If you are the parent of a teenager who you suspect may be using drugs or alcohol, is it okay for you to snoop into your child’s bedroom and personal belongings?  Just asking the question can be controversial, and the answer will vary depending on the respondent.

It is only natural that the parent might be conflicted over this question.  Parents recognize that their teen deserves some privacy, while on the other hand they have a recognized responsibility as a parent to protect their child.

If you were to ask the teenagers, most would say an emphatic NO to having their room searched by anyone.  On the other hand, drug prevention or teen intervention specialists insist that the parent has a responsibility to keep their child safe.  Therefore, if they suspect alcohol or drug use, they have no choice but to investigate.

Snooping by Any Other Name is Still Snooping

Part of the controversy over snooping is in the name itself.  People generally have a negative connotation associated with the word, so it can make a parent feel like they are doing something wrong.  For this reason some parents prefer to say they are searching or investigating, rather than snooping.

The key point to keep in mind is that as a parent you are only trying to help your teenager.  If it makes it easier to call it by some other name in your head go ahead and do that, just as long as you do what is best to help your suspected substance abuser overcome teen addiction.

Reasons for Snooping

The only truly justifiable reason for snooping through your teenager’s bedroom and belongings is if you have a solid suspicion that he or she is using drugs or alcohol or doing something else that could endanger his or her wellbeing.  This means that you have seen evidence of use, or there have been significant enough behavioral changes in your teen that indicate they are abusing some substance.

For example, if unexplained odd odors - like pot or burning chemicals - are coming out of your teen’s bedroom, that is evidence of use of something out of the norm, and grounds for snooping to investigate potential teen addiction.

Where to Snoop

If you have sufficient reason to proceed with your snooping, then you need to know what to look for and where to look.  The “what” is pretty easy; you are looking for any evidence of drug or alcohol use.  This could include actual products, empty liquor bottles, pipes that might be used for smoking drugs, and other drug paraphernalia.

As to where to look, that can be challenging.  Teens who are trying to hide substance abuse can become pretty secretive, and pretty good at hiding things within their bedrooms.  Some possible hiding places for drugs or alcohol could include:

  • The bottom of the laundry hamper in the closet.
  • Under a stack of clothing in a dresser drawer.
  • Inside pockets of jeans hanging in the closet.
  • In some sort of box or container that has been placed under the bed.
  • Inside a DVD or CD case.
  • In a backpack or computer bag that is normally carried to school with your teen.
  • Inside a container that was originally for some other product.  For example, drugs might be hidden in an old Tylenol bottle or alcohol might be poured into a container that used to hold an energy drink.

The Bottom Line

If you choose to snoop and do find evidence of drug or alcohol use, then your snooping is justified and you can explain yourself to your teenager.  If you snoop and don’t find anything, you then have to reevaluate your suspicions of substance abuse.  You will also have to decide if you are going to admit your snooping to your teenager.  As a parent, always remember that your chief objective is to keep your children safe.  Whether that involves snooping or not will be a decision you have to make.