What to do when parents suspect drug or alcohol use

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What to do when parents suspect drug or alcohol use

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Parents are often unsure of that very first time that they suspect something might be going on. They are not sure if their child is using alcohol or drugs. They didn't catch them in the act. They don't have a positive urine test. It's just that something is off. They are uncomfortable. When this happens, you want to talk to the kid right away. You want to say, "I've noticed that you seem to be sleeping as well," or whatever it is that's bothering you or "I can't put my finger on it, but you look like you're more withdrawn or unhappy." Whatever it is your feeling, try to give a voice to it. Say, "Is everything okay?" Ask them that question because sometimes it isn't alcohol. Sometimes they are upset with a friend or a budding relationship that they are struggling with. It could be alcohol or drugs, but it may not even be that is the main issue. They may also be struggling with depression or other things that cause upset during adolescent. Any of these warning signs are not specific just to alcohol or drugs, so when you ask like that, you convey concern, you convey that you are paying attention. That's something that teens value a great deal. As much as they complain about you telling them what to do and asking them questions, at the same time, want to know that you are paying attention. This is a way of conveying that but starting that dialog and having the conversation. You can ask them straight out, if you don't want to ask them if they are using drugs and alcohol, are you struggling with your friends use. Once their friends are using alcohol and drugs, it's very likely that they are using, even if they tell you they are not.

See Michael Dennis, PhD's video on What to do when parents suspect drug or alcohol use...

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Michael Dennis, PhD

Psychologist

Michael Dennis, PhD, is a senior research psychologist and Director of the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) coordinating center at Chestnut Health Systems in Normal, Illinois. Over the past 25 years his primary area of research has been to better understand and manage addiction and recovery over the life course. This includes multiple clinical trials to compare the effectiveness of adolescent treatment approaches and recovery support services, longitudinal studies with adolescents, adults and older adults to understand the predictors of entering and sustaining recovery, and creating the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) coordinating center for teaching evidenced based assessment to support clinical decision making at the individual level and program evaluation. He has multiple awards for moving the field from science to practice, promoting diversity through practice based evidence and bringing more people into the field.

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