It’s not uncommon for individuals to start experimenting with drugs or alcohol in their teenage years. Teens that crave a taste of freedom or sense of adulthood might think that they can find what they’re looking for by doing things that seem “rebellious” or “adult-like.” Drug and alcohol experimentation in teens rarely begins and ends there. When they start making bad choices in their younger years, it can lead to a series of health issues including addiction.
As a parent, it’s hard to really control what your child does. At some point they have to grow up and start making choices for themselves and all that you can do is hope that you’ve taught them well enough to make the right ones.
When it comes to teens and drugs and alcohol, it’s important to know
- Risk factors
- Prevention methods
- Dangers of teen drug and alcohol use
- How to talk to teens about drug and alcohol use
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Common Risk Factors for Teen Substance Abuse
Risk factors are variants that might play a part in why a teen chooses to turn to drugs and alcohol.
Risk factors may include:
- Substance abuse present in the family
- A mental or behavioral health issue (depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD)
- Childhood trauma
- Chronic illness or pain
- Social exclusion (loneliness)
- High stress
- Low parental support
- Poor academic performance
No one wants to see their child experimenting with drugs, or worse, become addicted to them. The prevention methods that are utilized early on can make the biggest difference in your child’s life.
- Open communication.It’s so important for teens to feel like they can really talk to their parents. Drugs and alcohol are often used as a coping mechanism for things that they don’t know how to deal with on their own. An open line of communication makes it easy for you and your teen to talk to each other about what’s on your mind.
- Text your teen.When your teen is out of the house getting a taste of their own freedom, send them positive, loving text messages that remind of the choices they should be making. Let them know that they can always call you in they need to get out of a situation.
- Get involved in their life.Of course, you don’t want to be a helicopter parent that watched their child’s every move, but it’s important to send time together as a family. Not only does it make your child feel loved and welcome, but it gives them something meaningful to look forward to.
- Give your teen structure. It’s completely normal for teens to rebel against the rules that you set for them – they think they are ready to make their own rules! However, structure is important for their development and well-being. Set clear rules and enforce fair punishments when necessary.
- Set good examples. Children are always watching what their parents do. They are like sponges that soak up everything around them. When kids are little, they reiterate language that they hear. As they get older, they reiterate actions. If they realize that certain things are “okay” for their parents to do, what is stopping them from thinking it’s okay for them?
Dangers of Teen Substance Abuse
Using substances throughout any stage of life is dangerous. Teens that understand the dangers of substance abuse might be deterred from using drugs and alcohol now and later on in life.
- Impaired driving.Although teens might sometimes feel like they are invincible, no one can possibly be. Driving under the influence puts the driver, passengers, and other people on the road in serious danger.
- Unsafe sex.Substance about and poor judgement go hand in hand. Teens that use drugs and alcohol may begin to have unprotected sex which can lead to pregnancy and STDs
- Substance use disorder.Early use of drugs and alcohol can lead to dependence and substance use disorder down the line.
- Health issues.People are still developing in their teenage years and if drugs are introduced to brains before they are fully formed, the results can be serious and carry on with a person throughout their life.
Talking to Teens About Drugs and Alcohol
It’s absolutely crucial to talk to teens about the dangers that life presents and how to navigate them. Sitting down and having a discussion about drugs and alcohol is just as important as talking to your teen about becoming sexually active. In both conversations, the central focus should be the love you have for your teen – you can only give them the right tools that they need to make the best decisions for themselves and trust that they will go on to do so.
Here are several suggestions from the Mayo Clinic for talking to teens about drugs and alcohol:
- Aim for understanding. Rather than lecturing your teen on what to do and not to do, try to understand their viewpoint on things. Understand where their mind is at when it comes to school, friends, their social life, and substance use in general.
- Discuss the dangers of drugs and alcohol. The “scared straight” tactic doesn’t usually work on teens. Be honest with them about the realistic dangers that they face and what they could lose from using drugs and alcohol.
- Address what they see and hear in the media. There are many characters – both real and fictional – that glamorize substance use or use drugs “casually” as if it’s no big deal. Talk to your teen about what they’re seeing/hearing and what they think about it.
- Touch on the topic of peer pressure. Peer pressure is very real and very hard to say no to, especially when you’re trying to fit in. Give your child a foolproof way to say no to their peers like “my parents drug test me.” Urge them to call you when they are in unsafe situations and reassure them that their safety is the most important thing – not punishment or reprimands. They must know that you are on their side.
- Be honest about your past. Your teens will trust you if you open up to them. Let them know that you really understand where they’re coming from and use your own stories as lessons for them to learn from.
As a parent, there’s nothing more important than protecting your children. Knowing how to prevent early use of drugs and alcohol is one way to protect them from a whole slew of dangerous situations. If you need help with talking to your teen, call our 24/7 100% free and confidential helpline today. Chapel Hill Medical Detox is here to help today, tomorrow, and every day.