The issue of “how are they afforded drugs” is often the first red flag that something is up in this category


No money for food, no money for housing or other normal utilities, no job (doesn’t want one or can’t hold one). Yet they always manage to scrounge enough to feed the habit. They often also manage to hang onto the car because that serves so many purposes – mini-home, shelter from the elements, way to get around, and one last-ditch effort at providing some form of “my place” when they’ve lost all their other retreats to safety.

But how do they pay for even that much? From what we learned with my cousin, and since then has been echoed with other drug addictions we’ve become aware of, is that most drug addicts don’t get arrested/jailed because of possession, per se. They get busted and jailed because of the petty crimes they do, to support their habit. If drugs, drug paraphernalia and/or blood tests during/after the arrest also show the presence of drugs in their system, then that only increases the # of charges against them. That’s what happened with my cousin. Her family only knew that she was sliding downhill for no apparent reason. It wasn’t until the arrests started that things started to add up and proof came in the form of bloodwork. And those arrests started to come in rapid succession, for a kid who’d previously been spotless in her grades and never had run-ins with the law. By comparison, a good friend of my brother’s, who only recently got over his own chemical addiction, was able to hang onto a professional level job. But he lost the house, the wife, the car, all his utilities were shut off, empty fridge, etc etc, because his entire take-home salary went towards his addiction. So even when good amounts of money are coming in, none of the needful things in life are paid for. Just the drugs. It takes over everything.

In the category of “fault”, this isn’t about failed parenting. Lots and lots of kids and young adults from “good” schools and “good” families and all those other warm-fuzzies end up in the same gutter, once they’re exposed to their first hits. We don’t know how Lisa got her first hit. It might have been at a party where kids were already drinking, at which point sound decision-making skills are out the window anyway, and maybe someone trotted out a sample, just for fun. Drug abuse drags everyone into the gutter, regardless of where they started. Arguing about whether the parents failed, etc etc, is frankly wasted effort. If drug abuse is what has happened with this situation, then “who’s at fault” is water under the bridge. She’s either on drugs, or she’s not. If she is, then the details of how and why that first instance occurred, are irrelevant. The task is to get her off them.

In terms of knowing whether she’s on drugs or not, there’s indirect evidence, and then there’s proof. You’ve already listed or hinted at a few of the more common indirect evidence – sudden loss of interest in activities/priorities, suddenly asking for significant sums of money, particularly to cover the basics, new friends (particularly a new boyfriend or girlfriend), no motivation, withdrawal from normal family and/or social life, good students and/or hard workers suddenly dropping out/not caring about their classes/jobs. While any one of those can be explained in other ways, when they come together like that, a new drug habit goes to the Top Three list of causes really fast. The only other two categorical causes on that list are death in the family, or sexual assault, either of which can lead to clinical depression and the desire to numb the pain and/or feelings of guilt, in any way possible. Any one of those three can send a previously well-adjusted kid right into the toilet behavior-wise. Other indications of drug abuse specifically, are changes in wardrobe/appearance, wearing sunglasses a lot to hide watery eyes, using Visine and other similar products a lot to hide bloodshot eyes, long sleeves if they’re injecting, perfume/cologne if they’re smoking, other new habits/dress changes to modify their appearance. But in terms of proof, that requires bloodwork. Frankly, I don’t know how long drugs generally stay in the system; it varies by drug but I think traces can generally be found up to 72hrs later. But it’s possible that a single blood test could be cheated on some of these drugs if the time interval between dose and test, was large enough. I know my cousin had to get regular blood tests while on probation to prove she was still clean.

I do know that sometimes kids will spiral down, without drugs or personal loss or sexual assult being the culprit. But such a drastic change of personality and/or life plans, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There’s a causative factor in there somewhere. I also know that those types of problems are still considered taboo by a whole lot of folks, and in many instances it’s easier to simply chemically mask the issue than deal with it. So whatever is going on with your daughter, may or may not be drug abuse. But it’s something major. In terms of how to tell for sure, I can check with our therapist and see if an evaluation would flush out at least some clues or directions to pursue. But an evaluation by some type of professional – doctor, psychiatrist, etc – would probably be required to get a definitive answer. Sadly, from my little bit of experience with it, simply waiting for her to come to her senses or her brain to wake up again, might be a long wait for a train that ain’t coming.