High school years are a time of self-discovery and exploration – a reality with both a positive and a negative side.
While it is important for any developing person to explore who they are, what they like and who they want to be, it can come at a costly price when said exploration includes diving into substance use.
Peer pressure plays a huge role in high school culture, and often is a leading reason for why a teen begins using substances in the first place. Parents during this time play a crucial role in educating their kids about the dangers of substance use, as well as encouraging them to stand strong in saying no when substances are offered.
How common is teen drug abuse?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one in 16 high school seniors use marijuana on a daily basis; the CDC reports alcohol to be the most commonly used substance among high school students. Additionally, many high school students experiment with — or regularly use — a variety of other drugs, including heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, hallucinogens and prescription drugs.
While the number of teens using drugs is thankfully in decline overall, there is a corresponding decrease in the number of students who regard using these substances as harmful. It is important for parents to address this issue. If teenagers do not realize the extent of the danger of using drugs or abusing alcohol, they are more likely to experiment with these substances if given the opportunity.
Substance abuse education
In order for parents to appropriately educate their kids, it’s important that they themselves also have a strong understanding of substance abuse. There are many excellent resources parents can use to educate themselves about drug and alcohol abuse, from webinars provided by the school to educational articles on the internet. Websites like Mayo Clinic, SAFE Project and SAMSHA provide useful information free of charge. There are also many government websites with valuable information and statistics.
Additionally, many treatment centers offer educational classes. These can include classes for parents whose children are abusing drugs or alcohol, as well as classes to provide a more general overview of drugs and alcohol and the hazards they pose for young people. Enrolling in these classes whether or not you suspect your child is abusing substances can help you feel more prepared and educated if the need to intervene ever arises.
Parents should be able to answer any questions their children may have about substance use. Teenagers will often be savvy about the properties of various drugs, but they are also prone to believing a lot of misinformation. When discussing substances with their parents, they may be dismissive of any dangers related to drug or alcohol use. While talking, affirm whatever correct information they offer, but always steer them towards the reality that drugs are dangerous no matter what, and underage drinking comes with severe consequences.
The risk of addiction – even for teens
People who use drugs or alcohol expose themselves to the risk of becoming addicted. If teenagers are made aware of the damage addiction can cause, that may help to discourage them from experimenting.
Addiction can become the driving force in any teenager’s life. When that happens, teenagers risk mental and physical illness. Their performance at school is likely to decline, or they may drop out altogether. A significant number will end up in trouble with the police. Crimes associated with addiction include theft, violent behavior and driving under the influence.
When we’re young, we don’t often think about the future impact our current choices will have. Teens who experiment with or abuse substances while they are young are more at risk for developing a substance abuse disorder or addiction in the future. While it can be hard for them to envision, assure your teen that the choices they make today will have an impact on their life in the future.
Talking with your teenagers
It is important to structure any conversation about drugs or alcohol as a peer-to-peer conversation. Teenagers will generally not respond well to lectures, so make sure you engage them in a discussion. Ask for their opinions and do not be dismissive of feedback. An open discussion is going to affect them more deeply than a lesson, and your teen will be more impacted by your choice to talk with them as an equal than as a parent chastising their child.
While it is okay to point out the dangers, it is not very helpful to concentrate on these. Try to get your teenager to understand how using substances will interfere with the things that they find important. If your teen asks a question that you cannot answer, do some research with them at that moment – it’ll unite the two of you as a team, and enhance your bond against battling substances.
Also, address the fact that your teenager will have to deal with peer pressure. Talk with them about that, and ask if they feel prepared to handle it if necessary. Come up with a plan your teen will utilize when faced with peer pressure. Tell them you’ll be holding them accountable, asking if the strategies the two of you developed are working.
Above all, let your teenager know you are always there to offer support.
Looking for resources or help for teen drug use?
Whether you need a treatment center for teen addiction treatment, want a counselor for yourself to help guide you through these times or simply want to enroll in an educational class to learn more about prevention strategies, High Focus Centers is here to help.
To learn more about our programs and the ways we address teen addiction, contact us by calling our offices at 800-877-3628 to get in touch with someone today.