According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one in 16 high school seniors use marijuana on a daily basis.1 Many high school students experiment with—or regularly use—a variety of other drugs, including heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, hallucinogens and prescription drugs.
While the number of teens using drugs is in decline overall, there is a corresponding decrease in the number of students who regard using these substances as harmful. It is important for parents to address this issue. If teenagers do not realize the extent of the danger of using drugs or abusing alcohol, they are more likely to experiment with these substances if given the opportunity.
Substance Abuse Education
There are many excellent resources parents can use to educate themselves about drug and alcohol abuse. The internet is a valuable resource that parents can use to find out about the dangers of various substances. Websites like Mayo Clinic’s provide useful information free of charge.2 There are also many government websites with valuable information and statistics.
Many treatment centers offer classes to parents. These can include classes for parents whose children are abusing drugs or alcohol, as well as classes to provide a more general overview of drugs and alcohol and the hazards they pose for young people.
Parents should be able to answer any questions their children may have about substance use. Teenagers will often be savvy about the properties of various drugs, but they are also prone to believing a lot of misinformation. When discussing substances with their parents, they may be dismissive of any dangers related to drug or alcohol use.
People who use drugs or alcohol expose themselves to the risk of becoming addicted. If teenagers are made aware of the damage addiction can cause, that may help to discourage them from experimenting.
Addiction can become the driving force in any teenager’s life. When that happens, teenagers risk mental and physical illness. Their performance at school is likely to decline, or they may drop out altogether. A significant number will end up in trouble with the police. Crimes associated with addiction include theft, violent behavior and driving under the influence.
Talking with Your Teenagers
It is important to structure any conversation about drugs or alcohol as a peer-to-peer conversation. Teenagers will generally not respond well to lectures, so make sure you engage them. Ask their opinions and do not be dismissive of feedback.
While it is okay to point out the dangers, it is not very helpful to concentrate on these. Try to get your teenager to understand how using substances will interfere with the things that they find important. If your teen asks a question that you cannot answer, do some research rather than hazarding a guess. Your teenager will have to deal with peer pressure, so help them to come up with ways to resist it.
Above all, let your teenager know you are always there to offer support.