My mom found my brother's adderall tablets
March 6, 2016 8:36 PM   Subscribe

My mom found adderall tablets in my brother's pencil case and under the couch. My brother flat out denies he takes drugs and is violent when anyone confronts him about it. What can I do?

My mom and my 25 year old brother live together. For some context, my mom is a fairly religious, conservative woman, and my brother recently started working full-time. In our culture, it's quite common for adults to live with their parents. They have a stable, avoidant relationship that occasionally goes extremely awry if my mom questions what is going on in my brother's life.

She recently found tablets labeled adderall throughout the house on two separate occasions. She has gently confronted my brother about it, but he has reacted with extreme anger (throwing his phone against the wall as soon as she asked him, for e.g.). He flat out denies he's taking any drugs. My mom is worried about him, that he will get addicted to drug usage and ruin his life. She also thinks taking drugs (without medical cause) is morally wrong. I tried explaining to her that adderall use is common, and does not mean "the beginning of the end". What concerns me more is my brother not wanting to engage in adult conversation with my mom (despite living with her), even if the topic makes him uncomfortable. That he may not be looking into the side-effects, and is taking drugs for the wrong reasons. This was his response to my parents when they found out he was smoking, or when they found a condom in his room. He gets extremely angry, will destroy something, and then leave. My mom will then be too scared to bring up the topic with him again.
My mom wants to help him kick the habit, but I tried to tell her that you really can't bring anyone to "quit" anything - she agrees and feels helpless.

As a member of the family, I feel obligated to help them. Mainly to start talking openly and like adults. The fact that he does not want to talk to me about his life also troubles me, and I don't know how to build that relationship. I tried encouraging him to talk to a counsellor, but he doesn't think that's very useful. I have respected his decision there, but I want to get to a point where he feels he has at least one person that he can confide in. Looking for any thoughts or advice.
posted by raintree to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm confused, is he abusing Adderall or is he being prescribed it and trying to hide that from your nosy parents. This all seems very nosy - who confronts their adult child about finding a condom? and if he is an adult, smoking is something that he is able to do. He sounds like he has a short fuse, but my goodness I probably would too under those circumstances. If I were going to help I would try to help him figure out a way to move out, this doesn't sound healthy.
posted by Toddles at 8:57 PM on March 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry that wasn't clearer -- it wasn't prescribed.
posted by raintree at 9:01 PM on March 6, 2016

You're in a difficult spot: you want to help but there's really not much you can do. You realize your mom is unfairly strict and meddling in ways that are in part inappropriate; you also are concerned that your brother might be abusing drugs and is displaying behavior that may be abusive or is at least unhealthy. I think it's good and understandable you want to help. That said, your previous discussions have gone nowhere, and that dynamic doesn't look like it'll change any time soon.

I'd talk to your brother about moving out as an ideal scenario: he would have freedom to do his own thing, and your mom would get a break, too. I think it's totally OK for adult children to live with parents at any age, really, so I'm not coming at this from a judgmental way. Perhaps he needs to right now because he's getting back on his feet, he's a college student, etc. but I'd hope he could find affordable rent with roommates. Ultimately, your mom can set rules and then could kick him out if he refuses to follow them, at least if she's footing the bill. However, your helping him transition to more independence would empower your brother and ease the current familial strain.
posted by smorgasbord at 9:25 PM on March 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't think this is your problem to solve, unfortunately. (Or maybe it's fortunate.) You can't force your brother to hide his drugs better, move out, or start communicating better. You can't make your mom kick him out or stop going through his stuff. They're making choices that don't sound like they're working for them, but you're just along for the ride. Remember how you told your mom that she can't make him quit drugs? Same principal applies.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:28 PM on March 6, 2016 [11 favorites]

As a member of the family, I feel obligated to help them.

You're not.
posted by Miko at 9:30 PM on March 6, 2016 [25 favorites]

He's 25? And presumably has a room to himself in the house? Or possibly his own vehicle? Why on earth is he hiding drugs throughout the house like a 15yo? What else is going on here? Has he zero private space to himself?

There is way more to unpack here than just the drugs. Is he living at home as a choice that he made as an adult? Or is he living at home because he was told to do so and hasn't yet gone through adult separation from his parents? I get that it's cultural; my own husband is from a similar culture and did not move out until he was 26, and many years later still has trouble maintaining appropriate boundaries with his parents. Imo that's the first issue your brother should be thinking about; how to set appropriate boundaries as an adult. If it can't be done while he's living with his parents he needs to change that situation.
posted by vignettist at 9:33 PM on March 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

What you can do is support your brother in being an adult and not letting his mom treat him like a baby. He is 25 - he's old enough to smoke, use condoms, and try Adderall if he wants.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:14 PM on March 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

The fact that jumps out at me is that your conservative mother is hunting through her adult son's personal effects. These were found in a pencil case, ffs.

In your brother's position, I would not be engaging your mother in an "adult conversation" about it either. I'd bet that conversation would be 100% about his so-called "drug problem" and 0% about the violations of privacy that precipitated the whole mess.
posted by cotterpin at 10:35 PM on March 6, 2016 [23 favorites]

What you can do is support you brother in being an adult and not disrespecting his mother. Tell him to get his own house and take all the drugs he wants.
posted by bongo_x at 10:36 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

In some ways, Metafilter is a terrible place to ask this question, because many of the answers you will get are based from cultures where family bonds work in a very specific way and differently from what it sounds like you might be describing -- less common for grown kids to live with parents, different norms about privacy, different norms about how involved other family members get in family disputes and what roles they can or should play, different norms about how much control parents have in the adult lives of their children. Some of it is on display in this thread already.

I come from a culture where similar things happen/norms are different from Mefi standard, and in your situation, I'd focus on talking to your mother about how she feels on continuing having your brother in the house. Does she want him out? Does she want to put up with this kind of treatment? Does she want more info about Adderall -- what would she do if she find other stuff? That might help her figure out what she wants to do, and how she feels/help her figure out her options.

On the other hand, if you are emotionally done with this stuff and just want them to yell at everyone to be a grown up, then you're done.
posted by joyceanmachine at 5:02 AM on March 7, 2016 [15 favorites]

Your Mom can set down ground rules for living at home:

1. No illegal drugs or drugs for which you do not have a prescription
2. No disrespectful language or actions
3. No violence ever. No throwing things or destroying things.

If your brother isn't interested in abiding by those rules, perhaps the two of them can come to terms with regard to where he'll be living. While in your culture kids live at home into young adulthood (mine too), that's a privilege not a right. Just as I had to clean, pay rent and be nice to my parents, so must your brother realize that there is a tradeoff and he has to do some things to hold up his end of the bargain.

Is your father in the picture? What does he think? Can a male relative be asked to intervene and discuss these things with your brother?

If no one wants to fix the issue, then the best thing you can do is bow out and let the dysfunction flame unabated.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:28 AM on March 7, 2016

You know, the fact that he specifically had ADHD meds, coupled with "I tried encouraging him to talk to a counsellor, but he doesn't think that's very useful," makes me think that he might actually have a medical need for these drugs but can't face the idea of actually going to a therapist or psychiatrist and asking for them. You seem to be assuming that the best case scenario is for your brother to "kick the habit," but that may not be the case.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

My mom found adderall tablets in my brother's pencil case and under the couch. My brother flat out denies he takes drugs and is violent when anyone confronts him about it. What can I do?

You can do nothing about your brother. He's, not your child, not your patient, not your roommate, not your responsibility. What you can do is address your urge to jump in and fix it.
posted by medusa at 8:04 AM on March 7, 2016

Maybe your brother can get a safe or locked cabinet to put his private items in so that your mum doesn't find them when she cleans out his room?
posted by captaincrouton at 10:49 AM on March 7, 2016

To build your relationship with your brother, I think he needs to know you care about him beyond just his relationship with your parents. Like you have to go out and do fun stuff with him without bringing up your concerns about how he's living his life. However, I hesitate to advise you to do something like this if he's truly violent and abusive. My response to that would be "I can't control what mom and dad do, but if you act like that around me, I don't want to spend time with you, and I can't respect you or hang out with you if you continue violent behavior against mom and dad either."

Recommend Nar-Anon or similar as a support group for your mother - she might gain a lot from having other parents to talk to who are in the same situation.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:39 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

One of the weaknesses of askmetafilter is that virtually all answers assume a Western (usually American) cultural context. Are there any therapists or other advisers from your cultural background you could ask?
posted by Ndwright at 8:20 PM on March 8, 2016

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