How to Prevent Drug Abuse Among Children & Teens

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“Although older teens seem to resist input from their parents, it’s a time when they need parents the most.” – Linda Richter, PhD, Director of Policy Research and Analysis at Center on Addiction

According to a new survey from the Center on Addiction, parents have the largest influence over their children’s decisions when it comes to substance abuse. And the kids have said it themselves. Almost 56 percent of teenagers today believe the most common reason people their age stay away from drugs and alcohol is their parents. The same percent described the relationship with their parents as “excellent.”

You may be thinking, how is this case? Teenagers are often so focused on their social status and peer opinions, that it can be hard for parents to get through. And, in an age where underage drinking is so normalized, and many drugs are perceived as “legal” and “safe,” many parents feel like it’s near impossible to keep teens away from drugs.

 The fact is, parents have an (indirect) ability to:

  • Minimize their teen’s exposure to drugs, by affecting who their child hangs out with
  • Reduce the misinformation their teen receives about drugs (and replace with reliable resources)
  • Foster a positive and loving relationship with their teen, which in turn establishes trust

If you have a child who is entering (or in) adolescence, he or she is already at risk of being exposed to drugs. Remember, though, it is not inevitable that your teen will use them. Every day, teenagers are making positive decisions because they know their parents would find out or disapprove. By being and staying involved in your child’s life, you can lessen your child’s intentions of using drugs and alcohol.

How Parents Can Prevent Teen Drug Use

Teens who have an ‘excellent’ relationship with their parents are almost 2x more likely to not have any friends who use drugs.  Those who have parents who are “involved” with their daily activities, and who are honest and encouraging, also are less likely to have drug-using friends. This, in turn, lessens their risk of using drugs and drinking substantially. Now, how can you, as a parent, establishing a loving, trusting, and encouraging relationship, while still keeping a close eye on your teen?

  • Have open and honest conversations. Talking to teens can be tough, especially when they seemingly want “nothing to do” with their parents or are too sunk into their social media feeds. The truth, however, is that teens need this communication. Even when your teen seems distant, make sure to have frequent and open conversations. These can be a simple, “How was your day?” or be more serious conversations about substance abuse, or your teen’s hopes, dreams, fears, and concerns. Just let your teen know that you will always lend a listening ear. Research shows that parents who exercise good listening skills, who talk to their teens in a non-judgmental and caring manner, and who offer practical recommendations to their teens in a healthy manner, can have a very positive influence on their teens’ actions.
  • Establish trust. By always being willing to listen to your teen, and encouraging open conversations with your teen, you can establish trust. He or she will want to go to you in difficult situations. Keep in mind that teens who feel that their parent is unforgiving, judgmental, or does  not trust them are more likely to break rules.
  • Know who your child’s friends are. By knowing your child’s friends, you can have a better understanding of your child’s potential exposure to drugs. Rather than allowing your teen off to a friend’s house every weekend, make your home a welcoming place for his or her friends to gather. Establish rules, but also establish a comfortable and caring place where they will want to spend time. Remain a distant observer.
  • Know what your teen is up to at all times. According to the Center on Addiction’s recent survey, monitoring teens’ whereabouts, who they spend time with, what they do during their free time, as well as their social media accounts are important ways to reduce their risk of drug use. As a parent, you can tell your teen you are monitoring these things not because you are nosy, but because you need to ensure they are safe.
  • Set rules and stick to them. Although it seems counterintuitive, you can establish a caring and open relationship with your child while simultaneously enforcing rules and consequences. In fact, being loving and having rules in place will actually increase your teen’s likelihood of sticking to them. Consistent rules ensure you want your teen to be healthy and safe. And research consistently shows that teens do not want to let their parents down.
  • Eat meals together as frequently as possible. This seemingly small act can have a great impact on your child’s likelihood to use drugs. Make dinner conversations light and positive. Take advantage of this time to listen to your teen, get to know his or her interests, friends at school, and what’s going on in his or her life. Remove distractions, such as cellphones, from the table so that everyone is actively present and involved.
  • Take a true interest in your child’s interests. Try to show an interest in anything your child is passionate about, whether that’s sports, videogames, music, politics, or art. Show respect for whatever hobby it may be, and always ask questions, encouraging your child to continually participate in these positive activities.
  • Get educated. Parents should be well informed and up-to-date about the types of addictive substances their teens might encounter. For example, even amidst an opioid epidemic, many parents still do not know all they should about dangerous prescription drugs. More than 40 percent of teens report they have not had conversations with their parents about heroin or prescription painkillers.
  • Make an effort to stay involved. Even as your teen gets older and more independent, continue to stay involved and monitor your son or daughter. As teens grow, so does their risk of trying drugs. The average initiation of drug use today is 17 years old.
  • Seek help for early signs of risk, from a trusted professional. Sometimes, teen drug use is out of parental control. Teens may develop intentions to use drugs, and may develop a reliance on drugs, despite parental involvement. If this happens, know that it is not a sign of failure. It is, however, a call to action. Early intervention is key to getting a teen healthy and staying sober. It can prevent dangerous consequences like addiction and overdose. If a teen is already addicted, professional intervention can help him or her through recovery, minimizing the risk of long-term consequences. An adolescent or young adult treatment center is most equipped to handle and treat the unique needs of young people battling drug abuse and addiction.

The Power of Parents

High levels of parental monitoring are associated with significantly reduced odds of a teen having friends who use drugs and a teen having intentions to use drugs. Low parental monitoring – such as allowing unsupervised hang-out sessions between teens, or not monitoring a teen’s social media account activity – is associated with an increased risk of a teen using drugs.

Parents can play a powerful and positive role in their teenager’s lives. You can prevent drug abuse in your teen, even if he or she is already at risk. For more information on how to prevent drug use in teens, or on how to help your child who is already using drugs, please do not hesitate to reach out to Turnbridge – an adolescent and young adult rehab center in Connecticut. Call 877-581-1793 today.