We have a child who has gone off to college and did not perform well his first year. We also found out during this time that he smoked pot in high school a little, and during his freshman year at college was dropping acid, smoking pot, and taking with some prescription medication like Adderall (not his prescription).

After a summer's worth of counseling, our child says that he will abstain as long as we're paying for school. He is mad that we're controlling; we're saying that you do it, we're done supporting you, if you thinking we are controlling because of us not wanting you to do drugs... please... we don't care.

He still thinks we're the screwed up parents and it's a generational thing, and provides a flood of information and "studies" that claim it to be overall harmless. As support for it being OK for him to do, he cites legalization efforts, reduce punishment (making possession a misdemeanor). As parents I don't much care for what other parents think is OK and my child seems to hang around other kids whose parents actively let their kids smoke pot. Blows my mind.

For the record, I did drink in school, and I did smoke pot twice and it didn't do much for me other than make me paranoid. I haven't done any drugs since. I believe a lot of kids experiment (giving it a try or two). As an adult, I don't do drugs, and I average about one drink a week, usually socially. He likes to say pot is safer than alcohol. But he cannot grasp that while I don't get drunk, he fully gets high or goes on a trip for 4-8 hours.

I am an adult with a fully developed brain, he's an adolescent with a brain that has not completed development.

What are the best ways to get a kid to put drugs in their past and move on?

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    It's surely too late to influence his values using drugs. He won't be convinced of whatever harmful effects you might list at least regarding pot. Other substances have more obvious dangerous effects, so you may be more successful in getting him to admit he should not be taking them. As for the pot, I would focus less on the physical effect than the obvious personal consequences he's already experienced, where he is using pot to avoid responsibility. Even something not physically harmful at all is a problem if you use it to avoid responsibility.
    – user14172
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 21:00
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    "But he cannot grasp that while I don't get drunk, he fully gets high or goes on a trip for 4-8 hours." > If talking about cannabis, trust me, this is far from true. LSD is another thing... We're not supposed to discuss the premises here so I won't, but you probably won't convince him at all as you start the discussion from your subjective point of view and deny all points he might come with, even the most objectives ones. The fact is if you drink alcohol or take any kind of anxiolytic, you're actually doing drugs...
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 9:36
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    "...if you thinking we are controlling because of us not wanting you to do drugs... please... we don't care." - He probably think you are controlling because threatening to use the power of the purse to enforce your morals/views is definitely controlling. Whether it's a good or bad strategy is dependent on the situation, but never doubt that this is absolutely a form of control you're exerting.
    – Geobits
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 13:25
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    Trying to come up with proof that marijuana and LSD are dangerous drugs is a waste of time. Legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco are far more dangerous. That's not opinion, it's statistical fact. The key is not the danger of the drugs themselves, it's the danger of their illegality. Getting arrested will harm you a lot more than the drugs themselves.
    – barbecue
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 2:22
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    A comment I came across recently from a drug addict that really helps put things in perspective, at least for me: "People don't take drugs to make their lives better; they take drugs to make their lives less bad."
    – Erik
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 13:21

8 Answers 8


If he brings in studies, you can always do the same... but they should be balanced ones, that nevertheless support your point: that yes, compared to most legal drugs, it may be harmless: in moderation and for an adult!
An added benefit would be that you can teach him how to actually read and evaluate studies.
Make him aware of interaction between drugs as well.

It has to be his choice; even if he truly gives in while financially dependent on you (instead of pretending to give in and secretly continuing drugs), you will not have changed his actual opinion.

Also: I think it is great that he is willing to actually discuss it! Do not push him (at this stage, it sounds like he would push back just on basic principle), but be wiling to listen to his point, admit that his point actually is sensible, but still has flaws.

And, last but not least: With adderral being listed: could he have turned to the drugs because of stress and bad performance... and not have performed badly because of the drugs? Try to find out which one is the case, he may just need alternatives to deal with stress and pressure!

Adding Comment from @Erica because she put it better than I:

Whatever hole he feels on his life needs to be filled with drugs -- stress, boredom, depression, whatever trigger it is -- needs to be understood so you can help him look for alternatives for when the [trigger] gets so bad and he can't help backsliding. (I will note that Adderall is an amphetamine and heavily abused; given the context of the other drugs, I doubt it was being used as a tool to focus.)

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    I think you last paragraph has an important point about needing alternatives. Whatever hole he feels on his life needs to be filled with drugs -- stress, boredom, depression, whatever trigger it is -- needs to be understood so you can help him look for alternatives for when the [trigger] gets so bad and he can't help backsliding. (I will note that Adderall is an amphetamine and heavily abused; given the context of the other drugs, I doubt it was being used as a tool to focus.)
    – Acire
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 8:34
  • Good point about the hole. One valid course to pursue is faith in something greater. I think Galatians 5 (specifically The Message translation) fits in great with this whole topic. biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+5&version=MSG
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 12:36
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    Mind that putting faith in something greater only works if the person already really believes in it, otherwise it is likely to only frustrate and annoy them more.
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 8:01

What are the best ways to get a kid to put drugs in their past and move on?

You're doing it now, pretty much.

You can't change your child's thinking any more than he can change yours. But you can exert the control you have over his behavior by limiting your support of him financially. This is perfectly legit, unless mental illness is involved.

As you stated, his brain is still developing. He may eventually come to reject drugs on his own later on. But he has to want to do it himself.

If I may offer some advice: arguing with your son about drugs is fruitless. Inform yourself to the best of your ability (which means keeping your mind open to a certain degree), and avoid debates while keeping communication open. I personally would get mighty sick of arguing with my son about whether I was controlling. Just admit it right off (yes, you control your own money), and if he doesn't like it, he is a person with free will who can decline to accept the conditions if he wishes.

Maintain healthy boundaries. Read about boundaries if you don't have a lot of experience with them. Respect his as you would expect him to respect yours.

Make sure he knows your love is unconditional even if your monetary support is not.

We have a child who has gone off to college and did not perform well his first year.

This is common regardless of whether or not kids did drugs in high school. Don't be too quick to blame it on drugs. It's usually not because of drugs; rather, drugs are used because of the stresses accompanying being on your own for the first time. So make sure he has ample love, support, and understanding with issues he may be experiencing.

Good luck. This is a hard issue.

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    +1 for it's fruitless to argue. Privileges (e.g., having advanced education paid for) come with responsibilities (e.g., meeting academic and behavior standards); the relative legality or safety of marijuana vs. acid vs. alcohol doesn't need to come into it.
    – Acire
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 8:10
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    Ya, I don't believe drugs caused the poor performance. While I don't have the answers, I thing social anxieties and pressures pushed him to self-medicate in some way. I really don't know at this point. But I have pointed out that academic crash and burn isn't the end of the world and we're not putting the pressure on him for that. if he's putting pressure on himself, he needs to relax and reach out for guidance. It's OK to stumble badly, we all do at one point or another in our lives.
    – Tab Stop
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 0:58
  • @MadCow - That's a great attitude (and approach) and one he's sure to benefit from, if not at this very moment, then when he looks back on this part of his life. Congrats on the balance between the proactive approach and the love + common sense approach. Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 2:19

Your child is an adult, and as somebody else said, it's almost certainly too late to significantly change their view of drugs.

I would recommend side-stepping the issue, and just declaring that your continued support of his college expenses is dependent on his hitting academic milestones (i.e., challenging classes, good grades, progress toward a diploma). Perhaps a minimum grade level to get any support at all (tuition only, paid directly to the school), and an even higher grade level to receive full support including spending money and any luxuries.

By taking the drug issue off the table, you remove his ability to use this study or that study saying that drugs aren't bad, and focusing on something you can measure directly and for which there is no wiggle room. Ultimately, all that you care about is that he is academically successful. If he can get great grades with the occasional use of recreational drugs, so be it. And if he slacks his way to failure, it doesn't really matter if it was drugs, or girls, or video games, or just not working hard enough, right? So directly reward for the outcome you care about, not the specific road taken.

With this strategy, he may simply realize on his own that the drugs (and a variety of other modes of goofing off) stand in his way of success. Lecturing to him about drugs is much less likely to have the desired effect.


The answer to getting someone off of drugs or to focus attention elsewhere isn't to tell them not to do them because they are bad. Most people who use, know the downside they cause. Very often, they choose to ignore the facts our of ignorance or care.

If you want someone to stop using, the best thing you can do is help them find what they are passionate about. If they get into something they are passionate about, they will require a higher mental state to accomplish their goals and likely reduce the use of drugs.

I would look into the famous "Rat Park" experiment which does a great job of explaining why people become addicted to drugs in the first place. The TL:DR (too long; didn't read) is, if you put someone in isolation or environments that are boring, they will choose drugs over no drugs. On the other hand, if you can focus someone's attention on something else that they enjoy, the need for drugs becomes dramatically reduced.

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    There is a guy who talks at a TED event about that. I think if you wanted to find it on YouTube, a search for "Everything we know about addiction is wrong". Came across it in my journey to understand and copy with this stressful time.
    – Tab Stop
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 1:00
  • I saw a program on a kids drugs rehabilitation centre and basically it was "find them a hobby they love".
    – WendyG
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 13:15

I think my parents handled this reasonably well. They did not discuss the drugs exactly, though they said they did not approve. I had to pay them back for every class I did not pass and had to pay for the next try, too. IF I passed they'd pay for the next class.

Once I was out on my own, school became my own problem and I could no longer afford the drugs if I wanted the education.

So my choices were 1) acting like an adult and paying the price for making my own decisions, or 2) acting like a kid and allowing my parents to tell me what they expected.


As a current college student (age 21 and paying for my own education) I believe your questions and concerns are out-dated and close minded. As long as you taught your son self control and how to make smart decisions, you shouldn't be concerned about his drug experimentation. Unless he is making reckless decisions and allowing his studies to take the back seat, there isn't any cause for concern. College is about learning, experimenting, being exposed to new ideas, and experiencing new things. If he's in college already, your son is obviously an intelligent kid and is more than capable of making his own educated decisions. It sounds like he's done his research and based his choices on the scientific information that is available on those substances. At this point, by trying to control his actions and force your opinions on him, all you are going to do is force him to be sneaky and lie to you. Based on all of the up-to-date scientific studies on both LSD and marijuana, your son has chosen to do what are considered some of the safest and least harmful drugs. Both have been proven to have beneficial and therapeutic effects if used properly. My advice to you as a young adult who was raised in a strict home, do not try to manipulate your son and force your views down his throat. At this point in his life, it is important for him to be able to make his own decisions, good or bad, and learn from his mistakes. Your role in his growth as an adult is coming to a close.

I apologize if I have offended you with this reply; I honestly just wanted to weigh in from a different perspective. I would also recommend considering trying LSD with your son if you have never done it before. Of course, you would need to do your fair share of research on the substance and buy a test kit to be sure it is pure. Ultimately it is your decision but I highly recommend looking at the most up to date information on the substances before making a biased decision. Hope this helps.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4086777/ (Scroll to the "safety" section if you don't want to read the whole thing. Note the dosage used was 200 micrograms: double the common dose of 75-100 per blotter.)

http://jop.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/11/10/0269881116677104.abstract (This just touches on the non-addictive properties.)

  • I would very much like and appreciate reading well-done research concluding that LSD is one of the safest drugs out there. Since it sounds like you've done the research, would you mind sharing it? Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 0:14
  • Thanks Alex. Your perspective is appreciated. Not offensive in the least. I'm not sure if join him in doing LSD with him, but I do understand through my own research into this, that LSD Is not physically addictive and generally does not have long term negative effects. In a small minority of cases it may trigger psychosis, from what I understand. My concern is rooted in the observation that I've seen a kid who is smart and was motivated, go to college. And then everything was chucked out the window, he quit his engineering studies to find a low effort major, and has tossed family aside.
    – Tab Stop
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 0:42
  • I added some sources. There are tons of studies available for reading on Google Scholar. If you're really interested about the topic, I would recommend stopping by your local college or university to ask a professor of Psychology about the subject.
    – alex
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 0:42
  • Yes college is about learning, experimenting, being exposed to new ideas. But that shouldn't include drugs. There are tons of great things to experience in college that are good - not drugs.
    – a parent
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 15:32

How to convince an adult son that pot and LSD, even used sparingly is not acceptable

That is not a matter of convincing. It is not acceptable to you, and that's not a matter of convincing your son of but of communicating.

Which is what you have done. As response, he states to refrain from indulging while his education is ongoing. Which I actually find impressive, assuming that he goes through with it.

What you presumably actually want to convince him of is that taking those drugs in the dosage he used to is a bad idea for reasons independent of his reliance on you for his education. He'll not trust your gut feelings on that, nor the standard rap every pupil gets in abundance.

Frankly, I doubt that you'll be able to do much better than you did: if he indeed stashes the drug usage until he is finished with education, any relapse after such a period is something that you could not have hoped to convince him otherwise. He'll have to face, estimate, and bear the consequences himself, as adults have to. Those include actual possible physical and mental health consequences as well as societal (including legal) consequences.


1. Transfer to nearby college
2. Live at home and obey rules
3. Early curfew
4. Mandatory AA meetings or church sponsored group
5. Optional required part time job


This is a sad situation and it is compounded by the fact he is a legal adult now. From the college topic I would absolutely only pay for college if he lived in the home (is there a community college nearby?), obeyed all rules including an early curfew, and maintained a 3.5 gpa. I would also let my child know I have full rights to all their stuff and will be looking through whatever I want anytime I want. The last thing I would want is drugs in my house.

This is may cause the situation to come to a head and a fallout between you and him. I suggest a solid plan for handling that in a way that doesn't end with you closing yourself off to him. I always advocate love and open communication which is not at odds with consequences and expectations.

I'm not sure what chance there is for him to clean up without some serious consequences maybe even by the law since drugs are involved and stealing seems to be already happening. The only idea I have that might work is to start taking him to AA and try to find him a 'cleaned up' mentor who can share his loss and misery from drugs and maybe spare your son the same experience.

A wise man once said a tired dog is a good dog. I try to keep myself busy to stay out of trouble. Anyone who wants to can handle a job with school especially when they can't go out and do drugs in their free time. So, I'd also suggest insisting on a job.

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    -1 From me. He thinks his parents are controlling now? This is patriarchal beyond reason, imo. Mal 4:6. Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 22:43
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    Troll away? I am not a troll. Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 22:55
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    I have seen Christian kids die of drug overdoses, some parented by decent people in my Bible study. I have a lot of experience with drug addiction (ran a free clinic for drug addicts and the mentally ill for a while,) and maintain my buprenorphine certification. Faith does not protect against hardship of any kind. Only prosperity gospel folks believe that. Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 23:01
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    I'm seeing some fairly wild assumptions in this answer. There's no indication that he's a drug addict, or that he's stealing. I think your answer would be better if you restated it to point out that those are POSSIBLE consequences, rather than assuming they've already happened.
    – barbecue
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 2:28
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    Adam, I appreciate your response and some of this we are already doing: group therapy, expectations, consequences, and giving him love and support, zero-tolerance on having anything related to this in the house and a tighter leash. But he is legally an adult. The only leverage we have is financial (paying for school) and we are prepared to pull that if he slips up again. We're hoping the job he has gotten is going to help him and we're hoping that with maturity, common sense may follow.
    – Tab Stop
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 1:14

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