What are You Doing to Keep Your Kids off Drugs?

by in American Sickcare System, Drug Abuse, Kitchen Sink, Pediatrics June 5, 2008

kidsondrugs.jpgBefore school gets out is the time to sit down with your kids and plan summer activities that keep them engaged, keep them motivated, keep them working hard and learning, and most importantly keep them off drugs.

What are you NOT doing to keep your kids off drugs?

You should NOT, in my medical opinion allow teenagers to have a free and open summer schedule.

I am not telling you all of this to frighten you, but to serve as a very important wake-up call as summer is right around the corner and “idle minds, idle hands, and idle teenagers are the devils playground.”

Or so the saying should really go…

In my medical opinion children that are in middle school and high school should not be left with an open schedule for summertime. I know many of you feel like your children have the “rest of their lives to work, so let’s just not make them have to grow up too quickly” but that is simply NOT realistic these days. The innocent summer of fun that you once had twenty years ago is exactly what is going to end your kid up on drugs.

The more activities you involve your kids in the more likely you are to know if they are indeed using drugs.

Why is that?

Because the more adults interacting with your child…the more teachers, coaches, bosses, and other parents keeping an eye on your kid when you aren’t around, the more likely you are to discover if your kid is using drugs. Although there are always exceptions to the rules, a truly busy, productive kid doesn’t have time to use drugs.

Every parent worries about the possibility of their child falling in to the wrong crowd, and eventually becoming addicted to drugs.

“An ounce of prevention” is truly worth a pound of cure when it comes to keeping your kids off drugs.

So, the million dollar question is “What are you doing to keep your kids off drugs?”

For parents of adolescents and teenagers simply talking about drugs is no longer good enough.

Although talk is important, life today in 2008 is not what it was fifty years ago or even fifteen years ago. Kids have so many added pressures and they are as a result engaging in the use of alcohol and drugs, as well as having sex at much earlier ages.

Many children in middle school are having sex, and most of them have already experimented with alcohol and drugs. By the time your child graduates from high school they are most likely already having sex, drinking and experimenting with drugs.

How do I know this?

Current statistics about teenage drug use support my clinical observations.

Top Tips for Keeping your Kids Off Drugs:

  • Keep your kids busy! Busy kids don’t have time for drugs. Part time jobs, after school activities, hobbies, sports, clubs, and volunteer work not only keep your kid busy but are important additions to any college applications to ensure your kid gets in to the best college possible.
  • Never act judgmental. Judgment is the parenting “kiss of death”. The goal is to remain open and honest so that you can gain information. If your kid is using drugs and alcohol, you should be the first to hear all about it. By creating continual open dialogues and not sounding judgmental of other people or children you will more likely create an open environment for them to confide in.
  • Talk to your kid about drugs. Let them know in advance that privileges such as cars, allowances, clothes, and such all are contingent on the fact that they are not involved with drugs or alcohol, or they more likely already are using drugs.
  • Watch your kid’s grades. If grades in high school or middle school suddenly fall, it is most likely because of drugs and alcohol.
  • Set reasonable curfews based on the activity your kid is engaging in. Contrary to popular belief teenagers do not need to be out all night. If your high school aged kid wants to stay out past midnight, they are up to no good. Or “no good” is soon to happen to them!
  • Secretly examine your kid. Always have your kids wake you up when they get home. Hug them and kiss them on the cheek so you can give them a thorough smell down. Be sure to sincerely and diligently ask them about the events of their evening as part of your night-time routine. Watch for slurring of words, swaying back and forth, dilated or constricted pupils, red eyes, red flushed faces, and the smell of alcohol or drugs on them. If your kid smells like cigarette smoke they are almost always hanging out with other kids using drugs and alcohol.
  • Use a flashlight! If you shine a flashlight in your kid’s eyes and the pupils remain large and do not shrink down in size from the bright light, they are on drugs!
  • Check for “nystagamus” a horizontal fluttering of the eyeballs, the same way that cops and doctors do, to see if your kid is drunk or on drugs. Ask your kid to follow your finger with just their eyes. Watch their eyes and as you move your finger away from midline and out to the extreme left or right. Hold your finger there. If their eyes “beat” rhythmically in the direction of your finger, they most likely have been drinking. Regardless this kind of test will instill great fear in to your kid! They will think twice before drinking or using drugs around you.
  • Don’t believe what you want to hear. Denial can be life threatening when it comes to teens and drugs!
  • Constantly work on improving your child’s self esteem and communication skills.
  • Keep an eye out for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression that often lead to “self medication” with drugs and alcohol.
  • Plan fun family activities for one night of every weekend, or every other weekend. Allow your kids to invite friends. If your kids don’t want to participate, it is most likely because they are on drugs.
  • Ask some family friends slightly older than your children to engage your kids in conversations about drugs and alcohol. If your kid is using drugs they will more likely talk about it to someone that is “cool” than their own parents. Find them these positive role models, invite them to family dinners and functions often.

Signs Your Child is on Drugs:

  • If you suspect your child is using drugs, then they most likely are.
  • If your child is friends with someone using drugs, alcohol, or having sex, they are soon to follow.
  • If your teenagar plays with children’s toys, collects lot’s of shiny and sparkly gadgets or toys, attends laser shows frequently, seems developmentally behind other kids their age, is suddenly making worse grades, is spacey, has delayed or rapid speech, is using alcohol, smells like cigarette smoke, stays out often past their curfew…they are almost ALWAYS on drugs. Honestly, I would be surprised if they weren’t.
  • If your teen has a chronically runny nose, red swollen glazed or irritated looking eyes, has lost or gained weight recently, has had changes in their eating patterns, eats much more or less food than normal, have them evaluated by your family doctor because unless it is allergies, they are probably on drugs, or have an eating disorder, or both.
  • If you “respect your child’s privacy” and choose not to regularly rifle through all their drawers and closets, allow them to lock their bedroom doors…then they are probably on drugs. No child should have a lock on their door. When your kid no longer lives under YOUR roof, they have earned the right to their own privacy. Keep in mind that if drugs are found in your home, you could lose your house! If you are a homeowner you have the right to rifle through your kids stuff. If you are a parent it is your duty in my opinion to diligently snoop through your kids stuff. Feel free to argue with me about this as you wish, but I sincerely believe that adolescents and teenagers should NOT have anything to hide from their parents. The best thing you can do for your kid is to be very very very nosy! As a doctor, I give full permission to snoop. Just do so respectfully and with the correct intentions.
  • If you don’t know where your child is right now, who they are with, or what they are doing at this exact second in time…then they are probably on drugs. Ask lots of questions and check in with them often, always call other parents and check that they are where they said they were going to be.
  • If your child suddenly has a new group of friends, asks to be left alone a lot, is doing poorly in school, is distracted/angry/depressed/or overly emotional they are probably on drugs.
  • If you go out of town without hiring a house-sitter to watch your house, your kids are surely doing drugs and drinking while you are away.

What to Do if Your Child is on Drugs:

  • Don’t waste time blaming yourself. Maybe it is your fault. Maybe you really are a crappy negligent parent, but more likely drug abuse is a product of stressful modern living. Blaming yourself and feeling guilty is not solving the problem. Be part of the solution.
  • Get them help: I would opt initially for out-patient counseling in most cases. Sending your kid to an in-patient treatment facility just means that they are going to make friends with a hundred other drug addicts. You want your kid to be friends with healthy kids to move them out of the drug scene.
  • Have your child evaluated for a mental health disorder. Social anxiety, depression, and anxiety are leading causes of “self medication” with drugs and alcohol. You need to treat the root cause of drug abuse.
  • Most importantly, remember your role in the relationship. Be their parent not their best friend. Every parent wants to be their kid’s friend, but if you really love your kid, and want them to be healthy, you absolutely have to be their parent first and foremost. Let them know that you worry about them, and are doing all of these things out of love for them. As your child matures in to a responsible adult, you can easily move in to the role of friend and primarily parent by setting good examples.
  • If they are upset about their privacy being violated, or not having enough freedom, tell them that they have the rest of their life to have these privileges. They have to earn these privileges from life. While they live for free under your roof though, they must follow the house rules. The rules are set up to keep them safe and help them be the best version of themselves possible. Show them this article.
  • Be honest and talk to them about examples of people you know that have fallen on the wrong path of drugs and alcohol.
  • Never give up! The more troubled your kid is, the more you will have to fight for them. Just never give up on them.

Remember that low self-esteem is a leading cause of drug abuse. Hug your kids, tell them you love them, and that you are proud of them daily. Give them reasons to be proud of their family name. Remind them that they represent that name, and represent their family. Teaching them to have self love and respect for their bodies in conjunction with proactive parenting should keep them off drugs.

Feel free to add your insight, experience, tips, or advice in the comment’s section. I am sure other parents fighting the war on drugs will be most grateful.

Please forward this article to everyone you know that is a parent of a teenager, to serve as a reminder to get a PREVENTATIVE summer plan against drugs together NOW.

~ Dr. Nicole Sundene

Naturopathic Physician

  1. As a teacher, I applaud your candidness! Kids have way too much “freedom” and privacy these days!

  2. What an eye opener this is! You are on a role today, Dr. Nicole.

    Be sure to check out my latest post:

  3. Erin Happycamper June 6, 2008 at 8:47 am Reply

    kudos! Kids shouldn’t be on drugs, period. This method I think could perhaps work in the ADD department, and keep some kids off of medication. Keep a kid busy & give them stuff to think about.


  4. Hi Doc, read your very interesting article. Nowadays kids don’t listen. You know what they say…..we go with the flow…..God knows from where they get these crazy ideas….
    I had one or two students who started to become addicted…..I caught them and talked to them……they are out of it. These very kids never listened to their parents…….so, I found out that the talking has to be very effective. Don’t you think so?

  5. Great post Dr. Nicole!

    One of my mentors is an ex drug addict. He is the first to tell you that his drug addiction was the result of unprocessed emotional pain. This is the root cause of all addictions. What brought him through to complete recovery was a cognitive behavioral therapy program that taught him how to process and remove emotional pain. He doesn’t have a desire for drugs anymore because he has dealt with the root cause of the addiction. This is different than counseling because it is training that deals with the root of the problem and from what I have seen is the only way to go.

    About prevention: the part where you say “Never act judgmental [to your kids]” I say DITTO! A kid who has no one to listen to them has to turn somewhere to relieve that pain of not being understood. If it’s not drugs it will be something else. My last post on listening can teach parents how to listen nonjudgmentally to their kids.

    I also highly second your point about focusing on the solution not the problem if your child is on drugs. That’s the only way things can change for the better.

  6. This is really scary to think about. Life is alot different for teenagers today and I can see how they might feel the pressures to turn to drugs. Great and enlightening post.

  7. Dr Nicole,

    Awesome article. I have two teenage daughters. I always worry about the peer pressure and its cynical impact on their lives. So far, they’ve done rather well but I always talk to them about the life, purpose and goodness. I will share this article with them. These kind of info shall be taught openly in schools. I’m stumbling it. It was a great read…


  8. Alas, I am nearly out of time. I am scheduled to leave tomorrow morning and still have packing to do. My apologies for not yet reading this blog post. I am commenting to say that you have been tagged. Check out my most recent post to read more about it at

  9. Another wonderful article! I think there are several keys to keeping kids safe, off drugs, and making good decisions. You have mentioned some fantastic ones in this article.

    My keys are
    (1) Talk to your kids. Always make yourself available. Don’t blow them off or say you’re “too busy”. Once you do that, they’ll go to unreliable sources like their peers for information
    (2) Keep them busy with solid educational activities. With boredom comes trouble.

    Thanks for sharing this article. I loved it!

    Doc KC

  10. Thanks for all your great comments! I am swamped but will respond tomorrow 😀

  11. This is a very comprehensive article. I deeply admire the realistic way you are willing to go out on a limb and speak your mind. And as a parent you go out on a limb in terms of “risking” rejection from your children. Good for you. I have been amazed at how many parents often fear rejection from their children, hence they sometimes give their kids whatever they want…even if it is not good for the kids.

    Also, another thing I’ve had a few friends tell me is that they see parents who cannot (for whatever reason) admit or accept that THEIR child might be doing drugs or alcohol so that parent(s) goes into denial (“Unacceptable”, “Won’t go there.”, “No way; not MY kid”, etc”). In doing this they have abandoned their own child. Very very tragic.

    In light of that I guess I would say to those parents…wake up and realize that this is NOT about some social status and prefect family image; it is about saving your child’s life! Don’t forget that. This is the real thing and VERY serious.

    Thank you from my heart Doc. I really appreciate what you are doing in the world. RainforestRobin (Robin Easton)

  12. Scary but full of useful information. Most parents don’t know what signs to look for. You’ve given all of us a real education here. I’ll definitely stumble this so that more people can benefit from it.

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  15. An interesting article Nicole. I think the most important line is ‘Remember that low self-esteem is a leading cause of drug abuse. Hug your kids, tell them you love them, and that you are proud of them’. However, this is not to say that parents are to blame for low self-esteem – invariably occurances out of parental control can cause this (bullying, critical teachers, peer pressure). I think it is difficult to know exactly where kids are, every second of the day – and actually, trusting a child can really boost their sense of self and nurture independance. It’s a fine line, but as you rightly point out – listening to your child and allowing them the space to voice their worries will hopefully help stop them from going to drugs for comfort.

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