Talking to Your Teen About Drug Abuse


Talking to Your Teen about Drug Abuse

Around 10% of parents never discuss substance abuse with their kids, but owing to the prevalence of drug taking among teens it is essential you don’t miss the opportunity. By the time kids are in 10th grade, close to a fifth are using marijuana and more than one in ten are misusing prescription drugs, though talking to your children before they even reach high school can have a positive influence on the decisions they make around drug use.

Drug Dangers for Teens

As Steps to Recovery explains, the damage drug abuse can cause teens is not limited to overdoses and physical harm related to chronic use, as substance misuse can also have an adverse effect on their mental function and well-being. When you are aware that the brain in young people is particularly susceptible to the effects of drug taking, this can help inform the discussions you have with your kids, as you can explain that drug abuse can have a lasting impact on factors such as their judgment and emotions, and place them at serious risk of mental health problems in the future. Discussing the wider implications of drug taking is also important, so understanding that it can affect academic achievement and is associated with other risky behaviors, such as drug driving and unprotected sex, is helpful.

Drug Education in School

More than 20% of kids in grades 9 to 12 report being offered drugs on school property, but despite the ease of availability of drugs here, schools play an important role in drug education. It is typical for drug abuse to appear on the curriculum as early as elementary school, as evidence suggests that tackling the subject early helps children to later make positive decisions. If your kids are still in middle school, they may take part in DARE’s “Keepin’ it REAL” scheme, which uses interactive sessions in the classroom to develop strategies that aid smart decision-making, with research showing that this approach can reduce drug taking by more than 70%. When your kids are in high school, the drug education on offer may be part of the Life Skills Training Program, which encourages the development of skills and coping strategies that promote healthy behaviors, and can reduce drug abuse to a similar extent to DARE’s new program.

Discussing Drugs with Your Teen

Even though effective drug strategies are included on the curriculum for teens, it is still crucial that you keep talking to your kids about substance abuse, as their teenage years are when they are most likely to start experimenting with drugs. While you should begin basic conversations about drugs in kindergarten, by the time your children reach middle school you can offer them more detailed information about the dangers of drugs and practice role playing so that they can confidently turn them down. Try to keep the implications of drug abuse as relevant to your child as possible, so if you know they take pride in their appearance, school work or sporting achievements, include details about how drug taking can jeopardize all of these. Once at high school your kids have no doubt made decisions about drug taking several times already, but talking to older teens about the impact that substance misuse can have on their future and other aspects that are important to them can continue to help them stay clear of drugs.


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