Q: Is it possible that my 11-year-old son could be using drugs?
A: A succinct question deserves a succinct answer: Yes.
For a little more detail: it’s actually a high-risk age range, because parents aren’t looking. In that time right before they enter high school, it seems like parents and teachers are imagining that the kids are too young to get involved with drugs. I have seen kids who are already dealing by the time they start high school. It makes sense to be paying attention and open to the possibility. As they say, start talking with your kids about drugs early and often. Meanwhile, talk to your school social worker, who might have the inside scoop on the crowd your child hangs out with. Try not to freak out at your child, which could be alienating and damage your credibility.
Q: I think my teen daughter is using something. What should I do?
A: Get her help. If she’s using, it’s because she’s unhappy, doesn’t have coping mechanisms, or is in with the wrong crowd. If she’s not, there’s something going on with her that’s making you think she’s using. If you offer her a chance to hang out and talk about herself with a sympathetic listener for a while, would she turn you down? You don’t have to say it’s about drug use, if you are worried about approaching the topic with her. Make sure she knows that it will be private, and you won’t try to pry, because teens need their space. Make sure you get a referral to a good therapist, and be prepared to shop around for someone who is a good match for your daughter.