I think my child is using drugs or alcohol, what do I do?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

The Bible talks in depth about alcohol, but is relatively silent about drugs. Proverbs 20:1 says, "Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler, whoever is led astray by them is not wise" (NIV). Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 "And don't get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit" (HCSB). The Bible also tells us that we are to obey the laws of the land, as long as they don't contradict God's word (Romans 13). Drugs, in most states, are illegal, and we as witnesses of Christ should obey the authorities of the land. Drugs and alcohol both affect the way that we think, our actions, and even the health of our bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit and that we should honor God by keeping good care of it and not putting things in our body that can harm us. Parents want the best for their child, and so we must help them learn how to live a sober, righteous, godly life in this world (Titus 2:12). The key to approaching a situation like drugs or alcohol use is to do so with love, tenderness, and care. We have to remember that Jesus gives us forgiveness, grace, and mercy because of what He did on the cross, not what actions we did or did not do.

Things to think about:

The first thing you should be doing is praying. Find some prayer warriors that can be praying for your family during this hard time. Now is not the time to pull away from Christian community, but instead now is the time to rely on your church, your small group, your friends, and family. If you think that your child is using drugs or alcohol, then the first place to start is by having a conversation with them. Evidence of drug or alcohol use can be a clear marker of a problem, but your intuition can also be a strong tool to determine if they are using. Remember, that you know your child better than anyone, and you know how best to start that conversation. If this is in the beginning stages, then maybe start with a question like "I've noticed that since you started high school that you have been going to more parties. Is there a lot of drinking or drug use going on at them?" You can ask questions related to some observations that you have seen. For example, "I have noticed that your grades have started slipping, and it seems like your mood goes up and down, what has changed or what have you been doing to make this happen?" When we talk about using drugs, we have to remember that the person is turning away from Jesus to drugs/alcohol for a reason. They are worshipping something else besides Jesus. It is so important to respond with love and grace, but yet still maintaining authority.

What do I do now?

So if you have determined from the conversation that the child is indeed using drugs or alcohol, a great next step is establishing some ground rules. These ground rules are meant for you and your child to come to a clear understanding, and to help the child move past this issue. A great way to do this is to have you and your child sit down and create a contract. A contract is useful because it is clearly describes harmful behavior and the consequences of the behavior. It is also helpful because both parties, adult and child, agree to the terms of the contract. Once there are clear rules and consequences it is important to continuing to be involved in your child's life. In fact, this is a time where you need to be asking questions, checking in, and knowing your child's activities and friends. There may be a source of the drugs or alcohol. Parents of friends, coaches, pastors, and other adults are key to helping support and love your child as they go through this transition. If the issue keeps coming up or feels too much to handle, then seek professional help.

Want to go deeper?

Here are a few great resources to help:

Intervention Ebook - Great resource when you think your child may be using drugs or alcohol from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Teen Challenge USA - Site with a way to search for treatment centers in your area that specialize in teens.

Spiritual Recovery Centers - Site with guidance and help to find a faith-based recovery center.

Treatment Information - A resource with a lot of great information on the process of treatment from start to finish.