out there on the streets. I got help from a sober living house and I think that halfways houses can help people looking to get clean.

  4. Well, in this day and age a parent can do everything you thought you should have done and things still happen. I feel I did an excellent job at parenting. I have two sons, one almost 29 (the one with the problem) and the other is almost 26. (he has some mild disablities). I even feel with the younger childs issues I was still a good parent. I waited up when he came in every night. I knew who his friends were and you could say even before him driving and having more freedom I was the kool aid Mom in our neighborhood. No matter how much a parent is involved in their childs life things like this happen. I felt so guilty when I first found out. Do I struggle every day still? ABSOLUTLY!! Matter of fact his father and I are having a talk with him in the morning should he show up at his dads place. I have since remarried (split when oldest was just shy of 18) he wouldn’t come live with me b/c he knew I would have rules and dad had the bachelor pad for him (even on answering machine it said that) so do I think Dad should have played a more important part in his life when he was coming into adulthood, sure I do b/c he had turned him against me pretty much b/c I was the one who left. I had three children counting their father. I am a strong woman, one who admits to making mistakes, loving her family uncoditionaly and trying to make the best of each and everyday and including God in my everyday life. My father gave me a piece of advice and I passed it on to my boys. “It’s a great life if you don’t weaker” Think about it. WE are all responsible for ourselves. I did the best I knew how and now I have to do the best that I know how to address this one going problem. I could go on and on but I have turned it over to God and asking for his help. He and my son are the only ones who can do something about this. I love my son and he has always know I am here for him but one thing I am not and have never been is an enabler. I have never done drugs and not a big drinker either. Do I condon people for this? As long as they can accept their own blame no I don’t but don’t blame me for your mistakes. Am I here to help? Of course I am but they have to help themself b4 I can help him and he first has to admit he has a problem. That is the one and only thing I pray for 2morrow to happen and we will go from there. I am always up for advice and hearing of others experiences. Located in MD 🙂

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