An out-of-control child who is exhibiting signs of drug abuse may be on a course to disaster without strong parental intervention. Although calling the police about your own child may seem like a heartless action, you could be saving your child and preserving his future by making this difficult decision.
Look for Signs
When you suspect your child is using drugs, look for evidence to support your hypothesis. Watch your child’s behavior closely to discern typical signs of drug use, including bloodshot eyes, erratic behavior, chewing gum to hide suspicious breath or avoiding conversation, even direct questions, advises the Dr. Phil website. Examine the bigger picture – changing friends, dropping grades, dressing differently and losing weight could be indications of drug use. Look for clues in your child’s room and car if you suspect drug use. Your child may hide drug paraphernalia or drugs under a mattress, in the pockets of clothing hanging in a closet or even in a book on a bookshelf.
Discuss the problem with your child prior to calling the police, advises social worker James Lehman on the Empowering Parents website. Tell your child about your concerns and about any evidence you found. Institute a zero-tolerance policy by saying something like, “I know I can’t control you and any decisions you make about drugs. I won’t tolerate it in my house, though. Going forward, if I suspect drug use or find drugs, I will call the police.”
If your child creates a situation in which you promised you would call the police, follow through as you promised. Failure to keep your promise devalues your word and teaches your teenager that you won’t do what you said you would do. The police may or may not arrest your child, depending on the situation. The end result is not the issue, however; it's more important that you send your child a clear message about what you will and will not tolerate and that you will keep your promises.
Parenting a child who is using drugs is exceedingly difficult because the common tendency of a parent is to want to fix or resolve a problem. Unfortunately, a drug-use problem is not something a parent can resolve, and it may take several attempts to intervene and get your child help before he overcomes a drug problem, according to Growing Up Drug-Free: A Parent's Guide to Prevention, a publication of the U.S. Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Calling the police can help end any drug-use enablement on your part. The next step involves letting go and accepting the fact that you cannot fix the problem – only your child can.
Although you have the option of involving the police if your child is using drugs, consider this action carefully before proceeding and analyze all possible repercussions. Some municipalities have policies in place that provide a teenager with treatment instead of punishments, but not every city has these programs. Local jurisdictions may have severe laws and charges for controlled substances. Your teenager might receive a conviction that could remain on his permanent record and affect future education and employment prospects. You can also incur large financial expenses from fines and legal representation for your child if you involve the police. If your child is in desperate need of an intervention, the consequences of you calling the police might be worth helping him get clean.
- Dr. Phil: If You Suspect Your Child is Using Drugs
- Empowering Parents: Is It Time to Call the Police on Your Child? Assaultive Behavior, Verbal or Physical Abuse, Drugs and Crime
- U.S. Department of Education: What To Do If You Think Your Child Might Be Using Drugs
- Bedford Middle School: Partnering with Parents
- Santa Cruz County: Kids & Law
- Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Getty Images