16 year old son absolutely out of control


New Member
We are absolutely at wit's end with our 16-year-old son. I've unsure of where to even begin on describing it. He has dropped out of school twice now, is a regular user of marijuana and alcohol, is experimenting with cocaine and prescription pain pills. Just a few months ago the worst problem we had with him was enforcing the rule prohibiting him from smoking cigarettes. He had a bad attitude. He was out of control before, but after a bad breakup with his girlfriend he's become scary. He has a job and pays many of his own bills, but he always parties after he gets off work with an older crowd, and he has been written up by his employer for being high on the job. He has frequently been caught with a frightening number of girlfriends and "friends with benefits" (girls who he is friends with simply for sexual purposes) in the house. We believe he has been sexually active since he was 13 years old and we just learned he may have impregnated a girl recently. Last night he drove home from a party while extremely intoxicated on alcohol and marijuana and parked his car in the lawn (we have rescinded car privileges, but he's been out with the car again, we believe he copied the keys). He is rude, and aside from working and the few times he's at school, all he does is sleep and leave to get high or drunk. We have taken virtually every privilege we could think of but he outsmarts us at every turn. When we took away his Xbox and put it in his father's locked office, he made a very realistic replica of it and swapped them - we were fooled by it for two days. We have had to shut off the house internet modem at night to prevent him from accessing the computer - he is very stealthy and has no trouble remaining completely unheard when prowling the house at night. All of our other attempts to curtail his computer privilege have failed as he is very adept with computers. He mainly uses the computer to learn more about computers, but we have caught him looking at pornography several times now. Before he learned to remove the computer internet history, we also saw very disturbing evidence that he was involved in websites promoting and discussing satan worship, using many kinds of drugs at once, and illegal music downloading. He is currently in school but doesn't do any of the homework, he skips classes frequently, and vandalizes and steals. He was recently given an in-school suspension for stealing $50 and a ring from a girl's backpack and then throwing the bag onto the school roof. He spends time with like-minded friends who are also acting out, and we think he might be dabbling in dealing pot. He's been in several fights and although he didn't start them, he really beat up the other teens. Two weeks ago the police brought him home from school because he set a textbook on fire and had marijuana in his locker. To top things off, tonight during a shouting match he threatened me with a knife. We think he may possess a handgun, but we have searched everywhere and have not found it. After he finally went to sleep, we searched his schoolbag and found a razor and poetry he wrote about cutting and death, as well as the label to an empty bottle of prescription pain medication that had gone missing some time ago from my wife's purse and a stash of marijuana. Although we mainly hear bad news from his teachers, they have commented that his understanding of math and computers outstrips even his instructors and that he is an extraordinarily talented writer. He can build a working computer from spare parts he finds on classified ad websites. He is an incredibly intelligent young man with almost unlimited potential and a naturally hard worker at the things he chooses to pursue. He is very musically talented with a guitar and when he's not getting drunk and high he's very eloquent and can conversate on almost any topic. I fear his drug and alcohol use combined with his poor choices at school are going to cripple any chance he has of living up to what he's capable of at the least; put him into the corrections system at the most likely; kill him at the worst. No amount of discipline or punishment seems to get through to him, and he will argue for hours using foul language and shouting. He has a large extended family that are supportive of my wife and I, and a younger brother and sister that are scared of him. We want the boy who could fix any computer problem back, instead of this drugged, angry, mess. We want to hear about A's and honors societies again, not about him smoking pot in the bathroom or falling asleep in class. We want some peace in our home. And most importantly we just want our son back. The only way I can possibly phrase the question is, "What exactly are we dealing with, and what are we supposed to do?"


Wow. First, I am glad you found a place to vent and I, as others will, assure you, many of us have been there and there is no judgement here. I can share with you some thoughts based on my experience, again, no judgement, only suggestions that may provide a window to hope. First, from the sounds of his behavior, I would suspect pretty severe substance abuse. It just sounds all too familiar. The total change in personality, the disregard for authority, the lack of affect of any punishments or guidelines....again, all too familiar. From the picture you painted, it sounds like he needs a pretty serious intervention. First off, if they are finding pot on him at school, why is he not being expelled? Someone needs to send a message to him that this type of behavior is not acceptable, not only in your home, but also in the outside world. He needs to experience some negative natural consequences beyond your home and bad grades won't be enough. It's clear he doesn't care about school. He needs to be humbled in front of a judge. A judge who will actually try to help him by forcing him into programs and drug testing him. You can get the boy who fixes computers back, but it sounds like you have to get the drugs out of his life first. They cannot hear the voice of reason while the drugs are involved. Another approach may be a Wilderness Intervention. There are programs that come take him from your home in the middle of the night and over the course of 6 weeks or so, they clear his body of drugs and a bunch of "broken" kids talk together every day and start to see what they have done to their lives and their families. He will not come back "fixed", but he will come back clear and able to communicate with you in healthier ways with a real perspective about how out of control his life had been. He may still slip, mine did, but he got right back to work each time and is still fighting for a better life for himself. YOu can also call your local youth officer. Tel him/her what is going on. They will have heard your story before and may have helpful suggestions. In my town, you can appeal to the judge for court appointed help, mandated programs and possibly even assign a parole officer so that he has to answer to someone other than you and your husband. ALso - if he does have a gun and you EVER find it in your home, I would suggest you call the police and turn the gun and him in. You need to send a STRONG message that you will not be a victim in your own home. Again, their first effort will be to help. Hang in there - others will have more suggestions.


New Member
Hello and welcome to this supportive and caring board. This is not my area at all so I wont pretend to understand what you are suffering through, but the tie that binds us here is some pretty outrageous behavior issues in our homes and I want you to know you are for sure not alone.

I am sure that there are others coming along here....they will help you with each step but it seems you do know some of what needs to be done. It is just going to be very hard. Not harder than as you said...the worst.

I think the one good thing is he is 16. You still have some say in the intervention. While I found out recently that in our state at 16 a child can opt out of mental health treatment, they also said there are ways around that and so you can start investigating those options while you are setting things up for your next step. You have other kids in the home, you know there is a chance of a lethal weapon, so if it ends up there is one, then you can end up with problems yourself so it is wonderful you are being vigilent and looking. You might want to see if the police have a k-9 who can come (a non emergency call) to check, if you choose to use the police to help you. They are trained to search for drugs and guns.

Glad you are here.... keep checking in!


Well-Known Member
"What exactly are we dealing with, and what are we supposed to do?"
Those, of course, are the two toughest questions in the world.
The second one can't really be answered without knowing the answer to the first one.
And the FIRST one... just got 100x more complicated, because drugs and alcohol magnify and/or warp and/or add all sorts of issues to the mix.


If he was off the rails at 13, then... I'm GUESSING it might be any of...
- undiagnosed disabilities and challenges
- mental health issues
- the results of some form of abuse (not at YOUR hands... but... its out there)
- and probably more.

but... NOW?

All I have to offer is {{hugs}}
... as I don't have experience with the drugs and alcohol stuff... everything ELSE is familiar, but the drugs and alcohol change the entire approach, and you need somebody who's been there done that...


Oh boy...

No real advice here... You've got a lot going on and I think you are going to have to put out the immediate fires before you can battle the rest.

I know how badly you want your son back. I want my son back too. I feel your pain and I am getting teary just typing this. I mean this nicely-put that out of your head. The son that you want back doesn't exist. That doesn't mean you won't find him again, but it's a long way off. The sooner you realize that, the easier it is to detach a bit. You need to do what is best for your "out of control imposter son" things that are hard to do if you have your beloved boy in mind.

Put a deadbolt on your bedroom door and a "club" on the steering wheel of the car. Change the locks in the house-don't give him a key. Consider installing an alarm. I'm not suggesting you kick him out-just take security measures so you can take some control of his comings and goings and feel safe. We took away our 19 yo's key. After a certain time, the door is locked and he can't come in. The alarm is on when we're not here, he doesn't have the code. We feel secure.

Call his regular dr for suggestions. They are a good first resource. Talk to the school social worker, throw yourself at their mercy, beg for help. Again a good resource. in my opinion, lots of parents "check out" when their kids are "bad" and schools don't assume parents want help. Talk to the police, see if they can help.
Tell them he is out of control and you need court ordered treatment for him. They may be able to charge him w the past incidents. If they do- you need a plan of treatment ready to go. So do your research first. In the meantime, keep your cell phone handy & if he threatens you or takes the car-call the police.

I think it's pretty certain that your son is abusing serious drugs-not "just" pot. Why he's doing it doesn't matter for now so don't beat yourself up. Take the steps to regain control of your home while doing your best to get him help. I am so sorry you are going thru this {{{{hugs}}}}


I love the security suggestions presented by Signorina - she's right - you need to get back control of your home - now. For your safety, but also to show him he cannot have control and his behavior is unacceptable. I love the suggestion of calling the police to see if they can bring the dog to check his room for a hand gun. If they find one - let the charges fall where they may. If he really does have one, it's so far over the line it's not even reasonable for him to assume you would not take serious action. I also think using the club on the car will stop the abuse of the car rules. You CAN be in charge again and the sooner he sees that, the better. Expect him to FREAK when you start taking control back - if he's abusive to you or your property - call the police. If he starts ending up in front of a judge, he will be put into programs, drug treatment, behavior mod, whatever. Although our situation was not as extreme, we did use the police when needed and in the long term, it worked.


If you put a club on his car's steering wheel, be sure to orient the wheel so that he can't drive the car into another parked car or your house. Once the club is on the steering wheel, there's nothing he can do except either hand over the keys or--and be prepared for this possibility--start the car and drive it, with the wheel immobilized by the club, into the nearest structure or tree, just to show you that he won't "lay down" simply because you clubbed the steering wheel on "his" car. It's insane, but you should anticipate that he might do this.


Well-Known Member
As a mom who dealt with substance abuse, I think you are, first and foremost, dealing with behaviors caused by too much alcohol and drugs (the degree of which you can't know just yet). Regardless of anything else that may be wrong, the substances become numero uno when they are abused because not only do they make everything else worse, but they make it impossible for the child to get stable for anything else that may be going on. Your son sounds like may have had a personality like my daughter...she had always been VERY insecure socially and just wanted to be popular so she did these things to be popular, although it was being popular with the "bad" kids. At least she got some attention.

In the midst of all the substance abuse (and we didn't know how bad it got until she quit and told us), she was on probation twice, had one pregnancy scare (false, thank God), and had bizarre mood swings and behaviors. She did steal...that is part and parcel of drug use. They need the money for drugs OR they need to pay back whoever is getting them the drugs. My daughter told me that if you use, you sell. It is not one or the other. It is both. So the child can get into serious trouble with other disturbed, drugged teens. I know my daughter was, although, again, I didn't know the extent of it until she quit and moved to another state.

My daughter was in the hospital twice and saw a therapist, but she was good at conning doctors so that didn't help much. In fact, her therapist told her to tell us that we needed to trust her more. Haha. This was a girl who could lie to us with tears in her eyes while staring right at us. So, no thanks.

What we could do...the only thing we could do until she turned eighteen...was to go to Al-Anon and Narc-Anon to seek help from the community for us and to not feel so alone. We could not change our daughter. Nothing worked, not even taking her driving privileges from her. She didn't care about that. She didn't care about anything. She would jimmy her window and run around at night at 2am when we were sleeping (until the day she got pulled in for curfew). Then we put bars on her window, but she still sneaked out of the house when we were sleeping. It turned out that we didn't sleep much. When she was missing, we called all her friends and their parents and that wasn't very helpful. Her friends wouldn't tell us anything and half the parents were either beyond caring what their kid did or on drugs too. I kid you not...one of her closest friends, whose mom put on a great act as a PTA mom, ran a meth lab and was busted after Daughter had moved out of state. Daughter told us all about her though...again, not until AFTER SHE QUIT. Everything she told us before that was a lie. Everything. She told me a few times, "NEVER trust a druggie. NEVER."

At eighteen, after having frequent visits from the cops, we finally made her leave after having given her a lot of chances. I hope it does not come to that for you. Maybe you can get him to agree to sign into a drug rehab. Maybe he will want to change before my daughter decided to change.

Until then you can offer help, limit his privileges to the extent that you can, put on the locks and alarms, call the police if he breaks the law (we did), and GET HELP FOR YOURSELF. At his age, you can't really control him that well, but you can control how you respond to him and you can take care of yourselves and your other children.

When my daughter quit using drugs, she was still an emotional, sensitive person, but there is absolutely no sign that she has any form of mental illness or any learning disability (in fact, she is very bright, like your son). At this point in time, I'm not sure a psychiatrist can diagnose him, if anything besides insecurity is there, because he is pretty much drugged most of the time.

(((Big hugggggz))))) and take advantage of community resources to help YOU. Don't try to do this alone. Of course, we are always here too!


New Member
Have you thought about working with an independent educational consultant to recommend a high quality therapeutic wilderness program? I doubt that anything you are going to do at home is really going to turn the situation around.

Your son needs help and he needs help now, as you so sadly described him.



Well-Known Member
First of all let me say that many of us totally understand. In a zillion years most of us never imagined that our bright and talented teens would go completely haywire. Living with fear that your much loved teen will never be "normal" again is justified. I sent our difficult child#1 to residential substance abuse centers on two occasions and he ended up in a Department of Juvenile Justice substance abuse center for a third try. Although he was and is almost always very respectful to us...the counselor at the first center was right. When I told him "I just want my son back" he told me "you will never have the same boy back...with lots of help you may have a functioning young man whom you can enjoy but your "old" son is gone forever". That was ten or eleven years ago and I cried like never before. How I hoped he was wrong. He was not. Once I was able to "kinda" accept that my goal changed to hoping he would evolve into a new version of his good self.

You are dealing with a lifestyle pattern that probably is worse than you have envisioned. His innocense and yours will likely not return. on the other hand it is time for you to make a plan that may help him get on track.
Many CD families have instituted a zero tolerance plan in their homes where any drugs etc. result in a call to the police. Many CD families have curfew lockout times. Many families have explored CHINS.
Many have sent their sons to substance abuse treatment centers (outpatient and inpatient). Most have reached out to Al Anon to help themselves cope with the addiction problems.

Analyze your choices and if you have a husband or SO make sure that both of you are in agreement on what steps you are going to take ... and do not waiver. I'm genuinely sorry that you are living this nightmare. Sending hugs. DDD


Active Member
about2gocrazy, I am sorry, so sorry. I agree that you will need help. There are many good Residential Treatment Center (RTC) out there. When trouble is this severe, you might need that help. I do not understand why with marijuana and theft at school he does not have a charge? Our school is bound by law to report these incidences to the police who must charge for the offences. Will you be going before a judge or commissioner? This would be a good thing. The system usually wants to help kids who are using. Though some of us have had some bad experiences with the system, there are many options there for help. Find out what is available in your system. I would educate myself by looking at United Way programs-Boystown is one in our state. Look at the juvenile justice website(they usually dont list programs but you could call a worker and ask what options are available for help). We had our girl sent for observation and assessment and pushed for treatment until we got it. We first had to get before a judge. We called the police for everything until a charge was made. We had already tried 18 months of a private Residential Treatment Center (RTC). so we were broke and needed help.

I agree with the others that securing your home is important. Though our daughter is improving, she is not totally trust worthy. She does not have a key (we keep our locked away as she too is very bright and can out smart us). These smart kids are really tough. Being really smart puts you outside the normal curve and it's a hard place for kids his age to be. As a teacher I find these kids the hardest to work with.

The drugs are in control-I agree that you have to deal with this. We could not figure out how our daughter, who was bright, had a good family, had no real issues could be behaving the way she was. In the first Residential Treatment Center (RTC) we found out about many traumas she had been through. She did not want to share with us for fear of destroying the family. Trauma is a very common cause of drug use, though not the only cause. You wont know the reason until he is clear of the drugs and this is a long process. Take care of yourself and your other kids as you are deciding what to do. Your health and safety is key. Please keep us posted.


New Member
First, I would like to thank all of you for your advice and assistance. It's been a very chaotic last few days for us, but our son is getting help. We had been sent him to a private Christian school after he agreed to finish his education earlier this year; they had no idea what they were dealing with either. Here goes:

He was arrested and expelled from school on Friday after drugs and a knife were found in his locker. There weren't any actual drugs other than marijuana, but there were syringes. He was released into our custody after spending the weekend in juvenile detention. He is now facing charges for poessession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia - ludicrously enough, we live in a state where marijuana possession is a very minor infraction. What really broke our hearts was the condition he came home in - the family doctor identified the ailment as opiate withdrawals. She did a drug test and a physical and we found out he had been intravenously using heroin and a strong pain medication called Dilaudid, as well as a multitude of other substances to a lesser degree. We didn't offer him any choice in the matter; yesterday we took him to a 60-day intensive youth drug treatment program.

When we got home, we called the police and had them search the house. A drug dog found heroin, pain pills, and syringes hidden behind an electrical socket, as well as two stashes of marijuana, but - thank God - no firearms. We do not know if he will face charges for these. Once the police had cleared the house we also pored over everything in his briefcase and found another suicide note, seemingly a "pact" with a girl at his school. We notified her parents immediately, and confirmed that she is pregnant with our son's child. We found razor blades with dried blood on them, endless amounts of short stories and poetry about drugs, death and suicide, several hundred dollars in cash, and a computer thumb drive filled with home-made digital "sex tapes" of him with various girls he went to school with and pictures of pentagrams he had carved into his thighs. Our search lasted about an hour, and I can say it was one of the longest and most painful hours of my entire life.

There was also a sticky note with a list of web sites selling chemicals we were not familiar with, but Googling around revealed that they were "research chemicals" - experimental hallucinogens and stimulants. Some of those can be purchased legally, none of the web sites seemed to have any method of verfifying who they were sending these chemicals to. What is truly frightening is these are drugs whose health effects and consequences in humans are almost unknown. This seems absolutely unreal. When he was in fourth grade and built his first computer we never imagined, never dreamed for a second that things would become so out of hand. We love our son and it seems like we narrowly missed losing him entirely. It's overwhelmingly scary.

What we are hoping for is that the judge will steer him towards recovery, not just throw him in jail where who knows what he'll learn about and try when he gets out. We have hired an attorney, not to block him from facing consequences for his behavior, but to advocate for him and keep him from slipping through the cracks. He was so weak from those withdrawals that he couldn't even walk up the stairs; we and the doctor both agreed that he needed to physically recover before we decided what to do next. We are working with the treatment program to figure out what should be done next - I read several comments regarding wilderness therapy, which seems like it may be effective.

His therapist at the treatment center has diagnosed him with Major Depressive Disorder, Opioid dependency, Cannabis dependency, cautioned us that we will continue to find relics of his behavior for some time to come, even while he isn't there - more notes, more knives, more pornography, possibly more drugs. We're not sure how much more heartbreak we can take. We're both incredibly thankful that he's getting the help he needs but it's clear to us now that he's got gravely serious problems that need to be worked out. When I read the posts saying that my "old son" is gone, I literally wept. It's so much, all at once, that we don't even know where to begin. It's as if the ground we stand on has been yanked from under our feet.

I'm using my vacation time from work because sorting through this mess is literally a 24/7 ordeal. My wife is having serious problems coping with all of this and has begun to see a therapist; I may do the same thing. Our youngest child is too young to understand what's going on with his older brother but he knows something is wrong and is worried about him. Our middle child is a year away from entering high school and she has a better grasp on what is happening, when we talked to her she mentioned she'd smelled pot smoke in his room as long ago as 2007 (when our oldest was only 12). We've gotten a lot of support from our extended family; my father (his grandfather) lives near the treatment facility and is visiting him daily.

Again, thank you all for your support. I will keep you updated as things progress.


I am so relieved for you that you now know the truth and he is on his way, on a very long and tiring journey to help and recovery. There are many ups and downs but my hope for you is that this arrest and time in jail is the low point and it will never be as bad as the recent past has been....with the pain of not knowing. My prayers for peace are with you and your son tonight.


My heart breaks for you.... and for all of us who have had to deal with drug problems with our kids. It is so very hard and road can be long and a process... but thank goodness you know the truth and as bad as it is right onw when you know what you are dealing with he can get help and you can get guidance. I strongly suggest that you see if you can find a local alanon parents group. That has been an emotional lifesaver for me. The focus at alanon is on you, not the addict but for me it lifted a huge burden off my shoulders to know there were others who really understood what I was going through and who had been there and that I was not alone.... and it helped me realize that this really was not my fault. Keep us posted.



Well-Known Member
I am so sorry you are dealing with this. I join you as a parent of a young adult who is also struggling with addiction. She was in a 60 day inpatient program, intensive outpatient program, sober house(2 in fact after she was kicked out of the first) and now living in an apartment with another sober young woman and working and going to meetings daily.

I am very impressed with how you handled the situation, including having your home swept by the police. Your son's success depends on many things including your support of his recovery process. He is facing a very long and difficult road but I believe you and your wife have taken the very important first steps in getting him that help. You can get your son back, but he has to want to get well too. He may not want it now, most addicts do not enter treatment willingly, but hopefully through the process he will begin to see what his life can be like clean and sober. You will need to be strong, relapse is part of the disease. But every time I go to an AA meeting with my daughter I see the miracles that happen in recovery.

I hope to read updates from you on your son's progress. There are many of us on this board who have traveled the same heartbreaking road and I don't know what I would have done without their support.



Active Member
I am so sorry you had to find all this out, especially at Christmas. I am glad that you are all on the right path. I too am impressed with how you have handled this. It is a long and winding road. There are ups and downs and the downs feel very down at times. Stay the course and take care of your selves. You have gotten some good advise. I was also told not to be surprized by the things that would reveal themselves in this process. It has been hard to know some of them, but you can't deal with a problem until you know the whole of it. I pray that the worst is over and that you and your wife find strength to deal with life and your boy.


Also - there are several books that have helped me through my son's journey. "Intervention: Anything but my own skin" is a true story written by Chad Hepler who was taken from his home in the middle of the night at the age of 17 to a Wilderness Rehab facility. It takes you day by day through his rehab experience. "Teens Under the Influence" helps to understand what is going on with him. "Changing for Good" - this describes the stages of change model that you will now begin to hear a lot about as he gets support. And... "The Unchanged Mind" and "To Change a Mind" will help you understand why some adolescents get so off track and what you can do about it. My thoughts are with you.
I also want to send along my support to both you and your wife as you deal with your son's drug addiction. I can understand many of your feelings because my son is addicted to marijuana and he is in an inpatient rehab facility now. My difficult child didn't want any help for his addiction until he was arrested two times in one week as a result of the drugs. He does not want to go to jail so he reluctantly agreed to enter rehab. I know that drug addiction is new to you and your wife, but you are really showing a lot of strength in dealing with one crisis after another. Never in a million years did I think that I would have to deal with a kid on drugs, getting arrested, going to bond court, stealing and lying from us, and a very uncertain future for our son. I know how difficult this is for you, but try to take one problem at a time, and one day at a time. Please send an update on your difficult child when you can. There are many others on this board who have experience with substance abuse issues, and you will get a lot of support here. You are now alone with your problems.


Roll With It
I am sending hugs and prayers for your entire family. I was the sister of the addict, and I knew years, actually decades, before my parents did. I tried to tell them but they didn't believe me. My father worked in inner city schools iwth kids who were often on drugs and he could not see the signs of addiction in his own son. My brother was an alcoholic at age 12 and was in hsi 30s when he was forced to get sober.

This isn't a short process. It will take years. My brother has been sober many years and it didn't fix all his problems. He still goes to meetings even after years of sobriety. He says that one thing that really makes it possible to choose sobriety each day is that he knows he will NEVER have to explain why he needs a sitter on short notice so he can go to a meeting. He understands if my parents can't babysit his daughter due to other plans, but he also knows that they will babysit if it is possible and they won't ask questions.

You have to get help yourself. Go to alanon/narcanan meetings and see a therapist and make SURE your kids see therapists too. Once they are old enough for alateen, take your kids to meetings - it will help them too. This is NOT going to skip the younger kids. Don't be sure they don't know what is going on. Chances are they know/have seen a LOT more than you think they have. Your oldest (other than the addicted child) has probably seen more than you have. Check the other kids' rooms. It is CLASSIC to hide your stuff in a sibling's room so that wehn mom and dad search yoru room they don't find things. Check electrical outlets all through the house - including outside. Check inside the air vents too - it is hard for a drug dog to check those when they are up high. Also check any access to the attic/roof area.

You are taking good first steps - I hope your addict is able to choose sobriety too.
In my experience, I have to choose my battles. I gave up the cig battle, I never bought them for her when she was under 18. She gets 5 dollars for taking medications and that is what she often chooses to do with her money. In my experience, I have to put my own safety,needs and self-care a major priority. THere is also a greiving process that comes in waves and acceptance of the illness (not badness). I have found that I have to be crystal clear about my "line in the sand", my boundaries and then detatch and put the focus on me as much as possible.