07 Jun Educate Teens to Prevent Drug Abuse

Educating teens about the dangers of drug use is the single most effective thing we can do to curb the addiction epidemic our country. Teens are at a much higher risk for developing an addiction than adults would be with the same amount of drug use because they are still in the developmental stage of life. When addictions take root in adolescence, they follow the individual into adulthood where they continue to be a destructive force in their life. In fact, a large number of adults who are struggling with addiction report that they began their substance abuse during their teenage years. If we can prevent drug abuse from occurring among teenagers, it will greatly reduce the number of adults struggling with this disease.

There are several factors that contribute to a teen’s likelihood of using drugs. Some of them include a family history of substance abuse, a traumatic event in their past or present, academic failure, peer pressure, low self esteem, a mental disorder, or a belief that drug abuse is harmless. Any one of these reasons, or a combination of them, can lead a teen down the path of substance abuse.

Community Prevention Programs are Key
Talking to teens candidly about the reasons why they might consider using drugs and making sure they understand the risks involved is the focus of community drug prevention programs. Community programs that address both drug abuse and the issues that underlie drug problems have been shown to reduce the risk of drug use among teens by as much as 20-65%, and this trend continues into adulthood.

Parents Can Lead the Conversation
The drug abuse conversation may be a difficult one for you to begin with your teen, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it altogether. Drug abuse should be an open, ongoing dialogue between you and your teenager because their own pressures and attitudes will change over time. This isn’t a conversation that you should skip or have just once; you should have it often.

The Mayo Clinic suggests the following tips for talking to your teen about drugs:

Be willing to discuss your own experiences. Your teen is probably going to ask you about your own experience with drug use. Be prepared to answer them honestly about why you decided not to use drugs or what the consequences were if you do have a history of drug use.
Ask them their opinion. Find out how your teen feels about drug use, including marijuana, alcohol, and prescription drugs. Take the opportunity to observe their non-verbal cues and listen to what they have to say.
Practice saying “no” through role playing. Help your teen come up with different options for how to turn down friends who offer them drugs. Practice these conversations in the safety of your home so they’ll be ready when real life situations occur.
Be honest about the risks associated with drug use. The point of this conversation is not to scare your child, but it is an opportunity for you to be truthful with them about the life-threatening side effects of drug abuse. Explain to them how drugs affect athletic and academic performance and that the risk for addiction is high for someone their age.

Drug abuse among teens is decreasing somewhat in terms of illegal drugs, but it has been steadily increasing among those who abuse prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Community programs and personal conversations with their parents can help teens to understand that these drugs are just as potentially harmful as illegal drugs. Knowing the risks associated with these drugs has proven to reduce the likelihood of drug abuse among teens.

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