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What to do if you think your child is taking drugs

Many young people experiment with drugs and don't develop any issues.

If you think your child is taking drugs, try not to panic, there are some things you can do.

Stay calm

Getting angry or emotional probably won’t help.

Take some time to get more information and plan how you want to deal with things.

Inform yourself

You may need to keep a close eye on them for a little while, to find out if they are taking drugs.

Some of the signs of drug use are normal for teenagers. For example, moodiness or losing interest in hobbies.

If they are taking drugs, find out what they are taking.

Find out why

Try to understand why your child is using drugs.

The best way to help depends on the type of drug and how they are using it.

If it’s occasional use with friends, you may need to keep a closer eye on them and limit their freedom.

If they are using substances to cope with stress or problems, try to get to the bottom of what’s bothering them. You can then support them to cope in a healthier way.

Related topic

Setting boundaries with young people around alcohol

If you think they may be dependent on drugs, bring them to your GP.
Contact the HSE Drugs and Alcohol Helpline to learn how to support them.

Talk to them

Find a time when you won’t be distracted or interrupted and you are both calm.

Listen to them and get as much information as possible. Try not to give your opinion, get angry or interrupt, as this may shut down the conversation.

Don’t be afraid to take some time, especially if you are feeling very emotional or overwhelmed. You can tell them you will talk to them about it the next day. That way you can get more information, advice and support, from a friend or professional.

Parentline - a national helpline for parents. Call on 01 873 3500

Don't ignore it

Things are not going to get better if you turn a blind eye. Especially if they are using alcohol or drugs to cope with a problem or they are at risk of dependence.

Your child may not want to talk, may get aggressive or just deny the problem. It may take a little time to get through to them and you may need to get extra help or advice, but don’t give up.

Keep expressing concern for their well being. Continue to highlight the specific issues which worry you while not blaming it on drug use.

Visit for more information about drugs and drug use.

page last reviewed: 08/11/2019
next review due: 08/11/2022