emergency hotline

Drug Abuse

Understand the Challenge
Understand the Challenge
Why do youth use drugs?

The simple answer is that drugs alter perceptions of reality in ways that often feel pleasant. Drug use may temporarily satisfy emotional or social needs for experimenting young people. Many youth view drugs like a Swiss Army Knife, a tool with many functions: relaxation, pleasure, socialization, avoidance of emotional pain, a way to forget about problems, satisfy curiosity, avoid alienation, find excitement, feel like part of the crowd, go to sleep, wake up, cope with failure, relieve boredom, and /or to simply infuriate their parents. Some people are genetically programmed for difficulties with addictions while others find that curiosity leads to drug dependence and the challenges of dealing with addiction become overwhelming.

  • Today approximately 16% of the U.S. population age 12 and over meet clinical diagnostic criteria for addiction to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs.

    - The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
  • 75% of high school students have used addictive substances.

    - CASAColumbia, 2011
  • 39.9% of students have used marijuana one or more times during their life.

    - CDC Surveillance System, 2011.
Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use

The challenges youth and families face today are complex and have the potential to devastate lives and derail futures. It is extremely important to work together to protect the kids in our community. We believe proactive prevention is the answer to long-term success and are here to empower and educate youth, families, and communities with the knowledge and courage to identify and prevent negative youth behavior.

  • Unexplained drop in grades
  • Isolates from family
  • Frequent and sudden change in moods
  • Dishonest about whereabouts
  • Dishonest about a lot of things
  • Early cigarette smoking
  • Change in peer groups
  • Often draws pot leaves, drugs, or drug symbols
  • Parental defiance
  • Red, watery, or glassy eyes
  • Uses eye drops to hide red eyes
  • Late or unexplained hours
  • Rejection of parental values
  • Have found unexplained paraphernalia
  • Disappearance of money or possessions
  • Defensive about drug use
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Loss of interest in previous hobbies and activities
  • Meth

    Street Names: tina, tweak, glass, crank, crystal, crystal meth, speed

    Looks Like: clear, white, yellow, or brown crystalline substance

    Methods of Use: smoked, injected, swallowed, or snorted

    What Youth Say: it gives you a lot of energy and will keep you up for days at a time.

    Dangers: mood disturbances, violent behavior, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, severe dental problems, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, fatal overdose, meth is also extremely addictive, and the average user never knows what chemicals have been used to produce the drug (NIDA).

  • Marijuana

    Street Names: cannabis, doobie, ganja, grass, green, home grown, jane, kush, marijuana, mary, mary jane, reefer, roach, THC, wacky weed, weed

    Looks Like: Flowering clusters (buds) 1-2 inches long that are similar to dense foliage with a sticky texture

    Methods of Use: smoked, ingested

    What Youth Say: It’s safe, you can’t become addicted to it, it’s fun, it makes music and movies more interesting, it makes you hungry, it’s a type of medicine, celebrities and musicians use it, it will help you relax, it will make you more creative

    Dangers: inhibits proper development of the brain (primarily frontal lobe which is responsible for higher level thinking), memory loss, difficulties learning, hallucinations, delusional thinking, and can be psychologically addictive (NIDA & DEA).

  • Heroin

    Street Names: smack, H, ska, junk, tar, dope, chiva, cheese, chasing the dragon,
    beat, bt, ron, black

    Looks Like: white or brown powder, black and sticky tar like substance, or hard
    black rocks

    Methods of Use: injected, snorted, or smoked

    What Youth Say: you will feel warm and fuzzy, euphoria you’ve never
    experienced, and you won’t have a care in the world

    Dangers: fatal overdose, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, collapsed veins, infections in the
    lining of the heart and valves, pneumonia, and liver, kidney or brain damage (NIDA). Repeated injections cause infections with flesh eating bacteria (Staph, MRSA) from contaminated needles (DEA, 2011).

  • Cocaine

    Street Names: coke, crack, blow, snow, nose candy

    Looks Like: white powder, small white or off-white rocks

    Methods of Use: Snorted, freebased (smoked), injected

    What Youth Say: It will give you a euphoric rush

    Dangers: Paranoid psychosis (auditory and visual hallucinations), when combined with alcohol creates a third toxic and potentially fatal compound called Cocaethylene. Seizures, convulsions, respiratory and/or heart failure are effects (NIDA and DEA).

  • MDMA/Ecstacy

    Street Names: adam, E, ecstasy, hug, hug drug, love drug, molly, roll, vitamin E, X, XTC

    Looks Like: pill or white powder

    Methods of Use: snorted, smoked, injected, but is most commonly taken orally

    What Youth Say: it will make you feel happy (loved) and energetic

    Dangers: severe and possibly permanent drop in serotonin levels, dehydration, elevated body temperature, liver and heart failure, and fatal overdose. MDMA is also often mixed with other drugs such as:  methamphetamines, cocaine, ketamine, and other chemicals without the knowledge of the user (NIDA and DEA).

  • Pharmaceuticals

    Street Names: Benzodiazepines: benzos, zanies (Xanax), Klonopin, Valium
    Barbiturates: barbs, barbies, downers, blues, nembies, succies
    Opiates: blues, oxys, percs, vics, 30’s (Percocet 30mg), 40’s (OxyContin 40mg), 80’s (OxyContin 80 mg)
    Amphetamines: speed, dex, adderal

    Looks Like: pills, patches

    Methods of Use: swallowed, smoked, injected, snorted

    What Youth Say: helps you focus, makes you relax, helps you deal with stress, gets you high, makes you feel like you’re floating

    Dangers: anxiety, paranoia, elevated body temperature, irregular heartbeat, seizures, fatal overdose, severe addiction (NIH, NIDA, DEA).

  • Inhalants

    Street Names: whippets, poppers, snappers

    Looks Like: metal cartridges, balloons, paper bags, aerosol cans (includes spray paint and keyboard cleaner)

    Method of Use: inhaled

    What Youth Say: it feels like a roller coaster, it makes you feel numb

    Dangers: loss of feeling, sudden unconsciousness, hearing loss, spasms of the limbs, brain damage, heart failure, suffocation, and death (NIDA).

  • Synthetics (Spices and Bath Salts)

    Street Names: spice, K2, bath salts

    Looks Like: dried plant material, powder, or crystalline substance

    Methods of Use: smoked, snorted, injected

    What Youth Say: it’s a legal high, it will make you work harder, and it will help you get skinny

    Dangers: vomiting, hallucinations, reparatory problems, physically addictive, immediate cravings for more, insomnia, elevated blood pressure, heart attack, panic attacks, agitation, confusion, suicidal thoughts, short-term coma, psychotic and violent behavior, and death (DEA, NIDA).

Parent Guide
Ask your kids about the amplif(i) presentations they saw at school.

What choices did the speaker make that they can or cannot relate to? What did they learn?

Tell your kids what your family’s position is on alcohol or drugs.

Talk to your spouse, agree on your family’s position, and share that with your kid. Make that position very clear and always remain consistent. Don’t waiver.

Attend one of our adult education presentations.

Discuss with your kid what you have learned about home drug testing kits and the ability to use them at any time. When talking about the issue of trust, make it clear to your kid that you do trust them, and that you are continuing to build trust with them. You trust your kids to succeed at school, yet you wouldn't follow up by not looking at their report card. Home drug testing kits provide your kids an “out” from negative peer pressure situations; a way to say “no” when their friends are saying “yes.”

Lock up or dispose of your unused or expired prescription medications.

While prescription medications serve a valuable function when used correctly under the supervision of a doctor, they can be harmful and even deadly when abused or used incorrectly. Don't allow your prescription medications to fall into the hands of your kids or their friends. If you need to keep your prescription medications for a prolonged period of time, purchase a prescription lockbox or other safe to keep your kids from accessing the drugs. If you no longer need the medications, find a prescription drug disposal location near you that will allow you to safely dispose of them. (Arizona Prescription Take Back)

Be clear with your kids that drug use is not acceptable in your family.

Look for opportunities to discuss the physical dangers to your kid’s health that result from drug use. You may also want to discuss the risks and possible catastrophic consequences from poor decisions made while using drugs. Consider setting rules and defined consequences for breaking each rule. Some families write a contract to be sure both the parents and kid clearly understand the expectations and consequences. Consistency with respect to enforcing rules and consequences is cited as a key factor in shaping behavior. Rewards for honoring rules are a great way to reinforce good decision-making. Acknowledging rule following with positive words goes a long way with kids.

Listen to your kid.

If possible, ask your kid an open-ended question to create a two-way conversation about drugs. For example, you may begin with “I received this drug test kit at school tonight, what do you think?” Remember that your tone and the length of your response will impact the discussion. A kid may perceive a long response as a speech not a dialogue. Showing your willingness to listen will make your kid feel more comfortable about opening up to you.

Ask your kid what he or she knows.

Ask a question like, “What have you heard about drugs that is good?” in a non-judgmental, open way. Let your kid answer the question in its entirety. Thank them for the information then take the opportunity to start two-way discussion providing them with correct information. Be sure to have educated yourself prior to this conversation so you can answer all of your kid’s questions. If you don’t know an answer to a question, don’t guess, as you will lose credibility with your kid. Offer to find out or look for the answer together.

Use daily events, such as television shows and news reports, as a conversation starter.

Sharing a local incident with your kid, such as an automobile accident resulting from someone under the influence, may open a discussion and create a way for you to provide your kid with information. You may want to raise an open-ended question about an individual you see on TV who is taking drugs, such as “How would they feel if they were in an accident because they were using drugs? How would their life change?”

Give your kid words to use with their friends if asked to use drugs.

You may consider giving your kid words to have in their mind to use if situations arise where drugs are offered. It will be easier for your kid to respond if they have a few planned phrases and a strategy for leaving the situation. One possible response is “I can’t, my parents will drug test me when I get home, and if I test positive my parents said they will call your parents.”

Download the notMYkid Guide To Conversation Starters

My Kid Is Using - Now What? >


• Maintain your composure. Do not lose your temper.


• Sit down and have a conversation with your child in a private, distraction-free environment. Make sure that phones are put away, and that TVs and other devices are turned off.


• Be aware of your volume, tone, body language, and facial expressions. While you want to express disapproval, it is important to not yell or lose control.


• Be clear with your child that you do not approve of any drug or alcohol use.


• Ask your child why they chose to use drugs. Find out the underlying motivations so that they can be addressed in more positive ways. Kids use drugs for a wide variety of reasons including stress, peer pressure, self-medication, escape, and curiosity. Depending on your child’s reason, you may want to find a positive equivalent, outlet, hobby, or coping skill to replace the drug use.


• Insist that your child give you any drugs they may have remaining so that you can dispose of them. Inspect the child’s room, backpack/purse, bathroom, and vehicle to ensure they don’t have additional drugs hidden.


• Enforce an age-appropriate consequence that is likely to be effective. Restrict or eliminate use of a car, phone, computer, credit card, or spending money. Restrict free time until the behavior changes.


• Maintain ongoing communication with your child. Stay involved in their life. Let them know that they can come to you at any time if they are feeling stressed, scared, overwhelmed, confused, or in need of advice.


• Consider having your child attend a diversion or early intervention program, AA/CA/NA or other 12-step meetings, or local support groups offered through your child’s school, a community group, or your house of worship.


• Connect with local professional behavioral health resources. Depending on the type(s) of drugs your child is using, the quantity and length of time they have been using, and other factors, the correct resources may include individual counseling, family counseling, group therapy, outpatient treatment programs, detox, or inpatient treatment programs.


• Contact notMYkid's Resource Director at (602) 652-0163 x120


• Use SAMHSA's Treatment Locator to find resources near you.

How You Can Help >


Create clear and consistent messages.

Don’t overreact and lose your temper, but your teen needs a strong message that drug and alcohol use is not okay. A parent support group like Families Anonymous may prove very useful. Tell your kids what your family’s position is on alcohol or drugs.

Become aware of the drugs that youth use.

Learn about what their effects are and what your kid is likely to look like when under the influence.

Get to know your kid better.

Find out how they see themselves, where they want their life to go, and what’s important to them. Determine what drugs and alcohol do for them. Don’t lecture, be clear, and keep your message short and to the point. Spend positive time with your kid in recreation and family activities.

Find out the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your kid’s friends.

Get to know the kids if possible. Form a network and keep in touch with the parents of their friends. Don’t be put off if other parents don’t share your concern about substance abuse, or too shocked if you find that another parent is using drugs with them or is supplying the kids with drugs and alcohol.

Keep track of where your kid is.

When you allow your kid to go out at night, consider allowing them the privilege of a cell phone that is GPS-enabled and provides a tracking ability so you can monitor their whereabouts. Similar GPS devices are available for cars. There are also several different cell-phone monitoring programs available that can track conversations and location.

If youth behavior is unacceptable, use discipline that is most likely to be effective.

Restrict or eliminate use of a car, restrict texting, take away or heavily monitor cell phone use, and limit unsupervised free time unless your kid is committed to being ‘clean and sober.’ Set clear, firm, and reasonable limits. Be consistent.

Consider searching their room on a regular basis.

A quick review of the contents of your kid’s room will give you insight into their behavior. Check their room at night. Are they there?

Be aware of their internet use.

Consider checking their website “history” and monitor their involvement in social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Sleepovers and parties are often a problem.

Check to be sure that the other parent will be home and determine if they have the same curfew, values, and expectations as you do. Kids often select homes of absent or permissive parents for sleepovers and all-night drug/alcohol parties.

Help your kid avoid people or places associated with drug use.

Your kid is not likely to stay sober if they attend unsupervised parties where drugs and alcohol are available. Help them locate sober activities.

Consider having your kid involved in a twelve-step support group.

There are many available like A.A, C.A., or N.A. (young people’s group), or check out a support group offered by the guidance department at your kid’s school.

Rid your house of substances.

If other family members have a drinking problem, abuse medication, or use illegal drugs, these issues must be dealt with as well as your kid’s use. Get rid of all of the alcohol in your house and remove any mind-altering drugs from the medicine cabinet.

Determine how they pay for their drugs.

If it’s from your ATM card, wallet, or pocketbook - keep them out of reach. Consider the amount of money that you provide for allowance, lunches, movies, etc. You may be financing their habit! Find out if your kid is selling drugs while using.

Do drug testing in your home.

Buying several dozen tests online will send your kid a message that you are very committed to their sobriety. Drug testing also gives your kid the ability to say “NO” even when you are not present and allows you to see the full scope of the problem facing your family.

Look into healthcare professionals.

If you decide to work with a professional or program for counseling, be sure to check their credentials and experience. Most counselors and psychologists are generalists who do not have specific expertise in substance abuse and they may make the problem worse by addressing the wrong issues.


Intervention Options >


Individual and Family Counseling.

Usually once a week; these sessions are good for dealing with the family issues & personal problems that accompany drug abuse, but not very helpful in gaining sobriety skills. Select a therapist with strong substance abuse expertise or you will probably deal with the wrong issues.

Group Therapy.

Usually weekly sessions (60-90 minutes) are good for drug education, gaining skills to be sober, and dealing with emotional issues related to drug abuse and addiction.

A.A., N.A., C.A. (Twelve Step Meetings).

Often believed to be the single best way to get and stay sober. New members should attend multiple meetings per week and need to obtain a sponsor.

Drug Testing.

Recommended to determine types and amounts of drugs used, to give the user an additional excuse not to use, and to allow parents and therapists to know if intervention is working. Drug testing should not be used as an intervention without psychotherapeutic support.

Intensive Outpatient Programs.

One to four hours of outpatient group therapy and drug education per day up to five times per week. Programs are often comprehensive & effective . . . if you manage to get your kid to participate.

Wilderness-Oriented Treatment.

These are intensive live-in programs in remote locations that combine confidence-building elements of outward-bound experiences with education, counseling, and group therapy. Follow-up with a therapeutic program at home is necessary. If drugs or alcohol is a serious problem, try to find a program with a strong 12-step orientation.

Boarding Schools/ Residential Programs.

Many traditional boarding schools are filled with substance abusing kids who receive little or no help with the problem and often get worse. Residential treatment programs and specialty boarding schools often have excellent success, but as a parent be certain to talk with several graduates of the program about the quality of the program. Keep in mind that the primary job of each program's admissions counselors is "marketing."

Psychiatric Hospitals.

Good for stabilization, especially if the addiction is severe or the client is also severely depressed or suicidal. Short-term inpatient programs should be combined with an intensive outpatient program to enhance their effectiveness. If you admit your kid, ensure that the psychiatrist has a strong track record with addictions – as many do not.

Commonly Asked Questions >


Why does my kid make risky decisions? I’ve taught him/her well. Why doesn’t he/she know better?

Many parents struggle with that very question. It turns out that according to A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D., Treatment Research Institute, brain development continues into the early 20’s. The last part of the brain to develop is the decision-making region. So while you may think your kid is engaging in risky behavior, they may not have the ability to judge situations as well as an adult.

Why does my kid take the advice of their friends before they listen to me?

Many parents feel that their kid’s friends are more important to them than family. In fact, there is probably no one time in an individual’s life when the influence of peer pressure is stronger than in adolescence. Peer pressure is the result of a need to be accepted within social groups and gain freedom from parents and other authority figures. However, peer pressure situations can also lead to the temptation to use drugs, and parents should teach kids to make their own, informed decisions when offered drugs.

Why does my kid feel that drug use is “normal?”

Parents are aware that talking to their kid about drug use is an important deterrent, however, it is impossible to block the images that the media portrays that glamorize drug use. Drugs are normalized by television shows, movies, and music, and are often seen as “just what kids do.” While these images are found in every aspect of the media, it is important that parents identify and discuss these images with their kids.

Why is communication between me and my kid so important?

Healthy communication is a key component to the behavioral health and continued development of your kid. Effective communication is as much about the speaker as it is about the listener. We sometimes assume our kids are “checked out,” but could it be that we’re doing a poor job of engaging them? No one likes to feel like they’re being lectured or criticized, or that they don’t have a voice. Kids particularly struggle with how to express negative feelings, and sometimes speak or behave disrespectfully, aggressively, or immaturely. Part of our role as leaders is to try to access the unspoken message.

Why is dinnertime so important to preventing drug use for my kid?

According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, kids that have two or fewer family dinners per week are twice as likely to smoke daily and get drunk monthly. Family dinners create communication between you and your kid, and you’d be surprised what you discover about your kid through a simple conversation around the dinner table.


Emergency Resources

notMYkid is not a counseling or treatment agency. We are here to offer support, information and options. Destructive youth behaviors do not discriminate and have impacted many lives. A number of resources are available, and will assist you in finding the help necessary to make informed and empowered choices.

Teen Lifeline

602-248-TEEN (8336)
or 1-800-248-TEEN (8336)

National Teen Helplines


Community Information and Referral Services

(800-352-3792 within
area codes 520 and 928)

Maricopa 24-Hour Crisis Hotline


Across Arizona

How to Integrate Drug Testing Into

Your Family Prevention Plan

  • Tell your kid you love them and want to give them an out.
  • Set it on the kitchen table and tell your kid the school gave it to you to begin a discussion.
  • Set it by the door so it’s the last thing your kid sees when they go out at night.
  • Tell your kid you have it and will use it at random.
  • Set up a reward system every time your kid tests clean.
  • Encourage the parents of your kid’s friends to get kits too, supporting your family’s effort to remain drug free.
  • Tell your kid you will use it sometime before they are allowed to get their license to drive.
  • Tell your kid you will test them randomly every six months... just like pro athletes.
  • Tell your kid to show the kit to their friends. It’s not easy to avoid peer pressure.
  • If you decide to test, Saturday or Sunday morning is an ideal time.
  • Visit First Check's YouTube channel for more information and tips.
What About Trust

A parent’s first reaction to drug testing their kids may be a strong concern about jeopardizing the trust they feel they have with their kid. From the time kids are young, parents establish rules and verify that the rules are followed.
For example, parents check their kid’s report cards starting in kindergarten to make sure they are successful academically. As a kid grows, parents continue to review the report cards, even when their kid tells them what to expect. Kids don’t have an issue about their parents reviewing their report cards in middle school or high school because it’s a verification method that started when they were young.
For an adolescent, new rules such as curfews are set. The first few late nights, parents stay up to be sure their kid is home at the established time. Over time, after a kid has repeatedly honored their curfew, parents may extend the curfew or may ask their kid to wake them when he or she gets home. Parents trust their kid, but continue to verify that they are adhering to boundaries.
Drug testing can be thought of as a report card or a verification method that shows how successfully a kid is saying no to drugs. The trust that a kid is making good decisions about saying no to drugs during adolescence will be earned over time, and parents will continue to verify that their kid is healthy and drug free. Home drug testing is a confidential, accurate, and inexpensive prevention tool.

Help youth by inspiring them to make positive life choices
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Navigating the adolescent years is one of the largest and toughest responsibilities we will face as parents. It is scary to see someone that you care about engage in harmful choices. We are here to help you to prevent your child from making damaging life choices.

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We're here to help you face and overcome potentially life-derailing challenges. Discover the many ways in which you can amplif(i) your voice in the name of making good decisions. We're here as an informative, inspirational resource as we share our personal stories. Join the movement by sharing your story and speaking up for yourself and the people you love who may be going through a hard time.

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You are an educator, influential in the lives of the students and parents you serve. Creating a positive culture within your classroom starts and ends with you. We are here as a resource for your school to make sure every classroom environment is one that is conducive to positive learning and growth.

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