If you’re a parent who has struggled with addiction in the past, then you know the danger of substance use. And if you recall your adolescence, then you might also recognize the risks your teen faces. If you want to help prevent addiction in your teen, here are three ways to do so:
Model abstinence and/or responsible drinking: No matter the age or gender, drinking and drug use can eventually lead to an addiction. Although this doesn’t happen for everyone, the choice to drink or use drugs inherently comes with risk of developing one. And as parents, you are modeling all sorts of patterns. Specifically, your relationship to alcohol or substances will likely be noticed and perhaps mimicked by your child. Learning to model positive choices towards medication, alcohol, and other substances can facilitate the prevention of addiction in your teen.
Support your teen’s psychological health: When teens struggle with stress or symptoms of mental illness, they tend to be more vulnerable to the use of drugs and drinking. In fact, one study found that the moods and mental health of adolescent females have a direct influence on their choice to drink or use illicit substances. “Parents can help prevent alcohol and drug abuse,” said CEO of Partnership for a Drug-Free America Steve Pasierb, “by recognizing and addressing their daughter’s worries and stresses, by supporting her positive decisions and by taking immediate action if they suspect or know she has been experimenting with drugs and alcohol.” A psychological dependence is the need for a particular substance because it causes enjoyable mental effects. Over time, if a teen continues to rely upon substances to feel better, he or she may lose their power over that drug. Yet, parents, mental health professionals, and educators can encourage their teens to use coping tools and engage in health practices that benefit their overall well being so a teen doesn’t feel tempted to use substances to feel better.
Teach your teen how to have fun without substances: One of the biggest influences of substance use among teens is the idea that getting drunk or high creates a fun experience that they otherwise couldn’t have. In fact, one study found that 34% of male adolescents agreed with the statement “parties are more fun with drugs”. According to the study, teen boys use drugs to help themselves socially relax and have fun. For the most part, teens want to know that they belong and that they are accepted by their peers. If you want to help them avoid peer pressure to drink, give your teen and a few their friends an experience they can enjoy without alcohol or drugs. For instance, you might take them hiking, camping, shopping, or on a road trip.
It’s clear that substance abuse among teens puts them at risk. If you’re a parent or caregiver who suspects substance use in your teen, consider the above suggestions. You might also talk to your teen about their behavior as well as seek the support of a mental health provider.