“The whole thing started around age 15,” says Pernille Kruse of Carlsbad. Her son, now almost 18, has been in 12 drug treatment programs and six schools since first being caught with pot.
“What’s contributed most to him not being able to stay clean was that he could go back to the same friends,” she said. “He’s gone to a lot of different schools. In hindsight, that is not the answer, though. It would have been better to work with the school instead of switching schools.”
Kruse says her son’s drug problem started as a result of his social anxiety—for which he was taking medication.
“I think in our society it’s not OK to show weakness. So I think for him, what led to drug use was peer pressure and wanting to take the edge off the social anxiety,” she said. “He had just started high school. He wanted to fit in.”
The second time Kruse and her husband caught their teen with drugs, they put him in an outpatient program at Phoenix House in Carlsbad.
By age 17, their son [whose name is not being used at her request] was using Oxycontin and other downers. “That was his worst point,” Kruse says.
Her son, who is a Type 1 Diabetic, nearly died twice after running away—and running out of insulin.
At one point, he ran away for five days, she says.
He had an insulin pump with enough medication for three days.
Officers found him nearly comatose on park bench in front of CVS in San Marcos, his mother says.
“He was in the ICU for three days. He also threw away his $5,000 insulin pump,” Kruse says.
Kruse sent her son to a five-month program in Texas. Because of his Type 1 Diabetes, she struggled to find inpatient programs that would accept him.
At home, Kruse and her husband were not always on the same page on how to handle their teenager. “Husbands tend to turn a blind eye; it took him a long time to see the situation was out of control. My son played us against each other. That distracts you from their issues,” says Kruse, who admits she was naïve at first as well.
She learned to set boundaries and enforce consequences, even if it meant calling the cops on her son, as she did when he took a crowbar to their door to steal $300.
“I’ve always had the ability to do what is best for my child, even though it’s hard to call the police. It’s painful in that moment but it’s the right choice,” Kruse says.
Kruse says she finally found peace and serenity through a program in Mission Valley with True Teen Recovery. She learned to change herself instead of trying to change her child.
“The first thing they teach you is that it’s OK to say ‘no.’ Most of these kids are spoiled brats. My son was a spoiled brat.”
Every Wednesday, Kruse attends a parent support group.
“The biggest change is seeing I’m not the only one,” she says. “It’s embarrassing when your child doesn’t listen to you and does drugs.”
The program has changed her life so much that she is now studying to be a drug and alcohol counselor.
“I have hit so many walls, I just want other parents to know there is a solution and help. I wish I had the information I now do,” Kruse says.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, illicit drug use has been rising in America, with most users under the age of 30. NIDA reports 8,100 new users a day in America, 57 percent of them under the age of 18.
Kruse advises parents to drug-test their children and look for these warning signs:
- Poor attitude, defiant, hostile and/or disrespectful
- Lack of motivation/lazy
- Declining grades
- Suspicious behavior
- Changes in usual patterns (unhealthy friends, poor hygiene, stopping sports)
- Isolating and/or spending time alone in room
- Mood swings
- Stealing money and/or valuables, shoplifting
- Ditching school
- Parent has a strong sense something is off
Tuesday on Carlsbad Patch, Kruse’s son will offer advice to parents and provide deeper insight into what he believes causes a teen to start doing drugs.
Kruse says today her son, “is doing much better. He’s an amazing artist and musician. That is going to be his path. As long as he is clean, we are happy to support him.”