Substances, alcohol or drugs

Drugs and alcohol are involved in many family arguments in different ways. Some arguments can be about the consumption of drugs and alcohol. Other arguments are about something completely different but are made more difficult if someone is under the influence.

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Going to parties
  • Smoking cannabis
  • Taking party drugs
  • Coming home after drinking or taking drugs
  • Other family members alcohol or drug use
  • Previous addictions and their impact
  • Arguments get out of control
  • I get really angry
  • I feel frustrated
  • I never sleep anymore
  • We are always short on money
  • I feel frightened
  • I worry
  • I have no social life for myself
  • I have to lock up alcohol in the house
  • I’m frightened of them

What can I do to make things better?

  • What do you need?

    Try to explain to the other person what you need and why rather than what the problem is. Example:


    “You’re an angry, aggressive drunk.”


    “I need everyone in the house to feel safe and happy. I need you to speak to me instead of lashing out.”

    If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse seek advice from your doctor or agencies such as Scottish Drug Services Directory.

  • See it from their side

    Try and see the situation from the other person’s shoes. Example:

    Person 1

    “I’m awake all night waiting for you to come home. You’re out until late, doing who knows what. You spend the next day in bed with a hangover and a bad temper.”

    Person 2

    “I’m growing up, I’m not a child anymore. Yeah we have a few drinks at the weekend but it’s not like we’re drinking on the streets and causing trouble.”

  • Be honest

    Talk about alcohol and drugs. Ask questions and explain how you feel. As parents and carers you have a responsibility for your children or the young people in your care. It’s normal for young people to want to experiment and test their boundaries. What you can do is to help them make informed decisions about their own health and wellbeing.

  • Consider alternatives

    Consider lots of options to solve the problem.


    “She goes out most nights, blows all her wages on alcohol and drugs and gets into fights. She shouldn’t even be drinking, she’s too young.”


    Trying to make a young person tee-total could be quite difficult. Consider alternatives to try to improve the situation:

    • What time do they need to be home?
    • Are their other things you can do to keep them safe?
    • Could you encourage them to stay in some nights?
    • If they do come home under the influence, is there anything that might de-escalate the situation; for example they go straight to their room?

What can I do to make things better?

After working through the steps above and considering your own situation, you may find it helpful to know more about conflict resolution and mediation.

Kerry is much happier now that she and Sam handle their disagreements better.

If you get together and talk about it, I've often seen people come up with much better solutions themselves.

Paul Burns, Mediator

We still have our arguments, but we deal with them a lot better now.

Kerry, Sam's Mum

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