I'm Scared My Brother Might Be Abusing Drugs

Published: September 13, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
i'm scared that my brother might be abusing drugs. maybe i'm just paranoid but i'd rather be careful than too late. lately whenever my mom gives him his prescription medications he's like "ooh drugs" or "i love drugs" and stuff and indirectly talks about drugs mostly when he's with me and i just stay neutral about the subject but he has a really dark sense of humor and he's starting to direct it towards drugs which is usually his coping mechanism for something he's going through currently. i've never seen anything where he could be possibly high but over the past months he's lost a lot of weight (which is likely due to a physical disorder he has so i'm not really focusing on that) and his face looks really pale and depressed and he's becoming more withdrawn and is starting to wear long sleeve shirts more. i know that he used to self harm, not sure if he does now and yes my parents got him help. he's also sort of being verbally aggressive and one time he scratched at my arms really bad. it might be due to somethin going on with his mental health but i'm still paranoid especially since he has mental illness where i'm pretty sure you're more likely to have an addiction, not specifying for personal reasons but i'm pretty sure that's true. i'm probably overreacting but so you think i am? and what should i down about this situation?
Signed: I'm Scared My Brother Might Be Abusing Drugs

Dear I'm Scared My Brother Might Be Abusing Drugs,

The love a person feels for a sibling can lead to very protective feelings. Given this, and given the various observations you shared above about your brother, TeenHealthFX can fully understand why you are feeling concerned about him right now.

Here are some thoughts on how to handle the situation:

You can talk to your brother about your observations. Let him know what you are noticing in him and what your concerns are. See if he will share with you some of what is going on with him right now. Encourage him to share his feelings with your parents and his therapist. And let him know you are there for him if he ever wants to talk about how he is doing.

Talk to your parents about your observations. It is very important that they are on top of what is going on with your brother. Since you mentioned that they got you brother help, it is critical that they share with his therapist and psychiatrist what they are observing.

Make sure that your protective feelings for your brother don’t turn into enabling behaviors. Enabling behaviors allow an addict to continue in their unhealthy behaviors and cycles. Enabling behaviors can include things like lying for the other person or covering something up. If you are observing worrisome behaviors or come to learn of any specific information about his using, then it is important to tell your parents right away.

If you feel your brother’s issues are not being adequately addressed by your parents, you can discuss this with a school counselor or even a trusted parent of a friend.

Make sure that you are taking care of you. Your brother may be going through a tough time right now, but let your parents and his mental health providers help him with that. Make sure you are doing what you need to at school, eating healthy, getting a good night sleep each night, being physical active, and spending time with friends. If you find that you are so worried or preoccupied about your brother’s well-being that you are neglecting your own, then it is really important for you to reach out to your parents, a school counselor or a private therapist so you can get the support you need to take care of yourself.  

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Signed: TeenHealthFX