Do not be the carer who thinks it will not happen to your teen until it’s too late. It is essential to be aware of and prevent teen substance abuse because prevention is better than a cure.
Over 30% of 8th-12th Graders reported illicit drug use in 2021. Although this is a decrease from previous years, it still highlights the importance of preventing teen drug use.
Part of the reason the numbers of illicit drug use have dropped in teens is drug and alcohol availability during the pandemic. This drop will most likely be temporary, which is why it is important to take an active role in preventing your teenager from engaging in substance abuse.
Choosing where to begin to understand how to prevent teenage substance abuse can be overwhelming. The good news is that you can reduce the risk with some guidance and resources.
It can feel confusing as a carer to know why teenagers develop alcohol and drug dependence. There are several reasons why teens can use or misuse drugs and alcohol.
Some common risk factors include:
There is no one reason why teenagers engage in alcohol and drug use. Availability and predisposing factors such as family history are common risk factors. Peer pressure can also negatively experience teens if they do not have the correct information or confidence to make their own informed choices.
Low self-esteem, mental health, and behavioral health conditions can also increase the risk of a teenager developing a dependence on substances. One in seven 10-19-year-olds globally experience a mental health disorder, and this number continues to rise. Sometimes teenagers who are struggling with mental health disorders use substances as escapism or to self-medicate.
If you presume that teen drug and alcohol use is just a phase, it can lead to alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence, and alcohol dependence. Developing these dependencies as a teenager can impact their entire lives.
Some of the short term and long term consequences include:
It is important to recognize the ramifications of teen substance abuse. Your teen’s brain is still developing, so any substance abuse can interfere, causing lasting impact. It is better to prevent substance abuse in the first place.
There are also some severe consequences of drug usage in teens. There are over 4,700 overdose deaths in ages 15-24 annually. When teenagers do not have the right educational tools, they can accidentally overdose or not test a drug’s content, which could have a mix of harmful chemicals.
The good news is that teens who learn about drug use from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs than those who do not. There are several ways to open the conversation and reduce the risk of this risky behavior. Although you cannot guarantee they will not try drugs or alcohol, you can reduce the chance of misuse and increase the likelihood of making informed choices.
Make sure you are aware of teen drug use trends before discussing substances. It is best ot give informed information and to know what to focus on. Focusing on the current drug trends may be a good place to start.
Common substances teens abuse include:
The most common substances are alcohol and marijuana. However, these pose many risks and can lead to them exploring other addictive substances. Once a teen starts to experiment with drugs they may have an even deeper drug dependence. Taking the time to read educational tools can help you prepare for conversations with teens.
For many who suffer from mental disorders, it is not uncommon to use certain substances to self-medicate. Disorders like PTSD or anxiety create symptoms that lead to psychoactive drug use.
This can lead to a cycle of addiction. As your tolerance builds, you will need to use more of any substance to maintain the same effect. Eventually, it can be difficult to relieve symptoms of mental illness.
Likewise, addiction and substance abuse can heighten mental disorders. Substance use and mental illness affect the same parts of the brain. Thus, drug use can change brain function and lead to the development of mental illness.
Substance use can intensify the symptoms of mental illnesses such as anxiety, schizophrenia, and mood disorders.
Sometimes there is advice that you should monitor your teen’s whereabouts at all times. This can be problematic unless there is already a safety issue or drug dependence to monitor.
A better place to begin is to encourage open communication about where they plan to go. You cannot guarantee they will tell you the truth, but it helps you monitor what they are up to in a way that remains healthy and does not encourage them to hide from you.
When they are certain ages, you can monitor their social media accounts and set boundaries for specific locations they plan to go to. If you create a safe home environment where they have their own space, they are also more likely to spend time there.
It is possible to have an open relationship but have boundaries. An open relationship without boundaries can quickly become unhealthy. Teens need boundaries because they are at a time of their life when everything seems chaotic, and they are trying to find their own identity.
If you are caring and explain why you have certain rules in place, it makes for a much more pleasant home environment. Be consistent with rule enforcement, and be clear about why you have the rules in place. Focus on the fact you want your teens to remain healthy and safe.
Teenagers can have a sense of strength and immunity that is as awe-inspiring as it is risky. Sometimes it is hard for them to understand why alcohol and drug use is dangerous if they do not know the consequences.
Take the time to explain drug use consequences to your teenagers, including legal and health consequences. Ideally, do this when they are younger and in an educational way. The best way to educate them is with facts not to just incite fear.
An even better way to teach your teen about substance abuse consequences is to find some educational resources, documentaries, or social media accounts that back up your information in an accessible way. You can even consider taking them to volunteer in an environment to see the impact of substance abuse.
A teenager that feels isolated and spends a lot of time on their phone can quickly disengage with the world. While it is important they have alone time and independence; they also should feel seen by their family.
Allocate time to spend together as a family by doing fun activities like getting outside in nature or sitting down to have dinner together. Family time together could even look like a weekly family meeting where everyone gives an update on their weeks.
Family time is the time to ensure your child feels seen. This time can be spent learning more about their lives, interests, and friends. Another benefit is it can help them spend some time away from their room or take their mind of pressures such as schooling.
Your teen is an interesting and unique individual that is growing into an adult and discovering their idenitity. They may become distant and agitated sometimes, but this is a part of growing up.
Although your teen may be difficult at times, you can still show you care and are genuinely interested in their life. Start by asking about their passions and hobbies, such as what music they are into, what video games they are playing, or how their favorite sports team is doing. By showing interest, you also are showing how you respect them and their lives. This can encourage mutual respect between you and your teen.
Teenagers often feel overwhelmed with the amount of emotional and physical changes they go through. Teens often desire to be independent and are at a crossroads before adulthood. Drug use is often a risk as they seek ways to escape, forget, and manage emotions.
Take the time to provide teens with healthy ways to manage emotions. They might not resonate with all techniques, but even one approach can make a huge difference:
Many different tools can help everyone manage emotions. You might also find a tool that can help you. Something as small as running your wrists under cold water or jumping up and down on the spot can help regulate emotion.
Avoiding and numbing emotions can lead to negative consequences. Providing a safe space for your teen to express their emotions can be beneficial in them being open and honest with you. To help teens better understand their emotions, educate them on anger and show them tools such as the anger iceberg.
If you have a daughter, you can spend time educating them about their menstruation and normalizing this change. It can be incredibly powerful if they feel empowered and understand their cycle instead of feeling confused or ashamed.
These techniques will help you prevent drug use without being overbearing or pushing your teen away. However, there also comes a time when it becomes important to recognize that it is too late for prevention, and your teen needs professional help.
If you are educated on teen substance abuse, you can identify some early warning signs of drug abuse. Although it is tempting to stay in denial or believe you can manage drug use yourself, it is better to get professional help if you believe your teen has a substance abuse issue. Please reach out to Costa Mesa Rehab & Detox Center and we can help you find a treatment program for your teen.
Safe & Sound Treatment does not treat people under the age of 18 years old, but we would be happy to get you in touch with a facility that does.