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Info for Parents Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

My kid on drugs: What can I do?

It's important for you to know that many young people experiment with some sort of drug; it's part of growing up. But most don't become dependent. In fact, the majority of young people cope very well without drugs in this stressful time in their lives.

Although illegal drugs receive the most publicity, alcohol is much more likely to be the drug kids try first.

Here are some signs that may indicate your kid has a problem.

You notice:

  • Your kid shows a sudden change in behaviour, a change in appearance, or a change in attitude to you or other family members.
  • Your kid may become more secretive, or less helpful at home.
  • School grades drop, or you find money missing.
  • Your kid has a new group of friends, or doesn't bring friends home any more.

These could be warnings that your daughter or son is involved with drugs. But remember, adolescence is naturally a time for great change; there may be other causes for these changes. Try not to jump to conclusions.

What do you mean, don't panic?

Guilt, fear, and anger are natural reactions when you suspect your kid is on drugs. But wait. Calm down before discussing your concerns with your child. Approach drug use the same way you would approach any other issue with your child. If you aren't sure about what to do, find help in your community.

My kid doesn't listen to me.

Listening is a two-way street. Are you listening to your kid? Are you paying attention to what she's saying? Lecturing an adolescent is seldom effective.

How serious is it?

Find out what you're dealing with -- the type of drug or drugs being used, and the extent and frequency of use.

What if my kid denies using drugs?

Don't turn it into a confrontation. Leave the discussion to another time. Show you have confidence in your child. Praising him when he does things well can improve his self-esteem.

Why my kid?

Drug use can affect any family. It doesn't mean you have failed as a parent.

Are my own actions affecting my kid's behaviour?

Although you have let your child know that you are opposed to drug use, your own use of alcohol, cigarettes, or pills may be sending mixed messages from you as a role model.

With both parents working, my kid has a lot of free time after school.

Encourage her to get involved in after-school activities. When you are at home, spend time with your child, perhaps watching television programs she likes to watch. At times like these, the topic of drugs may come up more naturally.

I don't know anything about drugs.

Parents who know about drugs -- how they're used, what their effects are, and what the law is -- are both more confident and more believable as information sources for kids.

You can find out. CAMH has lots of information for parents online; a CAMH Information Officer can help direct you to the best resources by calling 1-800-463-6273 during office hours. Or you can call the Province's ConnexOntario free 24/7 helpline at 1-800-565-8603.

Where can I get outside help?

You may feel most comfortable discussing the situation with your family physician or a public health nurse. Most communities have parent support groups or professional counsellors at family service associations. Your local office of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health can give you facts and advice.

CAMH Switchboard 416-535-8501
CAMH General Information Toronto: 416-595-6111 Toll Free: 1-800-463-6273
Connex Ontario Help Lines
Queen St.
1001 Queen St. W
Toronto, ON
M6J 1H4
Russell St.
33 Russell St.
Toronto, ON
M5S 2S1
College St.
250 College St.
Toronto, ON
M5T 1R8
Ten offices across Ontario