Confronting Your Teen if You Think They Have a Substance Problem

Stop before you confront a person about his or her use while the person is high or drunk. Wait until later when the effects of the drug have completely worn off.

Expect the person to react defensively.  A person with a substance abuse problem will vehemently deny having one. The person may lash out at you and try to convince you that only you have a problem.

State your intentions: you are confronting the person out of care and concern, no blame or judgment. You intend to be helpful and assist the person in regaining control over his or her life.

State your motivation: you care about the person
and what happens to him/her. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t bring it up.

Be firm in your presentation. Persist in trying to make the person realize that the situation is out of control. Come prepared with specific examples of out-of-control behavior.

Present your observation of the person’s behavior.
Focus on what you see happening to the person
and the lives of those around him or her.
Be very specific.

Express how the person’s behavior makes you feel. Express your feelings clearly.

State why you think the person needs help in stopping the addiction. Many other people have recovered from addiction and gone on to lead successful lives. Getting well and staying well often
requires the help of others.

State what you will do next. This could include assisting the person in getting help as well as involving other significant people in the person’s life in an intervention.

Source: Falkowski, Carol.  “Dangerous Drugs: An Easy-to-Use Reference for Parents and Professionals.”  Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2000

PDF of Toolkit