Not My Kid: Dealing with drug use of your child’s friend

Post by Sarah Wilde

You pick up your child and a friend from a party and notice something is off.   Not with your child but with the friend who is sleeping over.  What do you do?   Shrug it off to teenage behavior?   Let them sleep it off and pray your son/daughter finds new friends?   You may think … “it’s not my child, who am I to say anything?”    Well, one thing is certain:  not being their parent may mean you have a bigger impact on this child than you estimated.   You have the power to be a positive influence in this child’s life, as well as the obligation as a parent to protect your own child.

Research shows that kids start using drugs because they think it will help them feel better – especially from stress or depression, fit in, or they just want to take risks.  Spending time with a friend who is using will increase the likelihood that your child will use too.  Statistics show that every day approximately 4,500 Americans under 18 try marijuana for the first time.   Treatment for marijuana is the primary reason children are admitted into treatment programs – more than for all other illicit drugs combined.

Scientific research tells us that addiction is not a matter of will and is actually a disease of the brain.  While not all teenage drug or alcohol use will lead to addiction, there is no certainty over when use may turn to abuse or dependence.   Regardless of full-blown addiction, many negative consequences may develop such as poor grades, loss of interest in athletics or extra-curriculars, problems at home or in relationships, even trouble with the law.

You can make a difference in the life of a child who is using.  Sometimes kids aren’t aware of the harmful and lasting effects that can occur with drug use and need an understanding person to talk to.   Many kids have parents with alcohol or drug problems of their own and alerting the parent isn’t going to help the matter.   As an adult and parent there are resources available to you that will help you learn more about how to help children of substance abusers.  The National Clearinghouse  for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) can help – call 1-800-788-2800 or visit www.health.org.

If you have an open ear with the understanding parent of the child in question, talk with them.   Explain everything you have used to educate yourself on the topic and explain what you know about the harms and consequences of even “recreational” use.   Stay involved and it could be a matter of changing the course of both that child’s life and your own.


Benefits of Substance Abuse Treatment Far Outweigh Costs

Post by Sarah Wilde

Treatment for substance abuse does not necessarily come cheap.   However, there is no question that the enormous physical and psychological effects of effective treatment can be priceless.  From a monetary standpoint, several studies1 also indicate the benefits of substance abuse treatment create a far greater benefit to society, including taxpayers and employers, than the associated cost.  A California study found the monetary benefits to society of the direct cost of substance abuse treatment to be a 7:1 benefit to cost ratio (figure 1).   When adding benefits as related to health care costs, the figures jump to a 12:1 benefit-cost ratio.

From a taxpayer standpoint, the study shows ER visits and hospital stays are reduced by more than 35%.   Medical costs overall are reduced by 26%.  In the workplace, employers benefit by reduced absenteeism, reduced tardiness, fewer mistakes, lower on the job injuries, and fewer disagreements with supervisors, by a whopping 75%.   All in all, the cost of substance abuse treatment is far outweighed by the benefits it provides.

Protect Your Investment

When assessing what you are willing to pay for treatment, it is critical you look at both the tangible and intangible costs you are likely to recoup over time.  LifeSkills Authorities wants you to recognize and protect the investment you are making in yourself.  Sure you will likely reduce healthcare and legal costs, reduce the spending on alcohol, maybe even vehicle collisions and insurance.  Think bigger!   With a holistic recovery program the benefits are endless.   Your income is likely to increase due to increased productivity and reduced mistakes, tardiness and disagreements.   Your focus should improve, your clarity, your drive, and your mental acuity should sharpen in recovery.   Remember also your friends, your family, your follow-through and your ability to “show up” for people should grow with a life of recovery.   You will regain credibility, you may even regain your waist line.  These cost benefits are incalculable yet critical when looking at your investment into treatment.   Sure, it may seem like a large “cost” at the outset, but when you look at all you are getting for that expense, it truly is an “investment” in your future, and one that is sure to return significant dividends when the commitment is made to nurture the investment.  The best part is that you are not the only one who benefits from the investment, as recovery has a ripple effect that will positively impact several layers beyond even your smallest circle of family or friends.

If you are holding back because you are not quite sure if the decision to seek treatment is “cost-effective” then the wait should be over before your life is — invest in your future now, while you have one.

1Source:  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)


Am I losing my sister?

Post by Michael Plahn

We often receive inquiries and questions from concerned family members that want to know how they can help a loved one suffering from addiction.   We recently received the following:

“My sister is 24 and was laid off last year from her first professional job out of college.  She has always been a drinker (our entire family likes to have our share at times), but since her unemployment, I think she may be using hard drugs now as well.   She has become very distant with me, our brother, and our parents.  This is not like her as we have always been a close family.  She lives on the west coast and when I have visited, I heard her friends talk freely about their drug use, but my little sister insisted she wasn’t into drugs (she tried them, but didn’t like them).  She has not worked in almost a year, but is out 4-5 nights every week at clubs in L.A.  What should I do, I feel like I am losing my sister?”

Unemployment is a difficult situation at any age.  Coupled with unhealthy behavior, the situation can quickly go from bad to worse.  I cannot tell you with certainty whether your sister has a problem now, but based on the information you wrote, she is certainly heading down a concerning path.  It can be difficult to discern whether certain behavior is problematic.  However, the fact that her loving big sister took the time to research, and question, her lifestyle is a “red flag” for me. 

Dealing with addiction is not easy.  Most family members or concerned individuals who approach an addicted person without a plan and a trained advocate to help them, realize tremendous frustration and many times accomplish little.  Therefore, I would suggest you do a bit more discovery around the situation and then mobilize with the proper support.   It sounds like her behavior has changed, given that she is no longer as close with her family and remains unemployed.  Are you still in a relationship where you can have a simple talk with your sister and ask her some strategic open-ended questions – and really listen to her answers?  Expressing your concern in a loving and non-confrontational way may be your first step in learning more about your sister’s current lifestyle choices.  

If you feel that has already happened and you are not getting anywhere, and increasingly concerned, then it may be time to contact an experienced interventionist for more information about how best to approach your sister.   At LifeSkills Authorities we often consult with family members like yourself, that simply need help sorting through the questions, and a roadmap for next steps.   We specialize in an invitational intervention model which brings the family together to address the situation in a healthy environment.  An invitational intervention provides an inclusive and loving process that helps the family express concern in a healthy format.  In my experience, this is the most efficacious and healing form of intervention for the addicted individual and all concerned parties.

If you have a question for LifeSkills Authorities, please email us.

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