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This content is from an educational collaboration between WebMD Editorial and StopMedicineAbuse.org.

6 Tips for Parents of Teens continued...

If the cold or cough syrup in your medicine cabinet disappears or gets used up, ask about it. Over-the-counter cough medicines contain dextromethorphan, an ingredient teens can drink in excess to get high.

Cagey behavior may have a simple explanation or a serious cause. Perhaps your child is stressed over schoolwork. Maybe she had a fight with a friend. Or she could have a problem she’s afraid to talk about. Turner counsels parents to make it as easy as possible for their teens to talk to them. Start by asking what is going on. Talk about specific things you see and concerns you have, and then be ready to listen.

2. Educate yourself.

Julie Unwin saw her middle-school son become increasingly sullen and withdrawn. “In my gut I believed something was wrong,” she says. "But I thought, if he was using drugs I would see a physical sign.” The Unwins' son didn’t come home slurring or with bloodshot eyes because he wasn’t using alcohol or marijuana, at least not at first. There might have been signs, but his parents didn’t know what to look for.

Drugs rise and fall in popularity over time. It’s possible you have never heard of your child’s drug of choice. With time and research you can get to know the different substances available to kids today. The web sites drugfree.org or drugabuse.gov have drug guides that describe commonly abused substances and their effects.

3. Don’t take it personally.

If you find out your child is lying about drugs, you may see red. You may feel hurt, angry, guilty, and betrayed. All of these emotions are understandable. And none of them will help you help your child.   

“First, recognize that lying is a normal teen behavior,” advises Turner. He goes on to say that normal or not, parents can and should teach their kids that lying is unacceptable. Your conversation with your child could cover the following ground:

  • Explore the reasons your child lied
  • Understand what is going on
  • Let your child know that lying is not OK
  • Talk about how to be honest in the future

4. Get help.

A lot of parents try to keep their child’s drug use within the family, Hedrick tells WebMD. “The idea that addiction reflects badly on the family keeps a lot of kids out of treatment until the problem is too big to ignore.”

Like diabetes or a broken bone, treating drug abuse requires expertise most parents don’t have. If your child is using drugs, you’ll have your hands full, even with a professional involved. Start by talking to your family doctor or pediatrician. The counselor at your child’s school may be able to recommend specialists or treatment centers that can help both you and your child.

Preparing for Middle School

Tips to help your tween cope with this exciting but risky time.
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WebMD Video Series

Click here to wach video: Cough Syrup Drug Abuse

1 in 10 teens abuse cough medicine. It's dangerous, even deadly. Is your teen in danger?

Click here to watch video: Cough Syrup Drug Abuse