We have pulled the best available concepts and evidence-based strategies. Keep in mind there is no “one size fits all” method for dealing with teens that have drug problems. Each family should trust their instincts and decide for themselves what is the best approach.
Click on the resources below for more information:
Parents are the biggest influence in a teen’s life. That’s why it’s important to talk regularly with your teen.
- Teens who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use drugs than those who don't.
Even as teens, children care about what parents say.
- One of the key reasons teens choose not to use drugs is because they know their parents don’t approve of it.
Express a no-use attitude.
- Children whose parents have a positive attitude toward drug use are five times more likely to use by 8th grade.
- Since teenagers who use drugs (marijuana specifically) often start by age 14, parents should start an ongoing conversation about drugs by 4th or 5th grade.
- Be clear and specific about your family expectations about drug use.
Practice non-judgmental listening & curiosity.
- Keep an open mind. Ask your teen what they think about drugs, what they’ve heard about them, and what they’ve noticed about drug use in the media or their community. This will allow you to learn what your kids already know — and what they don’t. Listen to their answers, and then add your insights.
- Taking care of yourself is critically important to helping effectively and helping for the long term. Having a child struggling with drug use is incredibly stressful, and has the capacity to wear everyone down, losing your patience, balance, and resilience. To learn how to care for yourself, check out this self-care guide in English & Spanish.
Why some teens use
The reasons why teens use drugs vary person-to-person. Knowing what, in particular, your teen gets from using drugs provides clues about what could happen instead. The more you know about what’s going on with your teens, the more likely it is that you'll be able to help them explore healthier alternatives and keep them on track. Even more important, understanding your child’s behavior instead of just being upset about it can help them feel understood, which will make him more likely to collaborate on a plan for change.
To learn more about why some teens use drugs check out this short tip sheet, The Real Reasons Teens Use Drugs, written by developmental psychologist Diana Divecha, Ph.D.
Signs to Watch For
Figuring out if your child is using drugs can be challenging. Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior, such as carelessness with grooming, mood changes, and relationship problems with family members and friends. In addition, changes in grades, skipping school, lost interest in favorite activities, and changes in eating or sleeping habits could all be related to drug use. Many of the signs and symptoms are typical teen or young adult behavior. Many are also symptoms of mental health issues, including depression or anxiety.