Home » Expert Q & A » Adolescent Issues » Adolescent Issues: Rob Danzman, MS, NCC, LPC

Researching Drugs

  • anonymous Asks ...

    My 15 year old son was looking at a lot of legal high websites. I had put some parental monitoring software on that he didn’t know about. He spent about 90 minutes bouncing around and reading about party powders and a lot of herbal speeds and pills and stuff that honestly scares the bejesus out of me. I confronted him right away and he said he was just worried about a friend who was using some of this stuff and he was looking to it. Yeah right….thinks I. So now what? I have to believe he is probably using this stuff and honestly I’d rather he used regular old pot than this new breed of synthetic lab cooked up stuff coming out of China or wherever. Can I drug test him for this new legal high stuff? Should he see a drug counselor?

  • Rob Danzman Says ...
    Rob Danzman

    Dear Anonymous Parent

    Tough situation you're in. Sounds like he's definitely into something. Our instinct as parents is to call them out and confront them with evidence. This provides them an opportunity to lie, avoid, deceive, and use any excuse they can think of despite the improbability. It will also drive you nuts. Our clinicians recommend parents not get caught up in the facts. Kids will double-down no matter how substantial your evidence. Instead, we encourage parents to get outside support in the form of a good substance abuse/psychoeducation assessment while also learning how to set boundaries, expectations, rewards and consequences with the ultimate goal of decreasing the quantity (...of discussion/negotiation) and increasing the quality (...changing behavior). 

    Let's talk about some details now...

    Can I Drug Test Him for This New Legal High Stuff? 

    He's under 18 y/o so you can absolutely test him or at least attempt to. It's difficult to test for many new boutique drugs but there are some options. But, let's play the tape out a bit and see what happens next if you do test... So you drug test him and, surprise surprise, it comes back positive for pot or purple haze or whatever nasty crap he took. Now what? Take away the car keys? He'll get friends to pick him up to go and party. Reprimand him until he caves in, begs forgiveness and seeks treatment? Maybe in another lifetime this will happen. 

    Drug testing is a good tool for keeping a sober/clean person aware of their actions. A kid or adult who is not clean will not likely modify their behavior based on testing. He essentially is interested in having drugs as a part of his life or experimenting, not in maintaining sobriety. 

    Should He See a Drug Counselor? 

    This is what we refer to as intervention or treatment. Doesn't sound like your son is a cynical, hard-core drug abuser but more like an experimenter. First thing our clinicians would recommend is a substance abuse and psychoeducation assessment to figure out what's going on. You found probably 20% of what he's actually doing. From that assessment, we would have a list of clinical, familial, and education recommendations that will more accurately inform appropriate and congruent interventions. Going to a drug counselor first will not determine the underlying issues (if any) for his substance use. 

    Take Home Message: Assessement > Treatment Plan > Treatment. More than likely, there will be some parenting work to be done so you can learn more effective means of setting boundaries, expectations, rewards and consequences. Basically, parent education as a parallel process while your son gets help. 

    Do not try to go through this alone. Even if all you get is an afternoon consultation, find a professional that understands adolescents, drugs and parenting so they can point you in the right direction. Otherwise, you'll spend thousands of dollars, hours and hours of your life and still feel like you're not making headway. 


Featured Experts