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I went to borrow bus fair from my sister this morning and found a small clear bottle with a small amount of marijuana and four mysteriously labeled, handmade pills in her change box. I don't know what to do: turn her in to my parents, or talk to her myself. I never saw her getting into this stuff, although this does explain how she's been acting (and her mood) around the house lately. I'm worried and scared and I do not have the slightest clue what to do. PS. I took the bottle and hid it.

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Comments removed. Please do not use comments to answer questions, thanks. –  Robert Cartaino Aug 17 '13 at 15:22
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8 Answers

This is an iffy situation, especially if you have a good relationship with your sister. On one hand, you don't want her to be mad at you and on the other, you want her to be safe and you want to protect her.

First of all, not doing anything is wrong. It would be turning a blind eye to a potentially dangerous situation. If something (God forbid) did happen to her in the future and you hadn't done anything, you'd regret it for the rest of your life.

Secondly, you cannot defeat this by yourself and you can't approach this with a mind for her rehabilitation. You coming to this site and asking for help in and of itself proves that you are incapable. You are not a trained professional and all the worry, doubt, conviction, love, caring you could put into her mind that would convince a normal person won't do a thing over the power of addiction. Trust me, I tried to handle it myself with a friend who was a cocaine addict. It didn't turn out well.

Third, tell someone. Approach her first, but don't let her convince you to not tell someone else.

If this was just pot, then whatever. That's less harmful than some legal drugs. Ecstasy however is a different subject. A 15 year old girl at my high school actually died because of combining a drug with ecstasy and alcohol. The school was devastated.

  • Do not do this on your own.
  • Get help.
  • Do not let her convince you that "It will be ok". It's never ok.
  • I reiterate, get help!

If you have the fear that she will hate you, she probably will...temporarily. But which sister would you have 5 years from now. The one addicted to acid and hates you and everyone else because internally she hates herself or the one who is healthy and loves you that much more for being by her side?

Tread carefully and good luck.

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Your point of going to someone else is really good. It doesn't necessarily have to be parents, because of things I pointed out in my answer, but talking with someone is a good idea. –  William Grobman Aug 7 '13 at 6:39
"It's never ok." = it's often OK. NOT that you should let the 17 year old make that call on her own, but I think it's also important to realize that experimenting with drugs (be it ecstasy or beer or what have you) is extremely common and many (most) people turn out completely OK. –  DA01 Aug 7 '13 at 15:21
Yes, it definitely could potentially not be OK. But that's different than "never OK". My point being that it's important to be concerned, but also to be pragmatic and not over-react as well. –  DA01 Aug 8 '13 at 0:24
@user1129682 Erm... what that teaches her is that she can't trust her brother/sister; and that laxatives are a worse experience than ecstasy. I'm not sure either of those are a smart idea. –  deworde Aug 15 '13 at 9:00
@ChristopherW But the same's true of LSD (no lethal cases reported). TBH, I'd be far more worried about a half-empty bottle of vodka than either of those in terms of the amounts and strengths; not that they aren't worrying and that the rest of your answer isn't good, but I also am concerned about a "Never Okay" approach. –  deworde Aug 15 '13 at 9:12
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One thing nobody else has picked up on: If you ignore the drug thing for a moment, you were going through her stuff, when she clearly wasn't expecting you to. The best way to open the conversation might be to apologise for that.

Otherwise, in effect what you'll be saying is "I was going through your stuff and found this, now I've confiscated it, and need to tell you why you're wrong to have it", which is very different from "Sorry, I needed change desperately and panicked when I found this. Here, take it back, but if you're okay with it, I would like to talk about this, because I'm worried about you".

It moves the conversation from "What the Hell is this, you criminal?" to "I don't know what to do about this and I want to talk", which is where you really are.

She may have a healthy attitude towards drugs, and be aware of the risks. She may be acting out and just have them to be rebellious. She may be seriously struggling and be using them to cope.

Note that I am not saying that having illegal drugs in the house is a good idea, nor is taking them. But I agree with some of the commenters on ChristoperW's answer that "It is Never Okay", is not a healthy way to approach the conversation, if nothing else because it makes you look naive (the two drugs in question have a very low "active to lethal" ratio, especially compared to alcohol or nicotine). "This is why it is Not Okay in this case" - The possibility of arrest, the possibility of lethal cocktailing, the fact she's only 17 and living at home.

There are National Helplines in most Western Nations you can call.

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I would talk to a professional first. I was friends with a drug addict for a while, and in my experience they can be masters at deflection. For example, if you confront your sister, my guess is that she'd say she's keeping the pills for someone else. A professional could tell you what to expect from the confrontation, and give you some pointers on what to do and what to avoid doing.

As for whether you should tell the parents, it really depends on the parents. In most cases I would say that the parents should be told, but it's your call. From what I've seen, the emotional damage of nobody reacting can be worse than the physical damage that drugs like these can do.

If you're a student, I'd go to a college counsellor and tell about your situation. If not, to some other consellor if you have the chance, maybe someone who deals with troubled youths. There might also be some helplines in the phone book, which you could call to describe the situation. If your sister really has a drug problem, the whole family might need some form of help. If she doesn't, someone who is more into the subject matter could help you see that the situation is more benign than you initially thought.

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It's a complicated issue that doesn't have an easy answer. Arguments for involving parents include protecting her from becoming an addict; substance abuse could ruin her life. Arguments against involving parents include the consequences (particularly legal, if your parents would involve law enforcement). Despite the stigma, there are worse things she could be doing than (casually?) using drugs; both that you mentioned are comparable to alcohol, which everyone seems to mistakenly regard as safe.

I'd start by talking to her with love to find out why she's taking them and if she's using responsibly or abusing. Depending on what's going on, you'll have to decide what to do by weighing the risks and benefits of your choice.

Just don't listen to cookie-cutter advice that claims there's only one right answer. The illicit drug stigma often causes people to overstate risks of substance use while ignoring the risks of involving the justice system. Don't pretend drugs are harmless though; tobacco, alcohol, pot, MDMA, etc. are all risky to abuse, but the legal/illegal distinction isn't that important.

Edit: You should at least make sure she understands the drugs and their possible interactions with other substances. Consider the fatal alcohol and MDMA interaction described in the answer by @ChristopherW; it would certainly be tragic if she died from ignorance.

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I'm seeing a lot of hysterical overreaction here. Ecstasy, used occasionally and in small quantities, is not a high-risk drug: something goes wrong about 1 out of 10,000 times, compared with 1 in 350 for horse riding. The UK's Academy of Medical Sciences ranks it at 18 out of 20 in dangerousness, way below alcohol (5) and tobacco (9). In short, the short-term risk of your sister physically harming herself through casual Esctasy use is very low.

That said, there are two things she needs to be aware of, and you as her brother should make sure she understands:

  1. Ecstasy doesn't kill, but dehydration can. She should drink water regularly and avoid alcohol and caffeinated energy drinks, both of which are dehydrating.
  2. Tolerance to Ecstasy builds up fast. When one pill doesn't do what it did last time, some people ramp up to two, and then four, and then eight... and then when that stops working, they switch to a genuinely dangerous drug like meth or cocaine (#8 and #2 on the previous list) and end up addicted or dead. The solution is simple: don't increase the dose, stop. A month later, if she's still keen, the single pill will work again.

The other big concern is the legal side of things: depending on where you live, the penalties for getting busted by police or school authorities with even a pill or two can be life-ruiningly harsh, and since the stuff is illegal in the first place, you can never really be sure what's in those pills. Unfortunately there's no easy solution to either, all she can do is be very, very careful about her stash (never take it to school!) and who she gets it from.

I see no possible benefit in getting the parents involved: they aren't going to understand, they are almost certainly going to freak out in counterproductive ways, and you'll burn your bridges with her by snitching. Far better to be on her side as someone she can trust and turn to (and, yes, apologize about going through her stuff in the first place!).

Final anecdote: I've seen a lot of drug use in my early years in the rave scene, but I know of precisely one person who died as a result. He was arrested by the police for possession, convicted of a felony and and sentenced to a few months in jail. As a result, his girlfriend left him, his parents disowned him, and his flourishing car business went down the tubes -- so he became severely depressed and eventually hung himself. Was it the drugs that killed him?

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+1, especially for hard data and for highlighting that the legal issues are more critical than the medical ones. I would say, that depending on the parents, telling them could be a good idea, as much to support the original questioner as to do anything about the real problem. –  deworde Aug 17 '13 at 16:53
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Be honest - you're concerned & have a reason to be.

If we ignore it and act like everything is ok, how are teens going to get the message of where to draw the line?

She may be mad, but you obviously just happened to have seen the stuff by accident and are honestly worried about her. Let her know why you are worried and how much she means to you.

Does she know how decisions she makes now can limit her choices in the future?

You care and don't want to see her get hurt.

She needs to know that good people sometimes make bad choices or choices that will harm them eventually - we're human - we all make bad decision at some time - but it is important to know someone loves her and only wants what's best for her and is there through the tough times too. She may be angry for a while.

I'm not sure that you "hiding" the drugs is a very good idea. There are legal ramifications for drugs being in your home or on your person and it is not fair to risk your parents' home or your future as well.

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You are the only one who can make the decision on what to do based off information you get from others and your personal values and beliefs.

The question that I recommend you ask yourself is whether you're willing to risk your relationship with your sister (and possibly have her hate you) in order to potentially save her life. There is no guarantee that the drugs will kill her or that your efforts will save her life; however, if she died of something related to the drugs (overdose, association with the wrong crowd, etc), would you blame yourself?

The "textbook" answers of telling someone, telling parents, confronting her are easier said than done. The personal relationship you have with someone makes it much more difficult to address such a situation.

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You should instantly tell everyone everything. Tell her friends, your parents, other siblings, tell distant relatives - tell them all straight away as soon as you read this.

(If you're concerned your sister will "be mad" because you "tattled" or something .. well, that's how literally 4 or 5 year olds think. If you actually think that - which is hard to believe - set that aside and tell everyone everything straight away. if she's mad at you that will last a couple hours. Just walk straight up to the parents and say "Shit, what's this about XYZ with ecstasy in her room?" Just forget the issue that "you're telling about it" and just immediately, instantly, get everyone talking about it. Especially call her friends, all of them, and talk to them about it.)

Regarding "are drugs dangerous" it's totally irrelevant. If I'm not mistaken pot is legal in most US states now right? So forget that question.

The problem is not that she's suddenly going to die of a pot overdose, the problem is that (almost always) casual drug users at that age become "losers" - i.e., people with low income, bad education, rubbish or no jobs.

(Sure there are a handful of exceptions - billionaire pop stars etc. Fantastic.)

Regarding heavier drug use, I recommend the book Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Have her read it and see what she thinks.

So again (if you're asking about) the issue "Should I Tell!?" - that's just puerile, absurd. Of course just immediately talk to EVERYONE about it. Get EVERYONE talking about it.

Regarding the issue "will she become a slacker / loser" the answer is "almost certainly yes." If you want to, just do everything you can to see that that doesn't happen.

(Inevitably, there will be a chorus of "I know A Person who took Recreational Drugs heavily and she went on to be a Brain Surgeon." That's fantastic. In the vast majority of cases they become beavis and butthead. Your sister is en route to being beavis and butthead. it's just that simple. If there's something you can do to stop that path ()and you want to), go for it.)

And again, regarding the slim chance she becomes a crackhead or alcoholic, just read Million Little Pieces which will fix that up. (If that doesn't nothing will.)

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