Test your knowledge about common teen substance abuse myths and find tips for starting this critical conversation with your children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, substance use
- affects teens’ growth and development (especially of the brain).
- occurs more frequently with other risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex and dangerous driving.
- leads to problems with physical/mental health as an adult.
- increases the risk of developing a substance use disorder as an adult.
Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about teen substance abuse compiled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Myth: It’s a rite of passage. Fact: Well-adjusted teenagers don’t need drugs or alcohol to escape or cope with life. Often, when teens exhibit signs of substance abuse, underlying mental health issues or trauma aren’t being addressed.
Myth: Vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. Fact: Some e-cigarettes contain the same amount of nicotine as an entire box of cigarettes.
Myth: Teens most often obtain prescription drugs from acquaintances or strangers. Fact: Friends or relatives are most often the source of prescription drugs for teens.
Myth: Peer pressure is the main source of increased risk of teens developing a drug problem. Fact: Mental health issues, starting drug use early and genetics are the key factors that increase teens’ risk of drug abuse.
Myth: Marijuana isn’t harmful. Fact: Prior to the1990’s, THC content in cannabis was less than 2%. Today, some popular strains contain as much as 28% THC. This increase causes pronounced withdrawal effects (increased anger, irritability, restlessness, etc.) and increases risk of addiction.
Click here to further test your knowledge about teen substance abuse myths.
Talk With Your Teen
Research shows that parents who discuss substance use prevention and provide strict rules are less likely to have teens who experiment with drugs. Here are some suggestions about how to have this important conversation.
- Plan ahead: Think about the best time/place to talk where there won’t be distractions. Share the plan with your teen so they know what the conversation will entail.
- Set the rules. Providing clear-cut guidelines and limits keeps kids safe. “Absolutely no drug or alcohol use” is much more effective than “It’s okay every now and then.”
- Engage. Describe the reasons that substance use is harmful for teens. Avoid “lecturing” and stick to the facts. Encourage an open dialogue where your teen can feel comfortable asking questions and expressing their feelings.
- Be honest. Determine what you’ll say if your teen asks about your own drinking or drug use in the past. You don’t have to share all the details, but you can explain (whether you did or didn’t use drugs or alcohol) what the experience taught you.
- Consider conditional amnesty: In the service of making safety a top priority, the Child Mind Institute suggests encouraging your teen’s honesty without the usual repercussions. If they’ve been drinking at a party, it’s much better that they call home for a ride than get in the car with another intoxicated teen to hide their drinking.
Talking with your teen about substance abuse is a critical step in prevention. If you haven’t already, what are you waiting for?