Sex, Drugs, and Media part 7

I loved doing this series on my blog about Sex, Drugs and Media. This last one is actually something I wrote a long time ago. It is a questionnaire for parents to help discern if their children might just be having some trouble with alcohol or drugs. My experience is that many well-meaning parents are either ignorant of the fact their kids are using or in denial. I hope you will save this either for you or pass it on to a friend. This one parent questionnaire has helped hundreds (maybe thousands) of parents learn that it was time to talk with their kids about this important issue.

(This is part 7 of a seven-part series)

Alcoholism and Drug Use and Abuse Questionnaire for Parents

You may suspect that your child or teenager is having trouble with alcohol and other drugs, but short of smelling liquor on his breath or discovering pills in her pockets, how can you know for sure? While symptoms vary, there are some common tip-offs. Your answers to the following questions will help you determine if a problem exists:

1. Has your child’s personality changed markedly? Does he or she change moods quickly, seem sullen, withdraw from the family, display sudden anger or depression, or spend hours alone in his or her room?
Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

2. Has your child lost interest in school, school activities or school athletics? Have his or her grades dropped at all?
Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

3. Has your child stopped spending time with old friends? Is he or she now spending time with kids whom you consider to be unhealthy influences? Is your child secretive or evasive about his or her friends, where they go and what they do?
Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

4. Are you missing money or other objects from around the house (money needed for alcohol and drugs), or have you noticed that your child has more money than you would expect (possibly from selling drugs)?
Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

5. Has your child been involved with the law in a situation involving drugs in any way? (You can be assured that if this has happened, there have been other times—probably many—when he or she has been drinking or using drugs and hasn’t gotten caught.)
Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

6. When you talk to your child about alcohol and drugs, does he or she get angry and defensive or refuse to discuss the topic at all? (People who are very defensive about alcohol and drugs are often hiding how much they use.)

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

7. Has your child become dishonest? Do you feel you’re not getting straight answers about your child’s whereabouts, activities or companions? (A young person may also lie about matters that seem unrelated to alcohol or drugs.)

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

8. Are there physical signs of alcohol or drug use? Have you smelled alcohol on your child’s breath? Have you smelled the odor of marijuana on his or her clothing or in his or her room? (Slurred speech, unclear thinking or swaggering gait are also indicators. Bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils and imprecise eye movement may also be clues.)

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

9. Has your child lost interest in previously important hobbies, sports or other activities? Has your child lost motivation, enthusiasm and vitality?

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

10. Have you seen evidence of alcohol or drugs? Have you ever found a hidden bottle, beer cans left in the car, marijuana seeds, marijuana cigarettes, cigarette rolling papers, drug paraphernalia (pipes, roach clips, stash cans, etc.), capsules or tablets?

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

11. Has your child’s relationship with you or other family members deteriorated? Does your child avoid family gatherings? Is your child less interested in siblings, or does he or she now verbally (or even physically) abuse younger brothers and sisters?

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

12. Has your child ever been caught with alcohol or drugs at school or school activities?

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

13. Has your child seemed sick, fatigued or grumpy (possibly hung over) in the morning after drug or alcohol use was possible the night before?

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

14. Have your child’s grooming habits deteriorated? Does your child dress in a way that people in your community associate with drug or alcohol subculture? Does your child seem unusually interested in drug- or alcohol-related slogans, posters, music or clothes?

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

15. Has your child’s physical appearance changed? Does he or she appear unhealthy, lethargic, more forgetful or have a shorter attention span than before?

Yes ____ No ____ Uncertain ____

How to Score the Test

This questionnaire is not scientific and is not meant to diagnose alcohol and drug problems. It is meant to alert parents when problems are likely. The questions are red-flag detectors, and your answers may show a need for further action. Keep in mind that “yes” answers to some of these questions may simply reflect normal adolescent behavior. “Yes” answers to questions directly relating to alcohol and drug use (5, 8, 10, 12) are, of course, cause for concern; they indicate that your child is using alcohol and/or drugs and that action should be taken.

In general, parents should look for an emerging pattern. A couple of “yes” or “uncertain” answers should alert parents to potential alcohol and drug use and should motivate them to monitor the child more closely, talk to knowledgeable sources and prepare to seek help.

If you answered yes to three or more questions, you probably need to seek help. Your child may be in the experimental stages or may already be heavily involved in alcohol and drugs. Remember, it is very, very difficult to handle this problem without the help of other experienced parents and/or professionals. Rarely is this a problem that passes with time; it may well be a life-or-death matter. Take action: Call a knowledgeable source such as a school counselor or an alcohol/drug counselor who deals with adolescents, your local council on alcoholism or another drug/alcohol agency and discuss this questionnaire.

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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