Preventing Substance Abuse in Teens

Preventing Substance Abuse in Teens

If you thought coming home with a newborn was difficult – teenagers are a whole different story! By this point, teens have their own personalities, so there’s no manual on how to raise them all. Aside from the mood swings, curfews, school work, etc., parents often begin to worry about drugs and alcohol during this time.

It’s not unusual for teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol. While some experimentation is normal, any type of drug or alcohol use can spiral into a problem. The best way to prevent addiction is to practice abstinence. And – it is possible. But in order to be effective in your efforts, it’s important to understand why teens use or misuse drugs and the conversations to have. 

Why Do Teens Use and Misuse Drugs and Alcohol? 

There are a number of reasons why teens experiment with drugs and alcohol. Usually, they start off in social settings where substances like alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana are accessible. Some teens really like the way these substances make them feel, motivating them to use again. 

Here’s what  have learned about the reasons for using drugs and alcohol: 

  • Peer pressure. Teens want to be accepted by their peers. Even when they know something is wrong, they’ll often go along with the crowd to avoid being singled out. 
  • Self medication. It’s not easy being a teenager. There are all types of pressures, and some teens have mental health problems. To minimize or numb their symptoms, they may self-medicate with drugs and alcohol
  • Improve performance. Another reason for using drugs is to improve performance in school or sports. Stimulants allow people to work faster and harder – but only for a short time before they crash and burn. 
  • Feel like an adult. Some teens want to feel grown up, and they associate risk taking with being an adult. To feel “cool” and “mature” they may smoke, drink alcohol and use other drugs. 
  • Experimentation. Kids are naturally curious, so the initial desire to use often comes from this. They want to know what it feels like to be inebriated. The problem is that some teens end up liking this feeling and want more. 

Which Teens are More Likely to Develop an Addiction? 

Let’s be clear – addiction does not discriminate. Anyone can develop an addiction no matter where they come from. That said, there are certain risk factors that raise the chances of developing a substance use disorder. By being aware of these risk factors, you can talk to your teen and educate them on their personal background.

  • A family history of drug or alcohol abuse 
  • Being diagnosed with a mental health disorder 
  • Going through a traumatic experience
  • Low self-esteem or feelings of social rejection 
  • Having drugs and alcohol accessible 
  • Lacking poor coping skills

teens sitting on a rock

How Can I Prevent My Teen from Using Drugs and Alcohol? 

One of the best things you can do is start having conversations with your child about substance abuse. You’ll likely have many of these before your child turns 18. Choose times when you’re unlikely to be interrupted and have a clear head on your shoulders. Having these conversations when you’re angry or distracted will make them less effective. 

Also, it’s important to know that substance abuse in teens is not a poor reflection on your parenting. If you find that your teen is experimenting, don’t hide it from others. Talk to them, reach out to an outpatient rehab in Denver and get help. Find out why your teen is making these choices and ways to help. 

With this in mind, let’s discuss the best ways to prevent substance abuse in your teenager. 

Ask your teen’s views. 

Instead of lecturing (your child has probably heard it all before), have an honest conversation about drugs and alcohol. Ask your teen’s views on them. What do they think of people who use these substances? Do they know people who have been to an outpatient alcohol rehab in Denver? Having an open discussion gives you a better perspective on where your child stands. 

Discuss the reasons not to use drugs.

Avoid scare tactics. Talk to your child about relevant reasons why they shouldn’t abuse drugs and alcohol. Most kids are aware that drugs are bad, but they believe they are indispensable. Talk about the ways these substances can affect them today – their appearance, driving, sports, dating, scholarships, etc. 

Brainstorm the different ways to say no.

Because peer pressure is very real, it’s helpful to practice different ways to say no. If your child is ever uncomfortable with a situation, they can use these strategies to remove themselves from the situation. Learning how to say no is a useful tool that your teen can use throughout their life. Who knows? You may learn something, too! 

Establish rules and consequences. 

Teens need boundaries and consequences. Explain your family rules and what will happen if your child breaks them. If they end up breaking your trust, follow through with the consequence. There is no need to yell or belittle your child if you have firm expectations and repercussions. 

Know your teen’s friends and whereabouts. 

Keep tabs on your child. Know where they are and who they are with at all times. Promote adult-supervised activities and extracurricular hobbies that will keep your child busy. If your teen’s friends use drugs and alcohol, this is a concern because they will be more likely to use them, too. 

Set a good example.

Remember that your child is always watching. Set a good example for them by not using drugs and alcohol. If you do drink, do so responsibly and in moderation. Also keep track of all prescription drugs in the household, as this is where many addictions start.

If you feel that your teen has a problem with drugs and alcohol, do not delay in getting help. Addictions are much easier to treat when they are less severe. Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado offers a full continuum of care, and we can help with underlying mental health conditions as well. Contact us today to learn more about our intensive outpatient program in Denver