Why do kids do drugs?

Kids do drugs because they do not love themselves. What can parents do about it? More here.

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This article is for parents who are asking – “My kids is on drugs – What do I do?” We invite your questions, stories and feedback at the end.

Why do kids do drugs?

Kids do drugs because they are not in love with themselves! End of story!

Think of it, if a teenager girl loved her life, would she snort Adderall every day just to stay skinny? Would a young talented athlete on his way to college take 0xycontin because it helped him “deal with stress?”  Of course, the answer is no! And if you believe otherwise you must put down your bag of fairy dust and wake up before you suffer the ultimate loss. Believe me; I’ve seen the pain in the eyes of a parent burying their child.

Parents, please consider the following.

1. The peer pressure argument

Okay, so I know all the bullshit you’ve heard about peer pressure. You can Google “why do kids take drugs” and read all about it on other websites. But it’s not only a waste of your time; it’s also another way for parents to avoid the truth. It’s another way for parents to evade blame and not step up to the plate to take responsibility for their children’s drug use.

So here is the truth.

I became a drug addict at thirteen. I eventually got clean and learned how to abstain from drugs. But did I take drugs alone? No! I found other kids that took drugs. Peer pressure? Of course it wasn’t, those were the kids I fit in with. Those were the kids who understood how difficult it was at my house. I didn’t have to tell them my father was a lunatic. We all had a common belief, “Life sucked and drugs made everything better.”

2. Kids share drugs

I’m sure the information you read from Google will tell you that most parents don’t believe their kids are on drugs because they have no money. Unfortunately, that is just another piece of information written by somebody who garnered most of their knowledge from books.

Kids on drugs share drugs with other kids!

When I was using drugs as a teen, I found messed-up kids like me with money who were so willing to help me get happy! It was all about being happy and when kids are happy—they share.

3. Parents need to take responsibility

It’s not your fault if your kids do drugs. You’re human. Hey, I’m a parent. I have 5 kids and boy did I make mistakes. The only difference in my life, I claimed responsibility for my children’s happiness. I didn’t cop-out and say, “I gave them everything.” I fought daily to help all my kids love themselves. And I’m not for a second saying it was easy.

But if you are wondering, “Is my kid on drugs?” and you want to change things in your home, you have to admit that something is wrong. Don’t sweep dysfunction under the carpet. When my father died, the lines at the wake were out the doors for several hours. My dad taught high school English for 20 years. But not one of his ex-student standing in line knew what went on inside our home at 129 Star Avenue. It was “house business.” And it drove me to drugs, using drugs to try to cope with my family life.

4. Kids, drugs, and self-esteem

Now it’s not quantum physics. Parents, just be logical, it’s a simple mathematical equation. Kids with low self-esteem take drugs. Kids suffering from mental and emotional issues take drugs. Kids take drugs because their life sucks and all they want is to be happy.

Do you know what shit tastes like?

Now for those professionals who are reading this saying, “This guy is way too one dimensional.” I can’t help but think about a great line in my memoir “What’s Left of Us.”  At this point in my life, I’m sitting in detox being evaluated by Dr. Levine the county psychologist. I’m dope sick, coming off a 10-bag-a day heroin habit. I look up and see a Harvard Degree on the wall. Then I glance over to countless manuals on a bookcase.

“Do those books tell you what shit tastes like, Doc?” I ask.  He just shook his head. So I said, “Nobody can tell you what shit tastes like, Doc. You gotta taste it yourself.”

You see, I’m an ex-junkie. I’ve done everything you could imagine, survived, and came out the other side. Bottom-line: I’ve tasted shit.

What to do if your kid is taking drugs

Parents, your kids need help. Your kids don’t love themselves enough and only you can help them build that self-esteem so that they can say no to drugs because they like who they are. So what can you do?

1. Admit there is a problem.

2. Seek profession help both for the family and your child.

3. Don’t give up on yourself or your children.

Now if you think this is all bullshit, ask yourself this question. “Does my kid love himself/herself?” Think about it long and hard. It’s simple: why would a teenager ingest, smoke, snort, or inject something as a form of self-medication in order to be happy?

Take heed parents. I can’t tell you the number of children I’ve seen buried in 2011. I can’t tell you the number of parents that have asked me “Why did it happen to my Johnny?” Or, “How did it happen to my sweet little Mary?”

About the author
Richie Farrell won the du-Pont-Columbia for directing the HBO documentary film, High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell. That film inspired the 2010 major motion picture The Fighter that went on to win academy awards for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. Farrell's memoir What’s Left of Us: A Memoir of Addiction has been optioned for a movie and currently in development. Richie Farrell is one of the top substance abuse and motivational speakers in the United States. More Info @ My Heroin Life.


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  1. I’m worried my son is involved in drug dealing bug says he’s not how do I deal with this people call to the house and he goes out after the calls I’m slowly going crazy he’d do this to us

  2. I don’t know what to say. Every comment hit the spot. My daughter and would never believe this is doing drugs. She is diagnosed with ADHD, Major Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder and has tried to commit suicide at least 4 times. This started at age 15 and progressed with withdrawing from friends as a senior in high school. Never expected this to happen was classified at an early age in school as gifted and talented, took advance classes until she hit her junior year. Its a horrible experience and very stressful on my wife and I. She is in counseling for both the mental illness and now drug use. As a parent I have always said that we live for our children and its getting to be hard to do.

  3. Trevor, thanks for your statement. My daughter has been a heroin addict for a couple years mow. She had every comfort at home, we spent every weekend dounh family activities, we always supported her in everything she wanted to pursue. Self esteem was never an issue. She loved attention, excelled in school, was aleays happy. All this changed at about age 15. She was moody, depressed, and withdrawung from friends and family. I took her to counseling and she was diagnosed with ADHD and depression. I had no idea she was already using drugs. She then met more and.more kids with the same addiction and it gave her a sense of belonging. She was happy. We tried everything to get her bring her friend to our house instead of her going who knows where. She was a good kid. Never lied. Always honest, helpful, sympathetic, and respectful. I miss my daughter. I hope and pray every day that the next morning she will finally say enough is enough and accept help.

  4. Thank you. Exactly what I needed to hear. I enable, scary learned it from my parents. I am wrong my Mom put me in counseling and only thing that got me through was Religion. My mom saved me. Wow your article really put it out there for me… It made me happy again.

  5. Hi everyone. I am very interested in this topic and find the discussion above to be interesting. It seems the question here is what comes first, the chicken or the egg; the addiction or the mental disorder. I think both Richard and Trevor have touched on some important points. From my experience in working with those who have suffered from addiction, I think you both are accurate in why kids eventually take drugs. Richard, I agree that a poor home environment and low self-esteem can lead to drug addiction. Additionally, I agree with Trevor in that kids often have a mental illness that leads them to use drugs in an attempt to self-medicate. Overall, I would suggest that the mental illness tends to come first, and then the child begins to self-medicate with a drug. Sometimes that illness may be organic in nature, such as ADHD, which leads the child to self-medicate as Trevor seems to be suggesting. However, I think more often the illness may be a result of a poor home environment and low self-esteem. Where I disagree with Richard is that I my experiences suggest the individuals were depressed or extremely anxious before using the drugs instead of using drugs and thus developing a disorder. I think it is just a matter of how we define mental illness in the first place. I believe a kid with extremely low self-esteem and a terrible home life is likely to already suffer from some type of depression or anxiety prior to the drug abuse. Overall, very interesting topic. I enjoyed reading your thoughts Richard.

  6. Hi Trevor. I wanted to also respond to your comment. It is compelling.

    In my experience, psychological and emotional pain are linked. And a truer understanding of who I am has lead to greater mental and physical health. So I can see your point…but I think that both emotional and mental dis-ease are behind drug use. No matter what your age.

  7. hey trevor… great comment. yes, the majority of kids that take drugs do suffer from a mental disorder. i suffered from all the ones you’ve listed in your comment. however, i strongly believe that my mental disorder actually came from my drug addiction and my continued bad choices. The deeper I got in the shit, the deeper I let myself down, the deeper I let down those that loved me, the deeper I went into despair, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I was mentally ill due to my drug addiction. Now, I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to suggest I know the truth about addiction. But in my 25 years of recovery, I’ve seen that the majority of those of us who lost their battle to drug addiction, died because they didn’t love themselves. Their mental illness just grew worse and worse as the years addiction grew . I firmly believe and I know there are studies that support my belief, that the majority of mental illness in drug addicts would significantly improve once recovery begins. I firmly believe that there are a tremendous amount of misdiagnosed manic depressants individuals due to their drug addiction.

  8. I personally have done drugs and the last thing it stemmed from was lack of self-esteem or a ‘broken home’. Most drug addicts come from mental disorders, ADHD, depression, anxiety, etc. Disorders cause a feeling of discomfort in most and drugs finally feel that void. It’s not because their parents messed up, they had no control over the chemical balance of their children. Drugs usually increase dopamine, which is what’s lacking in all the disorders I’ve listed, plus many more. Drugs are usually a form of self-medicating, not bad parents.

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