Not just a nightmare: Help for a defiant teenager using drugs

Substance abuse is every parent’s worst nightmare, whether it’s alcohol or drugs like marijuana. Dealing with teenagers is hard on its own, but when you have a defiant teenager using drugs, things get a lot more complicated. And although you might think your teenager is just “experimenting“ with drugs, keep in mind that these things can very quickly go awry, and lead your teen down the wrong path.

What to do when you have a defiant teenager using drugs?

If you’ve got a defiant teenager using drugs, it is essential that you tackle this issue as quickly as possible. Giving up and hoping it will go away is not an option, and nipping substance abuse in the bud is of crucial importance.

  1.    Setting up boundaries

One of the first things you can do is to set up non-negotiable boundaries pertaining to drug use. Communicate to your teen that drug use will not be tolerated in your household and certain consequences like grounding will happen if not obliged. Preparing your teenager for real life means teaching him that his actions have consequences, and the sooner he learns that, the better. However, if your teenager still goes ahead and uses drugs, avoid resorting to shame and guilt, rather just stick to using natural consequences. Just because your teen has done something bad does not mean he is bad.

  1.    Limiting access to drugs

The thing that may help in limiting your teen’s access to drugs, and thus curb your teen’s drug use, is taking away his allowance money. This means you are paying his school for lunches, you are buying him clothes, and you are taking your teen to the movies. That way your teen will not have money, nor will he have possessions he will be able to trade in for money or drugs, but will still have all his basic needs met and even enjoy himself on special occasions.

  1.    Tackling an untreated mental illness or trauma

Also, if your defiant teenager using drugs has an untreated mental illness or trauma, dealing with that is a must if the issue is to resolve since it’s entirely possible that your teen’s drug use is driven by these things.

Trails Carolina is here to help

If your teen’s drug use is still ongoing and these methods aren’t doing the trick, Trails Carolina may be able to help. We specialize in helping teens (ages 10-17) cope with their issues, including anxiety, depression, and many more.
For more info about how Trails can help with teen drug use, please call 800-975-7303.

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Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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