How to prevent teen drug use and what parents need to know.
Parents wondering how to best prevent drug use may only need to look in the mirror for their best answer. How parents approach their duties to their teenagers makes a major difference in whether their young teens will experiment, abuse, or become addicted to drugs.
Thomas Dishion in his article “Prevention of Early Adolescent Substance Abuse Among High-Risk Youth” [University of Hawaii, 1998] identifies certain patterns which prove problematic in increasing the risk of teens becoming drug users. Parent interventions and parenting styles have major impacts on these risks.
Parents need to focus on three primary areas. These include setting appropriate rules and guidelines for teen behavior outside of the family, expressing and enforcing appropriate rules with their adolescent in regards to school achievement, and setting strong boundaries by conveying education and limits about drug and alcohol use.
Drugs That Teenagers Commonly Use
Commonly used drugs by teenagers include marijuana, alcohol, ecstasy, cocaine, mushrooms, acid, and amphetamines. Some teenagers are exposed to drugs such as heroin, crack, and ketamine. These drugs all have different effects on the body, but each one can lead to dependency and a complete change in the teen’s behavior.
The Effects of Drugs on the Body
Drugs can have various effects on the body of teenagers. Some serious health effects come from using and abusing drugs. These include severe depression, mood swings, violence, heart problems, seizures, organ damage, anorexia, obesity, and brain damage. Drugs can also lead to overdoses, causing comas or death.
Signs That Your Teen is on Drugs
Signs that a teenager is on drugs vary depending on the drug being used. Signs that a teen is using marijuana include uncontrollable laughter, red or glossy eyes, slow and loud talking, eating large amounts of food, and sleeping a lot.
Signs of alcohol or downers – such as heroin and ketamine – abuse include slurred speech, difficulty standing or walking, anger, uncontrollable crying, vomiting, and passing out. Signs that a teen is on stimulants such as ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines include fast-talking, high energy levels, lack of appetite, weight loss, poor sleep habits, mood swings, anger, and euphoria. Upon signs of drug use in teens, parents should do their research to best help their teenagers get help for the problem.
Establishing Influence on the Behavior of Your Teen Outside the Family
Parents need to remember their teens will likely carry social skills learned within the family into their lives outside the family.
This means parents need to adopt a priority in helping teens learn to interact with others.
These skills include:
- The ability to express their opinion clearly.
- The ability to stand up to peers while feeling good about themselves.
- The ability to ask for help with questions and situations which confuse the teenager.
- The ability to find friends with supportive values.
These skills are communicated through everyday activities within the family. Parents may wish to consider specific exercises to increase these skills. Parents must also keep the channels of communication open, responding with empathy and information when a teenager seeks advice.
Encouraging School Achievement
Students’ performance in comparison to their peers seems to have a relation with drug behavior according to Dishion. Parents need to make homework and other school objectives a paramount concern.
Some ideas to focus on homework success include:
- Setting up specific times for homework and being available to teens during this time.
- Rewarding successful completion of homework projects.
- Providing discipline for failing to complete homework or projects.
- Contacting teachers and principals to clarify and verify assignments.
Setting Clear Limits about Drugs
Parents need to be very clear about their non-tolerance of drug and alcohol use by their teens. Discipline and punishments should be made clear to the teenager. Education about drug effects and dangers should also be reiterated. Many experts agree that education does not increase drug use, but rather may serve to provide teenagers more reasons to say no.
- Have a no-drug policy at home.
- Address drug dangers and effects with their teens.
- Reflect sober living to their teens.
- React immediately and seriously to any violations of the home’s no drug policy.
- Provide ongoing education to the teenager about drugs, especially those drugs receiving social or media attention.
Parents hold an incredible ability to influence their teens away from drug and alcohol abuse. By teaching teens to hold onto their values in the face of peer pressure, establishing good classroom habits, and providing clear boundaries on drug use, parents play an essential role in preventing drug abuse.
About the author: Nicholas H. Parker
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