How do I parent?

worried mom

New Member
My 19 year old son is addicted to pot and has now been diagnosed with apathy syndrome, mild depression, anxiety and adhd.

Here's some background. He started smoking pot in high school. Smoked a lot. We didn't realize as he graduated top of his class, even passing AP exams for college credit. Left for college last fall. Anxiety issues were immediately apparent to us. Late night calls. Then he told us how drunk he was getting. Bad falls at parties, wetting pants in sleep. This came to a head in October when he was beat up one night, requiring surgery.

Thanksgiving break was awful. His behaviour was combative. He was about to blow any second. It was completely unlike him. Totally out of character.

He returned to school. We assisted in getting him into counseling at school. He was sucked in by some religious groups - they were going to "pray him away from pot." I urged him to attend mass for some balance. He did and was able to pull himself from the cult like group.

The late night phone calls continued. Excessive drinking - only a little of which we actually knew. Then the conversations became really weird. He was paranoid. He was manic. Classes were not going well - he wasn't hardly attending.

One night he called, late, and was delusional. We headed down the next morning and he was still in the delusion. With the assistance of local police, we brought him to the hospital and had him checked into the psychiatric ward.

The delusion fell apart before he was even given medications. He was given antiphychotics. After a few days we brought him home. He managed to return for a final but dropped most classes for medical reasons.

During Christmas break, we worked with a psychiatrist. He wanted to return to school for spring semester. We intended to ramp up counseling once there. Immediately after returning it was numerous calls every day. The anxiety had taken over and he was having panic attacks. Within 2 weeks, he was threatening suicide. We pulled him out of school.

Once home, he slept all of the time. We went back to the psychiatrist and he was switched to an anti depressant. We also made an appointment with a cognitive behavioral therapist.

He seemed to start improving. He stopped smoking long enough to pass a drug test and got a full time job in a local factory.

Not long after he started working (and making money), he obviously started smoking pot again. The job lasted about 6 weeks. He was let go. By that time, the pot use was ridiculous. Whenever I find it, I flush it. I destroy the items he uses to smoke with. I contacted the psychiatrist and counselor for support. Got nothing.

It was apparent that he was driving high. We disabled the car and told him no driving. When I looked at his texts and saw he was buying pot, I shut off his phone. He has no money and we don't give him any. He mows for a few neighbors, which gives him a small amount of cash.

Last week, after 2 months of no driving, and reduced pot use (personality is definitely different when smoking), we allowed him to start driving again under the condition that he look for a job. Also, if he continues to drive under the influence we will sell the car. I also turned the phone on under the condition that he makes an appointment with another facility that I found in which I believe will offer better support via counseling and drug treatment.

So he made the appointment and my husband and I also met with the psychiatrist. While we knew about the adhd, depression and anxiety, they added apathy syndrome - which is spot on.

He was prescribed an anti depressant again - which he doesn't want to take (he wouldn't take the last one either ) but did make a follow-up appointment. He did apply for a job - only one - but did apply.

He sleeps a lot. He has gained about 50 lbs. He plays video games all night. In general, it is driving my husband and I crazy. I feel like I either lecture or yell at him every day. I worry that my husband will have a heart attack from the stress. My husband worries about me. We seem to spend more time talking, worrying, crying about our son than he is willing to do himself.

He wants to go to school in the fall - he says. While he has applied and been accepted, he really hasn't done anything else to make it happen - like schedule orientation. We said he has to take classes over the summer, while home, to add those stressors and work them out before we will pay for him in the fall. One summer session has already started - nothing. I don't think he will sign up for the next one but hope he does.

So here we are. My husband and I feel like prisoners in our own home. We don't want to go away overnight because we don't trust our adult son. I read all of the tough love stuff. I believe that we are being consistent but are so stressed while we are going through this.

I understand that he has to help himself. How do I handle this? Do I wake him? Do I nag him to get a job until he does? Do I monitor the medications to make him take? How do we get through this? How can we be sure that the drugs don't get worse?


Well-Known Member
Hi worried mom. One thing I can say for sure is that allowing him to go back to school will almost positively end the same way it did before. Take it from me, I wanted my daughter to go to school so badly I naively told myself once she got there she would go to class and get involved in activities and be ok. She lasted six weeks before she was arrested for drug use (pot) and drinking in the dorm. She was suspended for the next semester. That experiment was expensive and we never tried it again. She smoked pot 24/7 and never went to one class.

I am at a loss as to what to tell you to do, you have done everything you can with counseling and medications. The best thing you can do is find a support group and take care of yourself. I can tell you to kick him out (we did that) or call the police when you find drugs (we did that), but you have to do what you think is right. Nagging didn't work for us. We gave her an ultimatum that she either had to go to rehab or find another place to live. She did go, it did help, although she still drinks and I think she has a drinking problem. But she also moved out and on her own and for the most part she is handling her life and we are no longer under that stress.

This is one reason why I am so against legalizing pot, I lived much what you are living and I saw the problems it caused.


Well-Known Member
I have never heard of apathy syndrome. Who diagnosed him? What kind of professional is treating him?

Is it possible that he is doing more drugs than marijuana? I ask because normally, as much as I believe pot is very harmful to a subset of people, most do not hallucinate from pot. That usually signals usage of strong drugs or legal pot, which is even more dangerous than pot alone.

I agree with Nancy that you have to do what you are comfortable with. Many have told their adult child to leave if he is a safety concern or verbally/physically abusive or just plain refuses to try to get help.

I also agree you need to take care of yourself now. You can not c hange your son or anyone else in the world, except you. You CAN change your own reactions to your son's behavior, and often this requires therapy of your own, for you, because you matter too.

You get nowhere nagging an adult child. He is an adult now and in the end has to walk his own life's journey. Even if he has a serious mental illness, only he can help himself get better by going for help and complying with treatment and laying off the pot. You can't make him do it or do it for him. You CAN decide to have a good life and not feel so enmeshed w ith your son. You deserve a wonderful rest-of-your=life, regardless of what your son decides to do with his.

Sending you l ots and lots of good vibes...


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Hello and welcome to the SA forum. I have never heard of apathy syndrome but I think smoking a lot of pot does make people apathetic.

You cannot control your son's smoking. He will get pot if he wants it badly enough. So the question is what can you control. The answer to that is the only thing that you can control is yourself and your reaction to what is happening.

Can you be happy letting your 19-year-old son live with you doing nothing but smoking pot? Because it is not going to change as long as that is what he wants to do.

So, if the answer is no, then you need to give him a choice. He can get treatment (I suggest in-patient rehab) and then a sober living facility or he can get a job and move out and act like an adult. He doesn't get to live off of you doing nothing but smoking pot all day and all night.

As far as being depressed, that is a hard call. Drug use can cause depression and depression can cause drug use. You can't know anything for sure as long as he is using drugs. He needs to be completely off them for a period of time before a doctor can assess the mental health aspect.

In the meantime, get support for yourself. I found private therapy very helpful in learning to set boundaries with my substance abusing daughter. I wish I had started therapy at the beginning of this sad hard journey down the rabbit hole. Others find support groups like AlAnon, NarAnon, CODA, or Families Anonymous helpful.

Keep posting, too. All of us understand what you are going through and are here to offer support and advice. Take what helps and leave the rest behind because we have a lot of opinions. :)



Well-Known Member
As far as being depressed, that is a hard call. Drug use can cause depression and depression can cause drug use. You can't know anything for sure as long as he is using drugs. He needs to be completely off them for a period of time before a doctor can assess the mental health aspect.
However, if there are signs of psychosis, he needs to be evaluated at an in-patient facility, whether on drugs or not.


Active Member
I agree this sounds like more than pot. Are you sure he's not doing other stuff? He sounds much like my son and he abuses k2, (synthetics) and triple c's. Causes many of the symptoms you describe, especially the psychosis.

I've also not heard of that diagnosis before. Interesting!

I feel he might benefit greatly from a dual diagnosis inpatient rehab. One where he can get a full neuropsychological evaluation. It's real easy for people to skate through regular counseling, psychiatrist appts that last 5-35mins every week or once a month. In an inpatient setting, he is assesed 24hrs a day.


Well-Known Member
The psychosis is worrisome and doesn't sound like pot. There are a lot of things that can cause that kind of thing. My son overdosed on benedryl (he would try anything to get higher) and it made him psychotic and we called the emta who ended up taking him to the hospital.

worried mom

New Member
Thank you so much for your input. I have read and reread all responses.

To resond to the questions, there was a complete tox screen done at the hospital when our son had the delusion and only tch was found. I was sure something else would show up. It also followed several all nighters.

Since there was only one episode of psychosis, the doctors were very hesitant to attach a label but all agreed that pot likely played a major role in the events.

I appreciate the suggestion that going away to school in the fall is likely a bad idea. I needed someone to tell me that. While I value my son's education, I realize that it won't be successful until he's ready.

My greatest challenge is the process. I want to support and love my son but I don't want to enable him.

I think that what I need to do is work on me. Live by example. And recognize that my son is making his own life decisions.


Well-Known Member
There are drugs that don't show up on drug screens. And those who use them know what they are. That's the limitations of a drug screen.

At any rate, glad to hear you are going to work on you. It's the only person you can work on and many of us have been doing it for years. You will probably find you enjoy finally making yourself a priority!


Crazy Cat Lady
THC has been shown in long term studies done in Amsterdam to potentiate psychosis in those prone to it.

Remember that marijuana is not only smoked, edibles are made with concentrates extracts of pure active chemicals and are MUCH stronger than the original herb from which they were extracted from. The "extracts" are now lab -synthesized and psychotics reactions to heavy dosages are not unheard of..


Roll With It
Has anyone discussed an addictive personality, possibly addiction to video games? If he is up all night playing games, then maybe he needs to not have them until he can support himself? Seems like all he does is smoke pot and play video games and refuse to do what the doctors tell him to do (take his medications). I would flip the breaker to his room and lock the access to it at a certain time. Or tell him that he has until a certain date to stop smoking pot, stop playing games all the time, get a job and do ALL that the doctor says or else he can find another place to live.

While he may have these disorders, he still has to learn to cope with the world. We all do. This means that since he is an adult, and is neither working nor going to school, he needs to be supporting himself. This means living in his own home and paying his own bills. He can find programs to help if he is truly so ill that he is unable to work or go to school. If he can figure otu the very complex games, he can figure out the way the world works.

I think he likely has a problem with pot, but it is a problem that he chooses to not deal with. HIding in games isn't a solution and neither is being a parasite off your parents or refusing to do what the doctor says or refusing to work. If he wants to stay in your home, he needs you to set some very firm boundaries and then to stick to them even if it is hard for you. A full time job or full time school, no pot, no all night video games, be law abiding, take medications, do ALL that the doctor says, and behave reasonably, courteously and considerately to your parents should be the bare MINIMUM requirements.

worried mom

New Member
Just an update. First, thanks for the insight. It is hell living with our son. Your thoughts and ideas are very helpful in leading us to some tough love. I believe that we will ultimately need to kick our son out.

He has a job - min wage in grocery store - part time, but a job. Leading up to the job, he thought that he might need to take a drug test. For a week, he abstained from pot, worked out a ton, better sleep habits and, after a few days without pot, was pretty decent to be around.

The drug test was a mouth swab - 3 day lookback - so he passed. On the schedule for 4 days this week.

Since passing the drug test, he boomeranged into a lot of pot smoking. We have been flushing pot and tossing devices he smokes with regularly. We don't get a night's sleep since he stays up every night smoking then eating.

Yesterday he went to session with new therapist. He came home totally stoned and went to work. My husband stopped by work and found his pot in his car - took and flushed.

He came home from work and asked us if we took a lighter out of his car. He then proceeded to tear his glove box out, finally admitting that's where his pot was. Neither of us said a word.

Flash forward to 4:30 am - we hear music from our rec room. He is dancing to rap and drunk. I guess he was out after we went to bed. Wtf.

I told him earlier in the day that he pays for his phone and car insurance from 1st pay check and Aug 1st must begin paying $500 per month for phone, insurance, car payment and rent. I said that if he doesn't like it, he is free to leave.

He was prescribed an anti depressant which he takes about half the time.

I just don't know how to live with this. The stress is killing us. I emailed the counselor to fill him in on our son's antics.

Do I ignore him? I hate the person he is when he smokes. Do we keep playing this cat n mouse game?


Active Member
Ultimately you are going to have to decide what you can live with. We refused to live like that, our son could not live here anymore.

I'm confused how he passed the drug test because that level of use should not have been out of his system for like a month. I still think there's more going on that you don't know about.

worried mom

New Member
Apparently the test was a mouth swab - which I never heard of - so it is only a 3 day lookback.

I don't trust anything he says. I don't know if there's more or not. We only find pot and pot paraphernalia and he drinks a lot when he doesn't have access to pot.

Without any resources at all, I don't know how to kick him out. We are considering renting an apartment and paying for rent to get him started.


Active Member
You have to do what your comfortable with, but let's look at that from another point of view.. ..

You refuse to allow drug use in your home, so he can no longer live at home. So, you are renting an apartment for him and paying his rent.

Which would you have preferred at 19:
1. Living with your parents
2. Having your own apartment where no one could nag you and you could do what you please.

Honestly seems to me that doing that gives him no motivation to change or be more responsible. He's 19, technically an adult and has to figure it out on his own at some point. Not to mention it is a terrible idea to put your name on anything (car, apartment etc) related to him if he's using drugs. You will ultimately be responsible!


Well-Known Member
One of our members just did the same thing...rented an apartment for her son. Perhaps she will check in to explain what happened.

I would not do it. But you have to do what makes you comfortable. Ultimately he will probably make you sorry you did it. He may even get kicked out and deface the property, or his friends may, and the price of the repeairs is yours. I also don't think letting him come home will help him. It's like rewarding him for self-destructing or helping him self-destruct. And it will destroy YOU too.

worried mom

New Member
Good thoughts. I just am so sick of this. I know that I am not supposed to take this behavior personally but I find all of it so disrespectful.


Well-Known Member
Any idea what is behind the drug use? It isn't always obvious. But there can be all sorts of "triggers" - from an need to fit in with SOME group somehow and have some sort of friends (not an uncommon problem with our non-typical kids), to some sort of trauma in the past that they are self-medicating for and do NOT want to talk about.


Well-Known Member
I could not live that way either. We gave our daughter the choice of rehab or leave our home. She choose rehab. That lasted for almost a year. When she came back home and relapsed we kicked her out. That was 5 years ago. She is now on her own, is working full time, drinks too much but I don't think she is doing drugs. I have no doubt when pot becomes legal here that she will take it up once again and quickly spiral down.

You have to do what you feel comfortable with but there came a point when I could no longer live with that chaos. Our family life has improved enormously since then.

worried mom

New Member
The fact that there could be some trigger or trauma is keeping me from tossing him out. The new counselor is excellent and I hope he can offer us some insight as he gets to know my son. He has had 3 or 4 concussions since middle school - and I read that can be part of the issue. Bottom line - I think he is self medicating for anxiety and fear of failure. Just doesn't want to grow up or deal with the world. He actively practices avoidance.