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What do I do with a stepson who is taking drugs?


​​​​I don't know what to do. Earlier this year, I found weed in my stepson's backpack. He denied it was his and we grounded him for a couple weeks. He has been lying and taking things without permission. My husband says I'm overreacting and trusts him, but I don't. I found Excedrin migraine next to his bed on the floor a few months back. Last night, I noticed my stuff in the bathroom was messed with and it was a bag that has my prescriptions that I don't take all the time. Today, I found a piece of one of my vitamins under his bed like he took it apart. I am done. We have 6 other kids and I don't want the drugs, stealing and lying around them. Might I add his mother is in prison for those exact reasons.


Thank you for emailing in. It sounds like your stepson is certainly challenging both of you at this point. Many times when a youth gets in trouble for something the first time, just like the law, the consequence may not be as severe and/or the benefit of doubt is given. A consequence could be put in place to deter the “law breaker" from repeating the misbehavior (e.g., a grounding you set out), but sometimes with the first offense the focus might be more on stating expectations again to make things clear going forward and, in your case, talking about the health issues regarding the use of illegal marijuana/pills. The safety concern is often more important than the legality of it with teens these days. Share real life stories of overdoses and look at his school's drug use policy and share what could happen there. Ask him what would happen if a younger sibling picked up a partial pill and ingested it. Ask him what would happen if he was high and missed a red light and his friend was injured in the passenger seat. Remind him he is more susceptible to addiction issues based on his family history.

Now that you have seen further evidence of drug misuse in the home, this is not only about your stepson's lying and stealing but also about his safety, the safety of the other children in the home and the responsibility of parents making sure they are addressing the issue. When you find further evidence, as you have, you might consider not even giving him the opportunity to lie. Lay everything out on the table. Let him know what you have found and why it is a huge deal. It is your job as parents to keep him safe and ensure he is making good choices. In fact, going forward all over-the-counter and prescriptions medications should be locked up in your home.

Whether he is experimenting, has been using for some time unbeknownst to you, is trading pills or even dabbling in making homemade concoctions, you are seeing red flags that are telling you “this is a problem." Another idea would be to do a full room, back pack and phone/computer check. Is your stepson discussing drugs or talking in code on technology? Is he looking up how to combine everyday items with a certain medication? Is he purchasing things online? You do not have to ask permission to take and check his technology – look up the history on technology before he decides to delete it.

Some kids will turn to drugs for recreation or under peer pressure, while others will do it to engage in risky behavior to become popular or to self-medicate if they are feeling down or anxious. Drugs, whether illegal, over the counter or prescription, can have many negative side effects on a person (and can even be deadly). It can make them irritable, unable to sleep, sleep too much, engage in riskier behavior while under the influence, disregard any responsibility and more.  

Do you think there is someone else who he knows that might make an impact on him by talking to him about this, like a counselor at school or a police officer you know? We know you love your stepson. You would not be writing in for help if you did not. But his drug use puts you and others in your home at risk. While under the influence, people do things they would not normally do. Those he hangs out with or who are supplying/supporting his habit could endanger someone. If drugs or drug supplies are found in your home, you as the adult and owner/renter of the home could be held liable.

We do not know his age, and, of course, you and his father should talk first to get on the same page before addressing him. When you do so, agree on and design a list of what needs to happen in order for him to build up trust with you again. These are some suggestions…

  • No drug use or drug supplies in the home
  • No money for him from you for anything right now
  • No driving privileges while in your home (if he is using drugs, he should not drive at all)
  • No allowing any other friends or acquaintances of his into your home
  • Agreement to get a substance abuse evaluation
  • You will do random searches
  • You will call police if he does bring drugs into the home
  • He cannot have any passwords or blocks on his technology that you don't know, and you can access any device any time you ask

Again, you need to be comfortable with what you are willing to do, and to act on those actions consistently, or your son will continue get away with what he's doing. If you would like us to check resources in your area, please call in so a Hotline Crisis Counselor can assist you.