Looking back, it’s clear that, for a very long time, pretty, privileged Anna Richter was a drug addict in waiting.
At first, her addiction was sports. A gifted athlete, Richter was a star on the basketball court and soccer field. Then, it was a high-school relationship that went from sweet and sustaining to poisonous. Finally, it was a succession of drugs: weed, cocaine, ecstacy, mushrooms, Percocet, Vicodin … and heroin.
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Do you suspect your teenager is using drugs? ‘Trust your instincts’
A drop in grades and a new group of friends are just two telltale signs that a young person could be abusing drugs or alcohol, says Michelle Maloney, executive director of treatment services at Hanley Center in West Palm Beach.
But, those changes also could be the result of bullying or depression. So ask questions. “Have a conversation with that individual. Are they struggling? Are they using?” she says.
But keep in mind: Addicts are experts at lying. Greg Richter knew that something was wrong with his teenage daughter, Anna. He and his wife even had her tested for drugs, but she always passed.
“Trust your instincts,” he says. And be prepared to let go.
“It’s so against your grain of thinking as a parent, but (the child) has to be the one to say, ‘OK, I’m going to be the one to do this’,” Richter says. “All we can give them are the tools, opportunities and places to get help. We can’t do it for them.”
Then seek help as a family, Maloney says. If the entire family doesn’t “address fears, concerns and struggles, there’s that pull to go back to normalcy, whatever that might be.”