Many teens who use drugs or alcohol will stop use, but addiction is still a risk. There are many ways to help prevent teens from using drugs and alcohol.
Teens and young adults can hear about drug and alcohol abuse on TV, radio, news, online, in movies and even at school. It is most likely for someone to start trying drugs during their teenage years, and starting drug or alcohol use as a teen can lead to drug or alcohol addiction and other health problems when they grow up.
There are many things a parent can do to help prevent your teen from using drugs and alcohol. Some preventative measures include:
Talk to your teen about taking drugs and what effects they can have. Let them know how drug or alcohol abuse can harm their health, relationships and potentially their future. Let them know how you feel about them abusing drugs and/or alcohol and why they aren’t supposed to.
Sending positive text messages to your teen or following up on a conversation with a text can remind them of your conversation. You don’t have to use shorthand texting language, just text the way you talk or use the speak-to-text option on your phone.
Keeping track of your kids can help you protect them and gives them fewer opportunities to abuse drugs or alcohol.
Often, teens start abusing drugs or alcohol because they want to fit in with other kids. Help them practice how to say “no” if someone offers them drugs or alcohol. Teach them that people who pressure them to do things they are uncomfortable with may not be good friends to have or keep.
Spend time together, and give your child your full attention. Turn off the TV, cell phone or computer and really listen to what they have to say. Try to have regular, device-free, family dinners. Teens respond well when they feel respected and listened to.
Children, and especially teens, need rules. This is what gives them structure and makes them feel safe and loved. It is also how they learn for themselves what is safe and what can get them into trouble.
Even if you don’t think so, teens look up to their parents. Show them how you handle stressful situations and difficult people so they can learn how to handle these situations also.
Know the people you have in the house and avoid having people who abuse drugs and alcohol there. Keep track of medications and cleaning products you have in the house.
Drug and/or alcohol abuse is largely preventable. Talking with your teen about the risks of drug or alcohol abuse can help educate them on things they may or may not know. Make sure you are listening and allowing them to ask questions.
Choose a time when you’re not likely to be interrupted, and set phones to silent. If you’re anxious, share your feelings with your teen. The more honest and vulnerable you are with your thoughts and feelings the more likely your teen will be open and honest with you.
The Mayo Clinic makes the following suggestions for talking to your teen about drugs and alcohol:
Avoid scare tactics, as teens can see right through this. Emphasize how drug or alcohol use can affect things that are important to your teen, like sports, driving, health and appearance.
Think about how you’ll respond if your teen asks about your own drug and alcohol use. If you choose not to use drugs, explain why. If you did use drugs, share what the experience taught you.
Some TV programs, movies, websites or songs can glamourize or trivialize drug or alcohol use. Talk to your teen about what they see and hear and answer any questions they have.
Avoid lecturing. Instead, listen to your teen’s opinions and questions about drugs or alcohol. Make sure your teen knows they can be honest with you. Be aware of your teen’s body language to see how they really feel about the topic.
Brainstorm with your teen about how to turn down offers of drugs or alcohol. Provide your teen with an easy “out.” Teach them excuses, such as “I can’t drink/use drugs because my parents drug test me,” or “I can’t get high because I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and they may need a urine sample.” You could also consider setting up a discreet code your teen can use in a text message or phone call to you when they are in an uncomfortable situation.
Teens who experiment with drugs and alcohol put their health and safety at risk. There are many dangerous and negative consequences of teen drug and alcohol abuse.
Some of these consequences may include:
Driving under the influence of any drug can impair a driver’s motor skills, putting the driver, passengers and others at risk.
Teen drug and alcohol abuse is linked with poor judgment, which can result in lifelong STD’s, unplanned and unsafe sex.
Teens who abuse drugs or alcohol are at an increased risk of serious drug or alcohol use later in life.
Using drugs and alcohol can negatively affect the way a teen’s brain develops, and this can cause serious memory problems later in life.
Drug and alcohol abuse can cause damage to internal organs. Chronic high doses of certain drugs, like methamphetamine, can cause psychotic behavior. Chronic use of inhalants can harm the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Abuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications can cause respiratory distress and seizures.
There are various factors that can contribute to teen drug and alcohol abuse. From insecurity to a desire for social acceptance, teens often feel indestructible, which may lead them to take dangerous risks, like abusing drugs or alcohol. Teens may not consider the consequences of their actions and see only what’s in front of them.
Research has shown that the key risk periods for drug and alcohol abuse occur during major transitions in children’s lives. These transitions include significant changes in physical development, like puberty, or social situations, such as moving or parents divorcing, when children experience heightened vulnerability for problem behaviors.
Risks of drug and alcohol abuse appear at every transition from early childhood through young adulthood, so prevention planners need to consider their target audiences and implement programs that provide support appropriate for each developmental stage.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most youth do not progress beyond initial drug or alcohol use, but a small percentage of youth quickly escalate their substance abuse. Research has shown that these youth are most likely to experience a combination of high levels of risk factors and low protective factors. These adolescents were characterized by high stress, low parental support and low academic competence.
Risk factors are the individual circumstances that have the potential to increase the likelihood of a teen abusing drugs and/or alcohol.
Some risk factors include:
If you suspect that your teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, or that their drug use is starting to escalate, it may be time to seek help. Talk to a counselor at your child’s school, or reach out to one of our substance abuse counselors.
To learn more about how to prevent your teen from abusing drugs or alcohol, contact us today.