Every year, the Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF) provides insight into teenage drug abuse by surveying high school students. In the 2019 report, it was evident that illicit drug use continues to increase among 8th and 10th graders. As parents, teachers, and caregivers scramble to discover how to prevent teenage drug abuse, a combination of education, prevention methods, and interventions must happen.
TALKING ABOUT TEEN DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE
The first step for preventing drug abuse is to talk. Discussing the risks of drug and alcohol abuse will educate teenagers on things they might not know about many substances. Make sure as a parent or caregiver. You’re listening to their questions, concerns, and comments about your discussion.
TIPS FOR HAVING “THE TALK”
When you’ve gathered information to openly discuss drugs and alcohol abuse, choose a time when you know you won’t be interrupted. If you’re anxious or nervous about having this conversation, let them know your feelings. Being open and honest about how you feel about that discussion will likely open your teen and let them be honest with you about their feelings.
- Ask them first: Forget about lecturing them about drugs and alcohol, teens are way too smart these days. Instead, ask them for their opinion. Ensure they can be honest and watch their body language to see how they truly feel about the topic.
- Discuss why they should stay away from drugs and alcohol: Avoid crazy scare tactics, and be honest and real. Emphasize how these substances can affect their life, such as sports, driving, health, appearance, and even their friends.
- Mention the media: Consider discussing how movies, TV shows, and music videos often glamorize drug and alcohol use. Make sure they understand the consequences; you might even discuss recent celebrity overdose cases or those who are open about their substance abuse struggles.
- Be ready to discuss your experience: Think about how to respond if your teen asks about your drug and alcohol use. Whether you chose to use drugs or not, explain what drove you and what the experience taught you. Remember, honesty is vital.
COMMON PREVENTION METHODS TO KEEP IN MIND
Many teens will experiment with drugs and alcohol, like most people. However, even those who experiment are at risk of addiction. Knowing some prevention methods can help you avoid your children’s substance use.
- Maintain open communication about taking drugs.
- Text positive messages to your children to maintain open communication.
- Get involved in their life and know about their friends, activities, and so on.
- Know where your children are, what they’re doing, and with who.
- Set a good example by not using drugs, limiting alcohol consumption, and managing your behavior.
- Teach them how to say “no” to drugs and alcohol in various scenarios.
- Make your home safe by keeping any prescription drugs locked or even away from the house.
UNDERSTANDING TEENAGE SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Just like adults, teenage drug abuse is linked to countless factors. From insecurity, peer pressure, and experimentation, teens are always engaging in risky behaviors. Most of the time, teens don’t assess the dangers or consequences of their actions.
Research says key risk periods for drug and alcohol abuse happen during major transitions in children’s lives. Think about puberty, major social situations such as moving, or parents getting divorced. It’s in these situations that children are at the most vulnerable.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), most teenagers don’t progress to develop a substance abuse disorder. However, there’s a small percentage who do, and they can struggle with substance use for years.
RISK FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO ADDICTION
Risk factors are particular and do vary for each individual. However, some of the most common risk factors for teenage drug and alcohol abuse include:
- Family history of substance abuse
- Mental or behavioral health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD
- Impulsive behavior
- History of traumatic events such as a car accident or abuse
- Low self-esteem or feelings of social rejection
DANGERS OF TEENAGE DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE
First of all, struggling with a substance use disorder can be a life-threatening illness. Not to mention, young people who experiment with drugs and alcohol can put their health and safety at risk. Substance abuse has countless dangerous and negative consequences, including:
- Impaired driving: driving under the influence can place drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at risk.
- Risky sexual activity: being under the influence can lead to unplanned and unsafe sex.
- Concentration problems: drugs can negatively impact a teen’s brain development, causing memory problems later in life.
- Drug and alcohol dependence: those who misuse substances as teenagers are more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol dependence.
- Serious health problems: drug and alcohol abuse causes significant organ damage, including permanent damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.
TREATMENT FOR TEENS STRUGGLING WITH ADDICTION
How to prevent teenage drug abuse, you ask? As you can see, the answer isn’t a straightforward solution. If your child is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, there are many treatments available. Talk to a substance use counselor to learn more about your options and how you can help your child get the treatment they need to get better.
At PGIO Mission of Mercy, we recommend comprehensive addiction treatment programs that are tailor-made to meet our patient’s unique needs. We don’t believe in cookie-cutter treatment plans that don’t address patients’ particular behavioral needs. We recommend a recovery plan that incorporates evidence-based addiction treatment therapies, group support, family therapies, and other strategies to help those struggling with addiction find their way to recovery.
In most cases, teen drug abuse is linked to mental health illness. Those who struggle with conditions such as ADHD, depression, and anxiety will turn to the effects of drugs to self-medicate. Children with these conditions have an increased risk of struggling with substance abuse. Spend time discussing teen substance abuse and its link with mental health conditions.
GET HELP TODAY
If you believe your child’s drug and alcohol abuse is escalating, consider reaching out and speaking with addiction specialists.
On occasion, most people start with a detox program to ensure a safe and comfortable withdrawal from the substance. Teenagers can benefit from intensive outpatient programs that offer a flexible rehab structure that allows them to progress in their recovery, while at the same time, it provides them the time to continue attending school, sports events, and other activities.
Addiction can be a life-threatening illness, don’t wait until it’s too late. Even if you need help staging an intervention to discuss your teenage child’s drug and alcohol abuse, experts can help you find the right words to give them the advice they need.