With convenient access to the Internet and social media, parents should at least assume that their teens are being exposed to daily pressures when it comes to using various substances, ranging from illegal drugs to prescription medications. While things change from one generation to the next, peer pressure can still play a role in convincing a teen to take a puff or pop a pill just to be cool. The first step you can take as a parent is to be as well-informed as possible.
Redefine Your Definition of What’s Considered a ‘Drug’
Awareness of possible drug or substance abuse problems starts with a clear definition of what’s consider a “drug.” According to DoSomething.org, more high school seniors are using marijuana rather than opting for cigarettes. Research also suggests that most teenagers don’t see marijuana as harmful. However, the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in marijuana is roughly five times h2er than it was just 20 years ago, meaning that it may lead to experimentation with more potent drugs.
Possible Sources of Teen Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than half of new illicit substance users start with marijuana. A common misconception is that addictions start outside of the home. However, substances found around the home (prescription meds, inhalants) can be just as addictive and dangerous as street drugs. Teen addictions may include:
- Painkillers (both OTC and prescription)
- Cocaine, heroin (and other street drugs)
How to Approach the Subject of Drugs and Addiction with Teens
Despite the assumption that teens won’t listen to a lecture about drugs, a survey of young adults conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that most teenagers actually want to get more information from their parents about drugs. Consider the following tips when approaching the subject of drugs:
- Determine a time and place to talk
- Make your stance on drugs clear and be firm; Ex.: “If we suspect you’re using drugs, there’s going to be testing and we’ll let the results speak for themselves.
- Establish clear, immediate consequences – Teenagers tend to respond better to immediate consequences like taking away driving privileges or cutting off cellphone use.
- Offer praise for making smart decisions – Appeal to a teen’s natural independent streak and praise them when they make smart decisions by staying away from drugs.
- Follow through with the consequences – Without follow through, rules are meaningless. If you say that you’re going to bring home a test cup or take your teen for testing if you suspect that they’re using drugs, follow through and do it.
There are plenty of reliable online sources where a parent can get some solid, updated information about drugs and substance abuse (drugabuse.gov, for example) when talking to their teen. In situations where a parent suspects that their child may be using drugs, consider home drug testing. Local addiction facilities can also provide reliable information, immediate help, family counseling and support.