Why Didn’t I See My Teenager Was Abusing Medicine?

Janet is a teacher and mother of three in New York. Kristin, her daughter, became addicted to drugs and over-the-counter medicine in high school. After a court-ordered rehab program, Kristin is attending college. Janet wrote this when Kristin was 18.

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on June 15, 2012
3 min read

I should have seen the signs, but when Kristin was arrested, it was the first time I had any idea that she was abusing cough medicine and other drugs. And I have a degree in psychology! The school did interim reports, and her grades would drop significantly -- but then I’d say something to her and she’d get them back up to the honor roll before the final grading period. This is a kid who’s always wanted to succeed. She did very well in school, was a dancer, made varsity lacrosse in her sophomore year.

I guess I did know something was going on. I always invite the kids to have their friends here, and Kristin wasn’t doing that as much and wasn’t as interested as she used to be in her appearance. Her group of friends started changing.

I thought it was just normal teenage rebellion. I set curfews and put her in therapy, but of course the therapist can’t tell you everything -- that’s a breach of confidentiality. So I thought it wasn’t that severe an issue.

I’d try to talk to her, but she was very angry. Wewere having seven-day-a-week blow-up sessions. When we tried to set limits, the rebellion was unbelievable. Even as a teacher, I guess it was just easier for me to say, “Fine, OK, have it your way.” My father was very sick with terminal cancer and I was trying to work, care for the other kids, and care for the house. I guess I was seeing but not seeing.

It wasn’t really until she was arrested that I was slapped in the face with what was happening and how far it had gone. We put her in Lexington (the Lexington Center for Recovery) even before the court told us what to do. She was arrested on a Wednesday, and by Thursday we had meetings at Lexington scheduled for Monday.

There’s a commercial on TV now with a drug dealer saying, “My business is off now. Don’t think they’re getting drugs from me -- they’re getting them from your own medicine cabinet.” I saw it and thought, what kid would do that? My kid did!

It’s a tough thing to watch Kristin go through. I keep thinking, why didn’t I see it? She’s a good kid. My youngest is 13 and starting high school, and we are much more aware of this now. We’re setting stricter limits and carrying them through. This is an awakening for me and an eye-opener for all of us.

But Kristin is better now. I’m so glad we got her into rehab. Everybody has noticed the change in her. The way she speaks to people -- she talks to you more now; she wants to be involved.

This is more of the Kristin we knew, and I feel lucky to have her back.