Ask Kari: How should I ask my son if he’s using drugs?

Dear Kari,

My son came home for the holidays from college and I think he might be using drugs. He spent most of the visit in his room or meeting up with friends outside our house. His mood went really up, and then really down. I kept asking him if he had a cold or was sick, but then it occurred to me that maybe he was using drugs and that is why his eyes were large and his nose was running constantly. How should I approach him about this?

--Concerned Father

Dear Concerned Father,

First, I recommend that you approach him with this conversation in person if possible (or at least via Facetime/Skype, not text). Having a crucial conversation like this in person allows for us to better connect and show human emotions to our loved ones. This is important when broaching this important subject matter. State your concerns from his most recent visit home, and then ask him if he is using substances or needs support. Be direct. If he states that the is using substances, I recommend that he follow-up with his doctor/and or a counselor for additional support and treatment. The most important first step is accessing what is going on with your son, if anything, then a plan can be formed with support from you and health care professionals in your community. Good luck! I wish you all well.


As published in the February 2018 issue of Connections.

About Kari:

Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and the owner and Clinical Director of Issaquah Highlands Counseling Group (IHCG), which is now Kari O’Neill Counseling.

This column is for entertainment purposes only. If you are in crisis and in need of support please contact the Crisis Clinic at 866-427-4747.