Parents of Adolescents: Found drugs and you have no idea what to do or what it means for them?

Updated: May 18, 2019

If you have an adolescent still in high school or young adult in college that you suspect or have even caught using any kind of drugs or drinking a little more than what is comfortable, you need to read this.

You may have no idea what to do or what it means for your child at this age. For the most part, it’s just too soon to tell whether they are going to graduate to the more dangerous drugs if you’ve caught them drinking or smoking a little pot.

After all, there is a good chance you may have even smoked some pot or experimented with certain substances, and you came out without a drug habit.

It seems almost like a normal experimentation process of adolescence and young adults.

However, there are some serious red flags to be mindful of and things you can start doing NOW that will help you in the future.

I have been in recovery for well over a decade now. I have heard tens of thousands of other addicts’ stories. And we have a similar pattern to what we were looking for in our childhood that made us gravitate to drug use.

Please keep in mind there is no definite determiner. But if you see your child in this, it’s time to take action now The next few moves you make are critical. Here are some questions to think about:

  • Have they had difficulty connecting to other people since early in their life?

  • Do they seem sad and depressed or struggle with anger?

  • Did they experience a traumatic experience as a young child and seem to have a problem coping with it?

  • Do they have brothers or sisters they often get compared too?

  • Are they an only child that seems shy and isolated?

  • Are they hanging out with kids that also drink or use drugs?

These are just some questions to ask yourself and not even all the questions you could ask. Drug addiction/alcoholism is not really about drugs or alcohol. It’s about trying to find a way to cope with their feelings.

It often starts when kids feel different, they are struggling to find their place in the world, they have all these emotions they don’t know what to do or how to deal with them.

They also may be searching for a connection. And they find something and someone that makes them feel important. They find a substance that makes them feel good, it makes them feel like they are part of and like they finally belong. It usually starts with the most easily accessible things to teenagers, pot, and alcohol, but it could be anything. We often say marijuana and alcohol are “gateways,” but they are only gateways because that’s what is around. When there are pills like Xanax, Percocet, or other prescription pills around, that’s what is used. When there are cans of whip cream around, that’s what is used.

It can be ANYTHING that will change the way they feel.

I put together five common mistake areas make when dealing with an addict. We don’t know and can’t say whether they are that far down the road yet. BUT it’s good to start thinking and avoiding these things now so you don’t get so far into them that you create a deep pattern that is hard to break.


The most common form of denial is blaming other people for their child’s behavior and drug use. You may be thinking it's the people they are hanging around with. If they stayed away from those people, they wouldn't be using drugs. Nope, that’s simply not the case. Your child picked those people for a reason, they are filling a need. The question is, what is the need and how do you find a different way to satisfy that need that is healthier, but without overreacting, grounding, and trying to control their behavior or forcing them to give up those friends? They have to choose to take a different path. Otherwise, you push them away and send them deeper into that unhealthy connection they are looking for.


Money is needed to buy drugs. If they are getting money from you, how are you making sure it’s not going to drugs? Holding them responsible for paying for certain bills will make it harder for them to spend money on drugs. It won’t stop it entirely if they are determined, but it can help them to appreciate where their money is going. If they are not living with you, limiting cash transactions can help. And if you ever sit back when they come to you asking for money even though they have a job and should be able to pay their bills, you giving them money is probably supplying their drugs.

Good Parent Syndrome:

I know you love your child. All you’ve ever wanted was for them to be happy, healthy, and doing what they love. Parents often say the same thing, “I don’t care if my child is digging ditches, as long as they are happy.” You also know how smart they are, how much potential they really have. And you HATE watching them waste their potential.

So, when a parent sees their incredibly smart, intelligent, full of potential child going off the rails, they will do just about anything to put them back on the right track. As a result, parents will find themselves coming into the rescue of their children and trying to interrupt their derailment of their kids’ life.

If you are holding their wings, they cannot fly.

Swooping in at the last minute before they really get to suffer the full weight of their consequences isn’t helpful. Your child does not have confidence in themselves right now. You swooping to the rescue will unintentionally confirm their belief. Kids need to figure things out on their own, making things difficult for them and suffering their consequences is the kindest thing you can do for them.


It's important to set boundaries. It's even more important to defend those boundaries. Having your child know you won't defend your own boundaries allows them to progressively increase their unacceptable behavior. Before you know it, you are doing things you never imagined yourself doing and being put into dangerous situations you never envisioned yourself dealing with. You start accepting behaviors because "at least they aren't dead, and I know they are safe."

Set good clear boundaries NOW before it escalates. Two things to focus on when setting a clear boundary:

  1. It can’t revolve around trying to force them to change their behavior. It’s more of a, “IF you do this…then I am going to do this” …formula.

  2. It shouldn’t be set from a place of emotion. Boundaries made from emotions dissipate when the emotions dissipate.

Defending your boundaries early on will save you sooooooo much heartache and pain for the future.

Guilt and Shame:

Your kid knows how to pull your heartstrings and use it to manipulate you. Not allowing them to tap into your own insecurities and fears are going to enable you to better help your child. Getting help and finding out how to now allow your kid to use those things against you is imperative. It could save your kids life from going down the road that most parents fear, the road of addiction.

If you are a parent that has just discovered pot in their room or feel like your alcohol is not lasting as long as it used to, or you notice you don’t have as many leftover prescriptions as you remember having, you need to take action now.

And because the next few moves you make are critical to your child’s path, I am offering a phone call to you at no charge to figure out what to do. Most parents tend to over or underreact. (“What the hell are you thinking? Or “It’s probably not a big deal.”) What’s needed instead is a clear head and some leadership moves so that you can properly assess what’s happening and set the conditions for your child to effectively deal with whatever is driving their need to use drugs – even if it’s recreational.

Email me right now, we will schedule an hour-long phone call ASAP, because there is no time to waste. We will go over what you need to do, what conversations need to be taking place, and how I can best help you all in a single phone call.


Jennifer Maneely has spent the last eight years investing in leadership programs, self-awareness, and relationship with families through communication. Drawing on her experience as a leadership consultant, she uses an executive coaching approach to working with parents. She has dedicated her life and her business to not only addicts in need but also understanding and supporting the needs of the family members. Having 12 years clean, she is trained in what it takes for an addict to get their life back and has spent years teaching family members how to respond to the addicts to prevent the families from unintentionally supporting the addict in their self-sabotage and destructive patterns of behaviors. Want to stop supporting your loved one in their addiction? Set up a free strategy call

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