When to Worry about Cough Medicine Abuse
Parents and teens tend to discount cough medicine abuse because it is legal and easy to purchase. That’s a mistake, says Pasierb. "Cough medicine is rarely a kid’s drug of choice…," he says. Once is enough for half of the kids who try it. "The teens who abuse cough medicine more than once are typically engaged in multiple forms of drug abuse," Pasierb tells WebMD.
Chances are, if you see any signs of teen drug or alcohol abuse, your child has moved beyond simple experimentation. "By the time parents see signs, it’s usually the tip of the iceberg," says Manlove. Your child may play it down but if you find empty bottles or drug paraphernalia in his things, there is a strong possibility that not only is he using, he’s losing control of the ability to hide it from you.
The Role and Power of Parents
You cannot control every aspect of your child’s life, especially as she enters the teen years, but you do play an important role. In a survey of more than 2,000 teenagers and 450 parents, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) found that teens with strong ties to their parents were less likely to use drugs or alcohol.
Respecting your role as your child’s protector might help you work through the privacy question. "Any substance use is a risk to your child’s health," says Pasierb. "If parents are trying to understand the threat of drug or alcohol abuse to their child’s health, and they have a strong suspicion, it makes sense to look into it."
Involve Your Child in the Solution
In the end, what you do if you do find evidence of drug use is more significant than whether you override your teen’s right to privacy. If she could do it over again, Manlove would take a more collaborative approach to her son’s drug abuse. "I wish I had said to him, ‘I’m really worried about what I’m seeing. I want to be here to work with you and find a solution together.’"
Swick recommends just such an approach to the parents she works with. "You don’t want to leave your child feeling isolated and panicked," she says. Whatever you do or say, letting your child know she can lean on you should be a big part of the message. "If possible, your child should feel somewhat relieved to be able to talk to you," Swick says.