Kids, Mom Life, parenting

How to Recognize Over the Counter Drug Abuse in Teens

One of my very dear friends is so strong and so amazing. She is going through something so difficult right now with her son, Over the counter drug abuse, but wants to share it with all of us because if it helps just one other person her joy will be so full… This is raw and this is real, about the struggles of having a teen addicted to drugs. Please be supportive in your comments to her for sharing her struggle that they are currently going through.

My Nightmare: Dealing with a Teenager’s Over-the-Counter Drug Addiction

About a year ago, I decided to be a loving mother and clean my 15-year-old son’s room for him.  To be honest, I was tired of looking at it and for once wanted my entire house to be clean. I quickly started picking up trash such as sandwich size empty Ziploc bags pieces of straws, and dirty spoons that had a weird “sugar residue” on it. As I was picking up I thought how disgusting all this was.  

The week passed by, and I found myself heading into his room again the following week to clean it because obviously, he had forgotten those great life skills such as cleaning that I taught him before he became a teenager. As I cleaned his room I again found the same things, Ziploc bags, spoons, and pieces of straws. I again threw them all away kind of questioning the situation a little bit more this time. I continued to clean his room for the next few weeks, each time finding the same items, each time throwing them away, and each time being a little more confused as to how they appeared again.

Then it happened….Finding the Drug Supplies

One day I saw, my son came out of the bathroom with a weird look on his face. I knew right away something was wrong. As he staggered into his bedroom I went to retrieve his backpack.I found the same items, but also found an empty bottle of over-the-counter pills, a razor blade, and a lighter.  My worst fears have come true my son was abusing over-the-counter medication and the items I was finding in his room were signs this has been going on for some time.

I admit that my first reaction was not fear for his life but it was anger, anger that he could bring this into my home and expose his younger brother to drugs. They shared the same room, the room I was finding all these things in!

I knew that I would have to be in control of my emotions before I approached him concerning this issue, and I had time to cool off and figure out what was happening because it was going to take a few hours before the “high” he was experiencing wore off.

At that moment, I took the time to educate myself.  I mean let’s be honest, I was in shock! I never had to deal with this before, and I had always prayed that I would never have too!I mean I thought this would have been avoided after all the conversations we had about the dangers of drugs when they were younger.  

Yet, this is the road he chose…

I was forced to walk down the path of parenting a teen addicted to prescription drugs.

It scared me!

How Do You Talk to Your Teen Who is Addicted to Drugs and How Do You Get Through It?

1.Gather Evidence

I have learned through many conversations with other parents who have dealt with this type of situation that evidence is everything. Without evidence, your child will deny everything you have to say.  I personally have found out even with having evidence, he tries to deny his actions. My son has even gone so far to blame his younger brother.

Below is a list of items teenagers will use to hide or consume drugs. The most common places to find these items are in their backpacks, jacket pockets, or drawers under their clothes.  

What to Look for when you Suspect Your Child is Using Drugs:

  •     Plastic baggies (like the Ziploc bags I kept finding)
  •     Lighter
  •     Cigarette remains
  •     Small glass vials
  •     Pill bottles
  •     Candy or gum wrappers
  •     Razor blade (single edge)
  •     Straws (usually cut into smaller sections)
  •     Broken pen (only the tube case will usually be found)
  •     Empty water bottles

You will also see a change in their appearance.  I am not talking about changing from dressing like a jock to a more gothic look. What I noticed in my son was a physical change like bloodshot eyes, flushed cheeks, high energy but unable to concentrate or sit still, unusual smell on his clothing, and he chewed gum or mints more often than before.  

He also became extremely secretive about everything in his life.

Teenage drug abuse is a real problem. In 2015 the following was reported concerning high school seniors: 58% of used alcohol, 36% used marijuana, and 12.9% abused prescription drugs.  

My son is currently a Freshman. His odds are not great if he continues down this path.

2. Remember before talking with your teenager: Be United as Parents

Talk to your teen together.  Make sure you are both on the same page on drug and alcohol use before raising the subject with your teen. Even if you disagree, commit to present as a united front. This way you are not trying to figure it out in front of him and he knows that both of you are serious about drug use And remember, before approaching your teen, remind each other to come from a place of love.

I know it is hard to love someone who lies, cheats, and steals from you. I know It hurts! It makes you mad that the one person who you have dedicated the last 15 years of your life raising has treated you with disdain and called you nasty vial names.  I know It is so hard to love them when you have to stop feeling anything so you wouldn’t hate them. Love doesn’t conquer all, but if you really want to help them, they have to know you love them and you do this by showing them an increase in love even though this is so difficult, I know because I am right there with you!

You may hate what they are doing, but you love them enough to go through hell to get them back.  And that is what you need to prepare for. This is why you need the support of your spouse.

I have cried so many times but I am thankful for my husband, his strength and how we are working together to help our son.  It is comforting to know I am not alone. If you are a single parent, I urge you get get a support system in place. This will give you the strength you need to endure.

3. Expect Anger: Resolve to Remain Calm

You need to think about how you are going to react so you can be prepared for the worst.

Be prepared for your teen to say things to shock you, watch them deny even the most convincing evidence, accuse you of distrust, and then imagine even worse because it will probably happen.

Personally, I could not believe what came out of my son’s mouth.  We raised our children in a loving home. We go to church every Sunday, I am a stay at home mom, I homeschooled him since second grade (because of problems he was having in school), and did weekly family activities.

After the first conversation, I was in shock. I honestly had no idea my son could be so cruel.  With many conversations behind us, I know how hurtful my precious little boy can be. I have learned to put up a wall when we are talking so the darts of his venom do not penetrate until later when I am alone and allow the wall to come down, it’s the only way I can stay calm through conversations with him.

4. Be Prepared to be Bullied

I have learned that my teenager will grab at anything to call me a hypocrite.  To tell me I am a liar. He will push every button to get me to become an emotional wreck.  I have learned to stay strong when the words pierce my heart and cry when my house is empty.

Remember the point is not to allow your response to become a justification for your teen’s drug use. Keep the focus on the issue at hand – your teenager’s decision to use drugs, regardless that they are over-the-counter medications or illegal drugs, abusing drugs is dangerous.

5. Stay Strong: Spell Out Rules and Consequences

We are now in what I consider the final stage of communication with our son.  My husband and I have spelled out the rules and consequences.

When I say final stage, that does not mean we have stopped listening or are unwilling to work with our teenager if he is willing to change his behavior, but if there is no progress we need to make sure that he understands how life will be.  

This step helps clarify the point of your conversation.  Remember, you need to help him understand that you are trying to help him.  

He won’t believe you.  So make sure to say it multiple times as you talk.  

Remember to not set rules you will have no way of enforcing.  

My husband has to travel during the week so I am left to enforce consequences while he is gone.  With that in mind, we set rules and consequences that I can enforce. My relationship is different with my son than my husband’s.  So, trying to enforce yard work doesn’t work when it is just me. Therefore we look at other options such as taking away screens (tv, cell phones, gaming systems, etc), things I can do.  I stopped enforcing dishes after he broke too many. Remember, this does not make one spouse better than the other but allows each one to support the other in uniques situations such as ours.

What Are The Options for Help

There are teen boot camps or summer camps that are available to help at-risk youth. I have not contacted them because our son’s counselor recommended a local organization if things did not improve.  Local organizations don’t allow children with drug addictions.  The only local option we had was to enroll our son in a drug rehabilitation program.  When we called them, we were told that over-the-counter drug abuse was not “real drug abuse” and to find our son counseling (which he is already in) or wait until he was on illegal drugs and give them a call back (they don’t know how to detox what my son is taking). Since our local options are looking dim, my husband and I have talked about the other boot camps or summer camps available.

The is a Light at the End of the Tunnel

I have been dealing with this issue for over a year.

Over a year!

A year of anger.

Of stress.

Fervent prayers.

Over a year of not knowing what is next.  

Having a teenager who has decided to experiment with drugs is an emotional rollercoaster. When teenagers have an addiction to drugs it hurts everyone in the family; It’s like you’re living in your own personal hell. Over-the-Counter drug abuse is no different than street drugs on the addiction side of things. Over the counter, drug use is a gateway drug to harder drug use. I don’t even want to think about what will happen if he gets to that point in his life.

Taking the steps to prepare yourself, working together with your spouse as a team, and talking with your teenager will help open the pathway for help and hopefully will stop the behavior.

One thing I do know is that things get so much worse before they get better, but hold on, The Light Will Come. I know it is hard, you are not alone and your teenager needs you, he needs your support, and your love to overcome his addiction. I know it is hard, but I promise helping them through it is worth it!  

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3 thoughts on “How to Recognize Over the Counter Drug Abuse in Teens”

  1. OMG…..I’m scared and in tears. I’m a mother of two -I still have 11-13 yerars to see the teenagers phase but i’m so scared. thank you for this post. I know it’s hard to love someone who has cheated you and call you by names but I love that you have to go hell to bring them back. Yes, I’ll go to any extent to bring them back to me and to a beautiful life. Parenting is so scary…

    1. Don’t be scared. Enjoy parenting every step of the way. Knowledge is power so just arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can 🙂

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