Substance abuse can directly affect people from all walks of life. Teens are often especially susceptible to the pitfalls of substance abuse as a result of factors such as peer pressure, anxiety, low self-esteem or a general lack of knowledge of the severity of drug and alcohol addiction. Parents of teens can play an important role in helping their children steer clear of drug and alcohol abuse by finding the best ways to discuss teenage substance abuse and its devastating impacts. Teens who are already struggling with substance abuse can overcome their addictions easier with the guidance of supportive parents.

No Child Is Immune

Some parents are under the false assumption that their teenage sons or daughters will never have to struggle with addiction. Teenagers who receive excellent grades in school and are generally labeled as being “good kids” can still wind up with substance abuse problems that are sometimes overlooked by parents, teachers and other adults who are in denial. Families that live in affluent neighborhoods may also believe that they’re immune to the problem.

Factors that lead to substance abuse can be lurking in many areas of life. Some teens find ways to obtain alcohol from local liquor stores and grocery stores or from adults so that they can experiment with drinking, and even teenagers who are ordinarily responsible can succumb to the temptation and develop an addiction. A story published by The Conversation details how some drug dealers work in suburban neighborhoods, and teens who live in these seemingly crime-free areas can be targeted by these dealers who want to offer them drugs.

The Shortcomings of Some Prevention Programs

Certain programs were started as an attempt to prevent teenage substance abuse, but some of these programs have largely failed in their efforts. The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program was started in the 1980s as a way to educate young people on the dangers of substance abuse and tried to prevent children from using drugs and alcohol. This and other programs often touted a “Just Say No” mantra with the intent of it becoming a popular slogan among young people. Even though these programs have had some success, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states that D.A.R.E and similar programs have not been as effective as interactive prevention programs. One of the main problems with D.A.R.E. is that it relied heavily on pop cultural appeal rather than evidence-based research that has suggested better ways to keep young people off drugs and alcohol.

How to Talk to Teens

It’s important for parents to talk to their teenagers about the dangers of substance abuse. Even if a teen is resistant to hearing the information, parents should try to find ways to relay the details effectively. It’s also important for parents to listen to their teens and have honest discussions that may include uncomfortable and deeply personal topics. Talking to teens is especially important for parents who believe that their son or daughter might already have a problem with addiction.

When discussing the topic of addiction, it’s best to schedule a set time to talk about the problem so that teens will be more receptive to listening instead of being caught up in their schoolwork or social life. It may even be advisable for some parents to start discussing drugs and alcohol with their children before they become teenagers. Parents should avoid making accusations unless they have sufficient evidence that their son or daughter has used drugs or alcohol. Even though the consequences that a teen will face if caught using drugs or alcohol can be talked about, scare tactics to try to convince a teen to not abuse substances should never be used. Therapists and other qualified addiction specialists are also available to help parents who might have trouble talking to their teens.

The Pros and Cons of Sharing Personal Stories

Adults who have previously struggled with drug or alcohol addiction may want to share details of their personal stories with their children. Even though this can make the problem of addiction seem more real to teens, sharing personal stories can also have a downside. If teens believe that their parents were able to overcome their addictions easily and live fulfilling lives with little consequences for their actions, teens might believe that they will have a similar outcome if they decide to use it. Teens may also fall into the pitfalls of addiction easier if they know that they have a family history of substance abuse and believe that drug or alcohol addiction will be inevitable in their lives.

Other Ways to Help Teens Avoid Addiction

In addition to having honest discussions with teens about drugs and alcohol, parents can use other methods to protect their children. As HuffPost explains, the teenage brain is more wired for experimenting and taking risks, and parents can help their teens fulfill their desires for thrills by encouraging other activities like BMX racing instead of turning to drugs or alcohol. Other methods for preventing teen substance abuse include:

  • Teaching teens the hard science of addiction
  • Getting to know son’s or daughter’s friends
  • Discussing drugs and alcohol that are shown on TV or talked about in music
  • Taking teens to AA or NA meetings to hear about other people’s experiences with addiction
  • Having safe words that teens can text parents if they’re caught in a situation with drugs or alcohol and need to be rescued

Parents shouldn’t remain silent on the topic of teenage substance abuse. Young people often need guidance to avoid developing an addiction, and parents can offer some of the best ways to keep their teenage sons and daughters from experimenting with and becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. Playing a proactive role in a teenager’s life is a duty that every parent should take seriously if they want to see their teen lead an addiction-free life.

Ethos Recovery is a center that provides dual diagnosis treatment to help end addiction. Our specialists use tools to treat teen addiction and can provide additional support to parents. Please contact us to learn more about our programs and how we help people rebuild their lives.