There is actually good news and bad news for parents when it comes to drug abuse among teens these days.
The bad news is that as of 2009, surveys showed that when looking at kids between the ages of 12 and 17, 1 out of every 10 teens were already consistently using illegal drugs.
The good news is that there ARE things that parents can do about this, and most of them are easy.
Set Your Expectations
Research shows again and again that when kids know that their parents do not approve of drug use, they are less likely to use drugs. Make sure you have this discussion BEFORE they are put in a place of temptation. Setting certain expectations isn’t a guarantee, but it clearly reduces the chances that your teens will use drugs.
Don’t Ignore Issues of Mental Health
More than 60% of teens who abuse drugs also suffer from issues like ADHD, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, etc. These are all serious issues that shouldn’t be discounted – they could be at least partially responsible for the substance abuse issues.
Don’t Make Light of Experimentation
Many things are considered a rite-of-passage for teens, but drug abuse is NOT one of them. While teens who experiment with drugs or alcohol don’t always become full blown addicts, this type of experimentation can definitely increase the chances of bigger problems. Don’t ignore it if your teens begin to experiment.
Don’t Blame a Parent – Either One of Them
If drug abuse problems arise, it doesn’t do any good to blame a parent, whether that is your spouse or yourself.
If you’re faced with this issue, your whole family needs to pull together. If you’re caught up in feeling guilty or laying blame, it will divide you and will further complicate the issue.
Watch Your Actions
The old concept of “do as I say, not as I do” simply doesn’t work. If you want your children to behave a certain way and have certain beliefs, don’t just tell them, SHOW THEM with your actions that you truly believe it.
It’s important to find the line between being firm with your children and making a “do not cross or else” statement or environment.
If you are too judgmental or make it apparent that certain behavior is absolutely unacceptable, if they get into a position where they need help, they will not come to you.
Ignoring Risk Factors
We know that obesity puts you at risk for diabetes. It doesn’t mean you will get diabetes, but your chances are higher. Along the same lines drug abuse has risk factors as well. Things like aggressive or disruptive behavior, anxiety, ADHD and depression put you at a higher risk of abusing drugs. Don’t ignore these risk factors.
Know the Difference Between Maturity and Intelligence
If you have kids that are “smart”, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. It’s important to note that the part of your brain that relates to “judgment” does not develop fully until your 20’s. Just because your child is smart doesn’t mean they have good judgment yet, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
Don’t Make Drugs Too Available
Statistics show that 1 in 5 teens will experiment with illegal prescription drugs. Statistics also show that these teens usually get these drugs from their friends or family. Make sure your prescriptions are either locked up, or at least pay attention to how many you have left so you will know if something shows up missing.