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Suspicions of a 13 year old's drug use

answered 04:04 PM EST, Sat November 19, 2011
I am worried that my 13 year old daughter is smoking marijuana and may be using other drugs as well.

We have been having a very difficult relationship for the last year or so and our house feels like a constant battleground. I was going through her bag to look for a school letter last night and I found some rolling papers. She says they are from her friend who uses them to smoke hand rolled cigarettes but forgot them in her bag when they went to the mall yesterday. I find this a little hard to believe but I guess it is possible. Last year I would have believed my daughter, but she has changed so much over the last year that I no longer really do.

My daughter was furious that I looked through her bag. I guess like I don’t believe that she is telling me the truth she doesn’t believe that I had no intentions of violating her privacy when I looked through her bag.

But now that I have found the rolling papers I feel like I need to do something. She swears up and down that she doesn’t do drugs, but I am just no longer sure. I am considering buying a drug test to find out for sure, but my husband says that if start forcing her to take drug tests it won’t feel like a family anymore and it will be more like a prison instead.

Is it worth it to make her do a drug test? Our relationship is not good these days and I am loathe to do anything too make things more difficult, but in this case, if she is on drugs at 13, I feel like extreme measures are now necessary????!!!!

David Johnson Says...

Raising teenagers can be agonizing and difficult. Sometimes there is no clearly right answer in many dilemmas. The principle I keep in mind with teens 13 and older is that you can not supervise your daughter every moment. You need a rapport with her to stay involved in her life. Otherwise, a big part of her life will be beyond your reach. I think that in that portion of her life, you have no choice but to trust her.

Privacy is a big deal to teens, but must have limits. You are responsible if your daughter brings contraband of any kind into the house. I would do spot checks without her knowing about it. If you find something you are concerned about, check it out. Try not to put your anger into your voice or body language. Your anger carries a different message than you intend. She will hear your anger as a loss of love and acceptance. 

Consider her words carefully, don't instantly challenge them as untrue. Check out her story as best you can before you gently confront her again. 

Gently express your doubts. Act on them. Observe her eyes, are they blood shot, swollen? Is her behavior different than usual? Does she seem giddy or more distant or irritable than usual. Is she avoiding all contact with you, again more so than usual. How elaborate was her story? Did she provide much more detail than necessary to demonstrate her innocence? Smell her clothes and see if you detect a sweet pungent smell, certainly nothing like perfume. Smell and observe her fingers. The residue of smoking one marijuana cigarette or "joint" would be apparent if she hasn't washed her hands thoroughly. 

Was the person she reported owned the rolling papers seemingly trustworthy? I agree that rolling your own cigarettes may make sense for a person strongly hooked on smoking who can't afford her habit. Very likely, you can smell cigarette smoke on her friend's or even your daughter's clothes. Call her friend's parents to verify the story. 

She will be mad whether or not she lied. She might tip off a lie by quickly losing her angry tone. But don't in any way give her reason to doubt your love and concern. 

Perhaps most importantly, monitor your voice tone and choice of words carefully. Stay calm and loving. Make sure your intensity of concern doesn't scare her into extreme defensiveness. Let her know, she is your daughter and you love her no matter what she does. 

You may never be able to verify the truth each and every time. But remember, your rapport with her is key. It sounds like there has been a lot of conflict between you and your daughter. Go see a counselor with your daughter and try to mend fences. Note that you would like to learn how to handle these sorts of situations with her better in the future. And you want to be sure she feels safe to come to you if she needs to do so. Extreme measures are seldom helpful. 

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Page last updated Nov 21, 2011

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