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Mother talking with teenage daughter on a bed in bedroom

10 Dos and Don’ts When Confronting Your Teen’s Drug Use

Maybe you found pills in your daughter’s backpack. Or your teen staggered home late and clearly high. Take a deep breath. You need to have a conversation you never imagined when you brought home that little bundle of joy.

As shocked or angry as you feel in the moment, the next best step is to pause – unless you fear your child is in immediate danger. If possible, take the time to prepare yourself for a difficult confrontation.

Dos and Don’ts for Making it an Impactful Conversation

Do: Talk with your spouse/partner/co-parent first and commit to joining forces. It’s essential to present a united and loving front.

Don’t: Blame or undermine each other.


Do: Gather evidence, including any drugs you’ve found and any specific behavior changes, such as dropping grades and quitting activities.

Don’t: Assume you know exactly what your teen is doing.


Do: Wait for the right time and place – in private when there’s time to talk at length.

Don’t: Have a confrontation when your teen is under the influence, in a public place or without gathering your thoughts.


Do: Be specific and factual about changes you’ve observed in your teen.

Don’t: Make sweeping or general accusations.


Do: Prepare for your teen to be on the offensive. If you drink alcohol or smoke, be ready for your teen to call you out for your own behavior.

Don’t: Ignore points they make. Instead, use their accusations or observations as an opportunity to further the discussion.


Do: Listen and try to understand what your teen is going through.

Don’t: Do all of the talking or dwell on points once they’ve been made.


Do: Explain consequences of drug use in a factual way. Spell out your rules and consequences.

Don’t: Threaten your teen with unrealistic punishments.


Do: Stay calm and offer your complete support, including addiction recovery resources.

Don’t: Force an immediate response from your teen.


Do: Expect anger, denial and accusations of distrust. Resolve to remain calm.

Don’t: Respond with anger or argue with your teen.


Do: Express how much you care and that your love is unconditional.

Don’t: Try to make your teen feel guilty or ashamed.


If you are concerned that your child may have a substance use disorder, call (402) 717-HOPE.

Originally Published April 2019. Revised July 2022. 

Michael Grove, LIMHP, LADC
Michael Grove, LIMHP, LADC

Michael Grove, LIMHP, LADC is a Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor.

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