Recreational Drug Use: What’s the Risk?

“I just party. It’s not like I’m addicted to it.”

Drug use is more common than we would like to admit. There are many different types of drugs (legal, illicit or controlled substances) that people sometimes take for whatever reason. People that sample drugs socially justify their drug use by explaining that it’s just recreational, a one-time occurrence and not a substance abuse problem.

If you are in a court for child-related matters: you may want to think twice before partying. It could only take using drugs “one time” to risk the outcome of a custody or parenting case.

Is it possible to use drugs only once, or once in a while, without it destroying your life? 


Is it worth it?

Probably not.

If something happens during that “one time” you partake in drug use: it can bite you in the ass.

The consequences can be significant.

Whether it’s criminal charges, child intervention or damaging information and/or pictures landing in the hand of your child’s other parent, it could be brought up in family court. You will not look like the world’s best parent if it does.

“I use to party with my ex before we broke up.”

A shared history of drug use in the past does not make it safe to keep doing so now that your relationship has ended.

These past experiences are likely to be brought up in court. One parent might accuse the other of being a flat-out junkie while downplaying their own consumption during the relationship. This parent is often asking for most, if not all, parenting time citing concerns regarding the other parent’s poor lifestyle choices.

Depending on the evidence available on any suspected drug use, the court might order a drug test to investigate the allegations. Some drug tests can only detect substances for a very short period of time, but others can detect them for several months afterwards. Refusing to take a court ordered drug test could be viewed in a negative light.

What happens after a failed or refused drug test?

The court will only make decisions for a child that are in the best interest of that child.

Drugs are an unnecessary risk to the child.

No surprise: it’s in the best interest of the child to be cared for by sober and healthy caregivers and to be protected from harm. Poor lifestyle choices increase the risk of neglect, abuse and accidents. Drug use, even recreationally, can lead to a parent to having their parenting time or access to their child restricted and with conditions. Depending on the situation, visits might be suspended until sobriety is proven with a clean drug test or visits might be supervised in the meantime.

The stigma associated with substance abuse can be a difficult obstacle to overcome in family court. Parents that have concerns about substance abuse allegations should do their best to avoid partying and they should seek legal advice on how to approach their family law case. A history of drug use should not be kept a secret from legal counsel if there is any chance at all it will surface in court.

Edmonton Family Network has connections to legal service providers and community support services. Contact us to learn more.

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