Adolescence can be a rocky time. Your teen is just starting to learn and establish their own identity, and with this often comes testing your parental control — and, of course, your patience. However, when it comes to drug abuse in teens, pushing the boundaries can lead to unsafe situations.
Teens commonly try, and even abuse, drugs and alcohol. And when they start, it can turn into a problem that won’t go away anytime soon without your help or the help of a professional rehab center.
The dangers of substance abuse for kids in high school can’t go overstated. Substance abuse can, and does, lead to:
Teens and parents faced with this issue should realize and understand that an involved parent can be the single greatest force to keep teens off drugs and resolve a current substance problem.
Children whose parents teach them about the risks of alcohol and drugs are 50 percent less likely to start using them than teens whose parents don’t, according to the Department of Education’s teenage drug abuse statistics.
What this boils down to is your words and actions have a significant impact on whether or not your teenager will decide to use alcohol or drugs. This is the next installment in our five-part series, “Tips for Raising Drug-Free Kids.”
How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid
Research reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that when teenagers feel they have a supportive and close relationship with their parents or guardians, they’re more likely to delay drug use or drinking.
Family rules, conversations and monitoring are all great strategies you can implement to keep your teen healthy and safe. Here’s how to get started.
Set Clear Rules and Enforce Them With Consequence
Setting clear rules about drug use can help provide your teen with the structure they require to keep them safe. But you have to be realistic. There’s no guarantee your teen won’t break your rules.
However, research shows teens who have established clear rules they fully understand are less liable to get in trouble than those who don’t. Even if your teen does break the rules, they’ll be more inclined to make safer choices and less likely to run to extremes when you’ve outlined what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Make an Appointment to Talk About Drugs With Your Teen
When you suddenly spring a serious conversation with your teen, they may feel like you’re ambushing them, and respond defensively. Instead, let your teen know ahead of time that you’d like to sit down and have a conversation with them about drugs and drinking, so everyone’s on the same page. Just assure them they’re not in any trouble, and you just want to ensure they know any concerns you have and where you stand.
During your conversation, set family rules such as:
- Don’t drink alcohol until they’re 21 years old.
- Don’t give drugs or alcohol to younger siblings or encourage them to use them.
- Avoid parties where alcohol or drugs are present.
- Don’t drive or ride with a friend who’s been taking drugs or drinking.
- Don’t take any drugs that weren’t prescribed to them to use.
Confront Problems Quickly
If you suspect your teen uses drugs or you catch them with drugs, don’t wait to act. Although some people stop using drugs after their teenage years, many continue and end up as addicts. If you’ve discovered your teen may be addicted to a substance, you can always give us a call for advice here at 12 Keys Rehab.
Get Help Early
If you feel your teen is using drugs, you need to put the brakes on as soon as possible and, if needed, get them help.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides some startling realities that every parent of a teenager should know.
Did you know that by the time high school students become seniors:
- around 70 percent of them have already tried alcohol?
- approximately half of the students have used some illegal drug?
- almost 40 percent have smoked tobacco?
- more than 20 percent of high school students have used a prescription drug for recreational purposes?
According to a 2010 Drug Use and Health National Survey, around 12.8 percent of individuals who were 14 years old or older and tried cannabis ended up developing illicit drug abuse or dependence. However, only 2.6 percent of the individuals who were 18 years of age or older when trying the drug ended up developing this same dependence level.
Enforcing Those Consequences
Remember, act quickly with the consequences for breaking your rules. Below are five consequences you can enforce for breaking your rules.
Grounding: You can impose grounding on your teenager who’s shown they’re unable to resist temptation with their friends. You let them know that now they’re unable to have any social contact with their friends for a period you decide. You may even take away certain pleasures like:
- Computer, laptop or tablet
- MP3 player or other types of music devices
Home Drug Testing: You can purchase home drug tests for your teen online or at some brick-and-mortar drug stores. Inform your teenager you’re now going to test them randomly for drugs for the next several months. The good news, though, is now your teen has an excuse to not use drugs with their friends. As a peer-pressure “out,” they can tell their friends who are pressuring them to take drugs that they can’t, since their parents are randomly testing them.
Supervised Social Contact: With this consequence, you can still allow your teenager to go out with their friends to a party, movie or other function, but you or another adult will accompany them. Give them back their social freedom only if they refrain from using substances during the specified time you set forth.
Community Volunteering: Have your teenager volunteer their help at a local church or rescue mission by stocking the warehouse, doing errands or cleaning up, as examples. Adolescents often learn the value of service like this, become more open to others’ needs and even break self-absorption of drug use.
Legal Education: There may even be free training for your family where your state will take your teen through the court system to mimic the experience of going to jail. This can be a real eye-opener, which helps them realize what it would be like to get arrested and convicted of a drug charge. The fifth consequence is a little harsh, so you might want to save that consequence if your teen is showing a repeated drug use behavior.
As a parent, you should sit down with your teen and clearly lay out your rules and consequences for drug use. Involve your teen in this step to give them a certain level of personal responsibility and make them feel included.
Point out Immediate Natural Consequences
In addition to your own consequences, let natural consequences guide your teen. Teenagers tend to think in the short term. It’s not until later on in their adolescence that they start contemplating the impact their actions could have on their lives in the future.
As young teens, their mode of thinking is likely that they’re invincible. Take smoking cigarettes as an example. There are plenty of warnings of the risk of cancer and how individuals who smoke put themselves at a greater risk for it, including death. If you point out these facts to a teen, the most reaction you’ll probably get out of them is a slight shrug.
At this age, you’ll want to emphasize more immediate natural consequences that will hit home to them, such as:
- Bad breath
- A hacking cough or hoarseness
- Yellow-stained teeth
- Athletic performance impairment
- Makes others not want to be around them
And, even though it’s essential you let your teen know alcohol and drugs come with drastic consequences, you should still focus on the positives, as well. For instance, explain to them that if they avoid drugs or alcohol and manage peer pressure effectively, it may make it easier for them to take advantage of and benefit from more important things, such as performing well in sports, getting into a good college or enjoying extracurricular activities.
Show Interest in Your Teen and Listen
Discuss your teen’s daily ups and downs and ask questions about their activities and relationships. By doing this, you will earn their trust, you won’t surprise them by voicing a strong point against drug use and you will learn how to have a conversation together.
Be an Active Part of Their Lives
Make time to do things with your teen or just hang out with them. Show interest in what they’re interested in, and take part in these activities with them. Eating, watching movies and even playing games together as a family are always important to make time for, but they become crucial during the teenage years.
Always know what your teen is up to. If they go to a friend’s house, ask them which friends they’re going to visit or where they plan on going. You’re not imposing by doing this — you’re showing them you love them and care about their well-being. Tell them that.
Continue Educating About Drugs
Keep teaching your teen how dangerous all types of drugs are. Be sure to emphasize the impact drugs can have on long-term goals like college or their career later on down the line. Don’t leave it up to your child’s school to give them an anti-drug education. Involve yourself by asking them what they’ve learned in school about drugs and then build upon this with other topics like:
- Why and how chemical dependency occurs
- How drugs negatively impact maintaining a healthy lifestyle
- How unpredictable dependency can be
- How drug dependence can vary between people
- What positive approaches they can take for stress reduction
In addition to this, you should also familiarize yourself with your teen’s school’s drug education. Find out how trained the faculty members are to teach about drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Although teachers mainly teach drug education in health class, they should provide anti-drug information in other classes, as well.
Current research should be the basis of the school’s anti-drug program, and there should also be a component of parent education. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion if you think the school’s program is lacking, or if there could be improvements in certain areas.
Take the school’s anti-drug education program home with you. Have your teen show you any materials they received in class and review with them.
Educate yourself on the signs of teenage drug abuse, such as:
- Changes in behavior — disinterest in activities, lack of communication, withdrawing from friends and family
- Mood changes — irritability, depression, violence
- Changes in personality — aggressive behavior, lack of self-control, poor interactions with others
- Physical changes — bloodshot eyes, fatigue or drowsiness, widely dilated pupils
- Possession of paraphernalia — roach clips, bongs, pipes, miniature spoons
Your teen’s school should have teenage drug abuse facts and other information related to teenage drug use for you to absorb.
Embrace Teachable Moments
“Teachable moments” can be productive and non-threatening to your teen. Things you can take advantage of are news stories about drug busts, a billboard that advertises alcohol or cigarettes as a gateway into drugs or a media report about a teen who overdosed.
Another excellent opportunity to get your teen talking about drugs involves asking if it’s an issue at their school, or if they see other students lighting up a joint on the weekends. Try to get their point of view on these topics. They are small opportunities to keep a conversation going about the dangers of drug use.
Help Your Teen Create Long-Term Goals
Let your teen generate their own short- and long-term goals. Allow them to think about and share with you what they want to accomplish in the short-term and long-term. Then, talk to them and let them know how alcohol and drugs can negatively interfere with their goals and plans.
Praise Your Teen for Positive Behavior
Make it a point to compliment and praise your teen for any positive choices in behaviors and decisions they make. Let them know you notice these behaviors and appreciate what a great role model they are for their younger siblings or even other children in the community. And, since teens care what their parents think of them, let your teen know you’ll be disappointed if they use drugs.
Encourage Community Involvement
Encourage your high schooler to get involved in some volunteer work around the community so they can see what kind of impact drugs have on the community. You’d be surprised by how good your teen will feel about being a part of something that can positively impact their community. Research volunteer opportunities with your teen at places like:
- Local homeless shelters
- Victim services centers
- Community landscaping projects
While you’re preparing your teen for the years following high school, you can still support their independence while guiding them to a healthy experience.
Ask What Your Teen’s Views Are on Drug Abuse
Try to avoid lecturing your teen. Instead, take the time to listen to their questions and opinions about drugs or alcohol. Let them know they can always feel comfortable being honest with you, no matter what.
Discuss Ways to Resist Peer Pressure
Even if your teen feels confident in their decision to not use alcohol or drugs, they can still find it difficult to say “no” to a friend who’s offering. Sometimes, a simple “no thanks” will do the trick.
However, it’s not always this easy. Peer pressure can get intense. Your teen may feel obligated to join in, either so they don’t feel left out, or so their friends won’t feel judged. Their friends may tell them they’d feel more comfortable doing drugs and getting “stupid” if everyone did it together.
However, knowing their friends are just trying to “save face” won’t always take the pressure off. Therefore, having a few tips up your sleeve to help your teen in this situation can help. Have your teen:
- Offer to get their friends home safely by being the designated driver. This takes the pressure off, since their friends may appreciate this gesture.
- Tell their friends they’re trying to stay healthy for the sports team and want to maximize their athletic performance.
- Tell their friends they have a big test to study for, they have to babysit, they have to go to a relative’s house or any other event that wouldn’t allow them to be their best with a hangover the next day.
- Bring a bottled beverage with them to their friend’s or a party they’re going to, since their friends will be less likely to pressure them into drinking if they see they already have something to drink. And, if their friends still offer, your teen can simply say, “I’m covered.”
- Find something that makes them look busy, such as offering to DJ or getting up to dance.
- Blame you when all else fails. Have them tell their friends that you’re very strict and will check up on them when they get home.
Keep an Eye on Any Prescription Drugs
It’s too easy for teens to take prescription drugs when they’re easily available in your bathroom medicine cabinet. Although you might have taken extra precautions to keep your medications away from your children when they were younger to avoid accidental poisoning, you may not realize during the teenage years, they’re vulnerable and may be more likely to abuse and misuse medications.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, one in five high school students in the United States has abused prescription drugs. Therefore, it’s vital that you lock up all prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and ask relatives to do the same in their homes. You may want to take inventory of all your medications so you can tell if your teen is getting into them.
Know Your Teen’s Friends
Nobody is immune to the effects of drugs. Any child can end up in a dilemma, even if they’ve made every effort to avoid one and their parents have properly guided them.
Certain groups of teens are more inclined to abuse drugs than others. For instance, teens who have friends who are using drugs are more likely to use, too. Teenagers who feel socially isolated may turn to drugs. Because of this, it’s essential that you get to know your teenager’s friends. In fact, you should get to know their friends’ parents, as well.
Make Sure Your Teen Understands You’re There to Listen
Get involved and stay involved in your teen’s life. Pay close attention to how they feel, and make sure they know you’re always there for them to listen non-judgmentally. Learn to recognize when your teen is troubled or going through a difficult time, so you can give them the support they need.
It will help tremendously when you can show your child you’re willing and prepared to listen to them. Encourage your teen to open up to you and feel comfortable telling you about their troubles. Don’t interrupt them when they’re talking, or react in a manner that will stop them from talking with you. Ask them how they feel about family decisions, so they know you value their opinion.
Lead by Example
Good examples start with you. You are your child’s primary role model, and it’s your job to be a good one. It’s essential you think first before you do anything questionable — e.g., doing drugs yourself — for the sake of your child. If your teen is having a hard time saying “no” to their peers about using drugs, it will not help them much if they know you’re doing drugs.
Teens notice everything, and will likely call you out as a hypocrite if they see you doing something you preach to them not to do. Of course, you’re an adult, and you have privileges teenagers lack. However, doing drugs in front of your teen is problematic parenting behavior.
As you’re setting good examples for your teen, don’t be afraid to tell them about real-world consequences of drug abuse or addiction. Talk to them about someone you know who currently has or had a problem, even a family member. If addiction problems run in your family, it’s important to communicate this with your teen, since they’re at a higher risk of drug abuse and addiction if they try drugs.
Encourage and Reward Honesty
It can get a little challenging trying to find an even balance between setting realistic ground rules and encouraging honesty between you and your teen. Your ultimate goal should be the safety of your child. But, being honest and open with your teen about drugs gives them a wide-open door to be honest with you. A good idea could be to establish an “amnesty policy,” which you can set up to offer immediate forgiveness during a certain situation.
For example, with an amnesty policy, you and your teen might agree they can ask for your help anytime — no matter what situation they’re in — without incurring the regular consequences of attempting to hide their behavior. By having an amnesty policy in place, you keep your teen safe and encourage them to make positive and appropriate choices without totally letting them off the hook.
For example, if your teen goes to a party and gets drunk or high, they can give you a call and ask you to either pick them up or pay for a cab so they can get home safely. You would then allow them to go to bed for the night without any repercussions. The following day, however, the two of you can sit down and talk about the repercussions of their drinking or drug use.
Establish or Maintain Designated Family Time
There’s nothing more important than spending time together with your kids. Even during difficult times, your teen can make it knowing they have you by their side and care about them. Set at least one day a week for some important family time.
Substances Your Teen May Be Exposed To
There are some drugs and other substances your teen is exposed to today, including:
- Prescription drugs and painkillers — OxyContin, Xanax, Valium, Vicodin
- Ritalin and Adderall
- Cocaine or crack
- Ecstasy and herbal ecstasy
- And more
As a parent, you’re always looking to learn more about how to prevent drug abuse in teens. You want your teen to be able to trust you enough to come to you when they’re intoxicated. However, you still need to establish clear rules and boundaries. Although your teen will probably slip up at some point and try alcohol or drugs, you should make it clear you don’t approve or find this behavior acceptable.
As a parent, it’s important that you be drug-free for kids. You have to be the role model. In the long run, this is what’s going to keep your teen safe from the dangerous effects of drugs. The bottom line is, you can do it. Be informed, involved and proactive.
Contact us here at 12 Keys Rehab via our toll-free phone number, 866-957-3243, or online form if you need a personal, confidential consultation about drug or alcohol addiction for your high school-aged child.