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Pharmacy How to talk to your kids about using drugs

My daughter has started hanging out with a different set of friends and has started acting differently.  I think that she may be using drugs.  How can I tell?


You need to talk to your child. Be open, direct, and respectful. It can feel as if our teenagers pay zero attention to what we say to them about drugs. However, research shows that parents continue to play an important and powerful role in shaping a teen’s attitude and behavior regarding drugs. Parents matter to teens more than we realize.

There are two main ways parents can have an impact on their teen’s potential drug use:

1) Set clear and ongoing expectations about the use of alcohol or other drugs. 
2) Use consistent consequences when these expectations are not followed. 

It’s important to start and continue to talk with your teen about drug use. Ask for and respect your teen’s input.
  • Clarify your expectations and consequences.
  • Help your child learn about substance use.
  • Set clear limits, including driving when using drugs or alcohol or riding with a driver who is impaired. 
Strive to be supportive, involved, and loving. Monitor your teen’s activities. Support their independence when setting limits.

Teens are at higher risk for drug use during times of transition such as moving, starting high school, obtaining a driver's license, getting a part-time job, or parental divorce. These times are times of more responsibility, freedom, social pressure and new peers and opportunities. These tend to increase a teen's stress level. It can make it possible to use alcohol or other drugs.


My child lies to me and I want to test them for drug use. Is this a good idea?  


It is not a good idea to drug test your child at home. 

There are many different types of urine drug screens (UDS).  If you get a home urine test kit from a website, the results may be wrong:
  • These rapid tests typically only find a few drugs within each class of drugs (amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, opioids, etc.).  That means that there are many other drugs that do not result in “positive” results.  
  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can give a false “positive” result on a UDS.
  • Results of UDS depend on many factors including: time since last drug use, drug elimination times, and urine concentration. 
It is also not a good idea to do home drug tests that use your child’s hair, spit, or sweat. These are often wrong and not easy to do. 

If you ask your healthcare provider about having your child take a UDS. You need to be aware that even these tests may not always be accurate. 


I don’t throw away my medications as I might need them later.  But, recently, I have noticed that some of them are missing.  Should I be concerned about my children stealing the medications?  What can I do about it?


Yes, you should be concerned about children and teens stealing medications from you or other family members.  Studies have shown that teens commonly take prescription medication by stealing from family members.  Any medications your teen steals from your medicine cabinet could also be a suicide risk. 

It is important to store and dispose of medication correctly. Children’s Mercy offers medication storage and disposal resources.


I found a bag of marijuana in my daughter’s room.  When I talked to her about it, she told me it was not a big deal because “everyone was doing it”.  I looked online for information, but there are different answers to my questions.  Is marijuana addicting? What harm can happen to a teenager who uses it? 


A 2017 nationwide survey found that 25% of high-school sophomores, and 37% of high-school seniors reported marijuana use within the past year. Marijuana use by teens is now more common than getting drunk.

Marijuana use can have negative health and life effects.  Talk openly with your teen about these. Some of these include:
  • Teen brains are still developing. Using marijuana at this age can change their brain neuron structure. These means marijuana changes the normal brain development. It can lead to cognitive impairment and lower IQ. 
  • Marijuana use may increase the likelihood of using other drugs of abuse. It changes to the brain’s reward pathway. 
  • Teen use of marijuana can also lead to decreased motivation for school, athletics, and extracurricular activities.  It can also increase the risk of dropping out of school. 
  • Some marijuana users develop cravings and withdrawal symptoms that are associated with a substance use disorder. About 9% of all adult marijuana users meet this criteria. This jumps to 17% for those who began using marijuana during teen years. 
  • Marijuana users can become psychologically dependent on marijuana. They may come to believe over time that they require marijuana to have fun, relax, manage anxiety, etc. 
  • Marijuana users can experience problems into adulthood. They report more job absences, accidents, and injuries than those who don’t use marijuana.

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