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How can I help my teenager who is abusing drugs, stealing, threatening and violent?


​My 15-year-old son has rage and anger issues when told “No." Recently, he ran away. We found out he has been stealing and doing drugs. Two years ago, he was doing great. We haven't seen him in over a week but have received Facebook messages where he's been calling me names and threatening to brick my house and car. There are online videos of him and other teens smoking weed and snorting stuff, and two people are looking for him because he owes them a lot of money. I called the police but there is not much they can do.


Teen using drugs

Thank you for emailing the Hotline. It sounds like your son is really presenting some challenging behaviors. Not many children like to be told “No," however, learning how to accept “No" for an answer is an important life skill that everyone needs to learn. You mentioned that two years ago, your son was doing great. Do you think that's when he might have started using drugs? Some drugs can absolutely change a person's demeanor. They not only can be physically addicting but psychologically addicting as well. The more you use, the more addicted you become, and the drugs take priority over everything else in life. Just as drugs can be addictive, video games are designed to make people want to come back for more too. The temptation to keep playing, buy accessories for your character or get irritated if you lose or are told your time is up is common with children who game too much.

Since he cannot be trusted now, all cash, bank cards and keys should be kept under lock and key. If you do hear or see of his whereabouts via social media, or your son does return home, be sure to give law enforcement an update. Make sure his school is also aware of the situation. Let them know that if he shows up at school, to contact you immediately so that you can phone the police. Sometimes, teens who are on the run and abusing substances suddenly show up to class. They get tired of being on the run, need a break from it, could be supplying classmates with paraphernalia or in your son's case could be running to a safe place for protection if there are people who are after him right now.
If your home or vehicles are vandalized, report it to the police. Keep a log of your son's behaviors, whereabouts, threats and photos/videos of the drug use that may be helpful to the police and in determining what type of help he might need when he returns. He may not want help or services, so you might need to consider removing his privileges and the things that are meaningful to him to motivate him to change his behavior. Some parents will make all privileges that their child has access to contingent on participating in mental/behavioral health or substance abuse services. 

If your son does show up at home, remain calm, let him know you are glad he is home and see if he needs a shower or is hungry. Once he is settled in a bit, alert law enforcement. Let your son know you will do what it takes to get him help and keep him safe. You may want to check with his primary physician to see what local behavioral health or substance abuse programs in your city/country would be best from him.