News Articles

FIRST-PERSON – Drug abuse: how to respond to a loved one’s experimentation

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–When we speak with teenagers, we usually ask some of them, “Have you ever experimented with an alcoholic beverage?”

A remarkable number of young people truthfully respond that they have. Further questioning usually reveals that the initial experience was with a family member or close friend. And if our listeners are regular members of a church youth group, many of those who confess past associations with alcohol will hasten to add, “I finally decided it just wasn’t for me!”

Curiosity is no stranger to the average teen. Certainly adults also may fall victim to alcohol abuse. As much as we wish that our children would totally abstain from ever experimenting with the wide array of legal and illegal behavior-altering substances that threaten our society, a majority will eventually succumb to the temptation.

How the significant others react to first-time adventures with drug abuse will either encourage the growth of the problem or discourage its continuation.

The penetrating question often asked by those alarmed by a loved one’s experimentation with dangerous drugs is, “What should I do about it?”

Here are some suggestions:

— Get yourself under control. If the loved one has displayed a lack of personal control by embracing drug abuse for the first time, it is imperative that the significant other(s) seeking to provide assistance have full self-control. If the shock of the event has rendered the potential intervener temporarily helpless, active intervention must await the return of rational response.

— Evaluate your motives. Are your concerns rooted in the possible opinions of others or are they based on a true concern for the welfare of the experimenter?

— Learn all you can about the drug in question. Even those with a general knowledge of the most abused substances should search continually for the most up-to-date information about these staple drugs. Certainly those who care should be constantly aware of any new vessels of tragedy exerting appeal on the marketplace. We learn something new every day. Please understand that you cannot reasonably discuss the potential harm of a drug without a thorough knowledge of the substance.

— Have a friendly two-way conversation between you and the involved individual. While an adequate knowledge of the drug and its possible negative consequences gives the intervener a better chance for success, common sense also is an essential ingredient.

Do not expect your listener to devour every remark you make as the “gospel truth.” There must be sufficient time for the individual to participate in the conversation. It is an ideal time to reason together. It is important, however, that the intervener not lose control of the situation. Hopefully, lines of communication have already been established in the family.

After the two-way conversation is completed, the intervener must be ready to reaffirm a clear message of the benefits of sobriety and self-control. Suggestions should be made for the enrichment of the individual, including the reading of helpful sources and a reinforcement of family rules. This is certainly the right time for the one who hurts and those who care to read the two books recently coauthored by the writers of this column. (“The Drug Tragedy – Hope For The One Who Hurts” and “The Drug Tragedy – Hope For The One Who Cares.”)

— Exercise restraint. This is often extremely difficult, especially for family members who are alarmed that the first-time experience may become an entrenched habit that will eventually lead to disaster. However, try to lay off the subject for a while. Allow the transgressor time to digest the discovery of his misdeed and the effort at intervention.

— Try hard to trust your loved one after the first such event. Trust works great miracles. This difficult exercise often instills in the one who has momentarily fallen a sincere desire to be worthy of the family’s trust.

— If the involvement in drug abuse continues, however, seek help at once! Your loved one needs help from outside. This person may be a personal acquaintance or may be a stranger. But find the right person, one who is qualified to offer help and one who cares about your loved one’s welfare. You will be a necessary part of successful recovery.
Stone and Barber, of Durham, N.C., are coauthors of two new books on alcohol and drug abuse, “The Drug Tragedy – Hope for the One Who Hurts” and “The Drug Tragedy – Hope for the One Who Cares,” both available from LifeWay Christian Stores.

    About the Author

  • Ted G. Stone & Philip D. Barber