Parents of adolescents face a tough dilemma about substance use: we may want our children to be abstinent, but what do we do if they are not? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to successful dialogue with teens about substance use, but these principles may be helpful. As adults we very much want to impart as much wisdom as we can to help young people avoid the same mistakes that we made. But, it is probably more useful to draw out their innate curiosity and encourage them to seek out answers on their own. In response to what your child says, use nonjudgmental reflective statements to make sure she feels listened to, then follow up with a question.
Here are some of the signs to watch out for. Help them learn to make responsible choices. As much as you can, avoid the tough love approach. And you want to keep them physically and emotionally safe. Partner with them to guide your teen. Their brain at that age makes them impulsive and more likely to make risky decisions. Be clear and say, drugs are not something we do in our family.
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Psych Central. Other behaviors that teens find pleasurable, such as playing sports, listening to music or socializing, cause small dopamine releases. Drkgs those teens, Parents of teens on drugs brain associates drug use with such positive rewards that the dopamine release caused by other activities no longer causes happiness. Treatment for addiction takes many forms and depends on the needs of the individual. To accept that they are addicted will make it difficult for them to continue doing what feels so good. United Kingdom: Adfam. Last modified: May 29, It may be painful but it works. The goal is to get the teenager Private tutor for spanish agree to visit a doctor or addiction specialist. Other People.
It is not uncommon for teenagers to try drugs or drink alcohol in their teenage years.
- Drug use can happen in any family, to great kids with great parents.
- Experimenting and rebellion are hallmarks of the teenage years that sometimes lead to drug and alcohol use.
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- You will also find information on spotting the signs and symptoms of substance use and hotlines for immediate assistance.
- That may be the reason a small percentage of teenagers try drugs and alcohol today, but the dangerous trend is not that simple or one-sided.
- There is no single reason why teenagers use drugs or alcohol.
Drug use can happen in any family, to great kids with great parents. The happiest, strongest, most connected and loving families can find themselves one day having to deal with teenage drug use. If your teen is using drugs, you need to know that this is not a reflection on your parenting or your teen. The same brain that can lead to experimentation with drugs is likely to be creative, curious, intelligent, and beautifully open to the possibilities that exist outside the box. The world will always need these types of people.
They are our innovators, our explorers, and our entrepreneurs. They are our inventors, our creators, and our discoverers. As with anything though, the difference between flourishing and falling can come down to one moment, or one bad decision. Falling is part of growing up. Sometimes the falls can be frightening, but awareness is key — awareness of the signs that a fall is happening, has happened, or is about to happen, and awareness of how to break it.
So — this post is a bit of a lengthy one, but it has been organised to make it easy to jump to the parts that are relevant for you. The information is something that all parents should be aware of. Whether or not you have a teen who is using, it is very likely that your child will be directly or indirectly exposed to drugs at some point throughout their adolescence. There are a few ways this could happen. When it comes to drugs, parents and children become giant slayers.
The best armour is the right information. This post contains the information you need to be a step ahead. Teens are particularly vulnerable to addiction for a few reasons. The first is that their brains are wired to encourage risk-taking, courage, discovery, exploration, and a greater reach into the world.
Some teens will be more wired towards this than others, but the potential will be there in all of them. The second reason all teens are vulnerable is because their brains are at a critical point of development. Think of it like a bridge that is in the middle of construction.
If that bridge is exposed to traffic before it is completed, it will break, sometimes irreparably. Teen brains are in the process of forming billions of new connections — bridges — between brain cells and between parts of the brain. If these are stressed at critical times, the damage can be devastating and will make it more difficult for a healthy adult brain to form. The critical period will last until they are about 24 years old.
All teens have brains that are wired to encourage them to take risks , to be curious and brave, and to stretch beyond what is familiar. This is a hugely important part of them growing up to be healthy, strong adults.
Teens are also wired to focus more on the potential positives of a situation and less on the negatives. This is normal, and in the right situations, will support their courage and flourishing and expansion into the world as they make their way to adulthood. It is through taking risks that they learn new capabilities and new strengths, but of course, the line between healthy exploration and risky behaviour can be fine enough to fit through the eye of a need no trouble at all.
Know that if you have discovered your teen is using drugs, you are NOT alone. Addiction happens over time. In the history of humans, there would not be a single one who started using drugs expecting that it would become an addiction. In fact, the more that addiction sets in, the more a person will protect themselves from that realisation with a hefty dose of denial. To accept that they are addicted will make it difficult for them to continue doing what feels so good. Their brains will work harder to convince them that they can give it up at any time.
Brains are clever and cunning like that. One of the best ways to empower and protect your teen is to give them the information they need. Here is what your teen needs to know. Addiction is something that happens in the brain. It can happen to anyone. The brain mechanism underlying addiction is in all of us. Some people will be more vulnerable to addiction than others, but we are all vulnerable.
They trigger a more intense, quicker, and more reliable feeling of pleasure. Addictive drugs can release two to ten times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards, like food or being with friends do. Because of this, over time, the drug become more sought after and more important than other things that used to feel good.
The feel-good only comes with time and effort that is directed towards obtaining the reward. Drugs shortcut this. Drugs flood the brain with dopamine and other neurochemicals, but without the effort. Think of it like turning down the volume when a stereo is blasting. Withdrawal feels awful. The need for the drug becomes even more desperate, to stop the emotional and physiological symptoms of withdrawal.
Just to clear something up. Marijuana is one of the most commonly used illicit substances and there is hot debate over whether or not it is addictive. According to the Harvard Medical School, researchers are now realising that many regular marijuana experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using marijuana, such as craving, reduced appetite, sleep problems, weight loss, and sometimes anger, aggression, irritability and restlessness.
Because of this, they fit the criteria for addiction. Whether or not a substance is addictive is irrelevant. As well as the known behavioural , psychological, physical and lifestyle changes that come with regular drug use or addiction, regular weekly use of marijuana has been found to contribute to cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, diminished IQ and symptoms of depression and anxiety, and risk for schizophrenia and psychosis. Other than that, fine. Think about it this way.
But people can and do become addicted. Now that we can see inside the brain, we know that all sorts of substances and activities can change the circuitry of the brain and become addictive. There are so many factors involved in the flourishing of an addiction. Anything that adds to that feeling will increase the chances of a substance becoming addictive. The Harvard Medical School notes that the social and environmental context in which someone uses a drug will have an influence on the way someone experiences the drug.
The release of hormones or neurochemicals that make an experience more pleasurable, will add to the potential of that substance or activity becoming an addictive one. Drugs are highly addictive, and more likely to cause addiction because they have direct access to the reward centres of the brain and can very quickly cause changes that lead to addiction.
Occasional use or experimenting can quickly spiral into drug abuse or addiction. Here are some of the signs to watch out for. Many of these will just be a normal part of being a teenager and each of them separately can be explained by something other than drugs.
They might also be a sign of a bigger problem. The main things to be wary of are changes from what you have come to know as normal for your teen, or when you see more of these signs starting to emerge. It is understandable that you might want to take a tough love approach, but the potential for this to drive your teen further into a drug culture is enormous.
The more you criticise or judge your teen, the more they will move away from you and towards the people who really understand them — their drug buddies.
It always starts out as a one-off. One moment. One decision. One inhale. One drag. One pill. One go. Nobody starts out intending for it to be the beginning of something bigger. And nobody expects to lose control. If your teen is a regular user, he or she is an important money maker for someone. If they are an occasional user, they represent great potential to that someone.
Your teen will be getting his or her supply from someone — a dealer — and it is in the interests of that dealer to make sure your teen keeps coming back for more. If you suspect your teen is using regularly, name the possibility that the dealer might entice them to try something harder.
They never intended for you to find out, not to be deceptive, but because they never wanted to disappoint you. Let them know that you believe in them and that you understand how easily this can happen.
Initially, there will be more reasons for them to lie than there will be for them to tell the truth. For them to give up the information you need, they need to trust that you can deal with it. Let them know that there is nothing they can say or do that will get them into trouble. This is about responding to the situation and guiding them, not punishing them for it. There is a complicated matrix that comes with drug use. The experience is never just about the drug. Use of a drug often comes with a whole sub-culture of its own — new relationships, new feelings of pleasure and power, relief from uncomfortable feelings or pain.
Drug use can happen in any family. No family is immune and it is ignorant and arrogant to think otherwise.
Many of these will just be a normal part of being a teenager and each of them separately can be explained by something other than drugs. One decision. Put the focus on their choices and their responsibility for their actions and the consequences that come from that. Get cost-effective, quality addiction care that truly works. When you talk about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs, emphasize the negative side effects that can result from substance abuse.
Parents of teens on drugs. Learn About Teen Drug Use
Teenagers and drugs and alcohol | Family Lives
Our goal is to raise our children to become successful, responsible adults prepared to thrive in a world full of challenges. Certainly, one of the most important things they must know is how to manage life with a clear mind, free of drugs and substances. The reassuring news is that, as a result, most young people are substance free.
Yet, too many young people still experiment with and ultimately use, substances. Although they hear messages about harm, they are also exposed to the hype that paints mind-altering substances as exciting. They are surrounded by marketing messages that suggest cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs make you more popular, attractive, edgy, cool, and mature.
They bring fleeting pleasures, loosen inhibitions, and offer temporary escapes. For these reasons, telling teens what not to do will never be enough. We must prepare them with the knowledge and skill-sets to use safe and wise alternatives that offer the same benefits. We must show them what to do. Young people rely on parents and other caring adults to shape their views more than they rely on peers, the media, or even school.
We must step up and fill our vital role. These critical conversations may not be easy to have, but no one can replace you. The more comfortable you are, the more easily your child will come to you as they encounter real-world pressures. One way of increasing your comfort level is to know the facts. There are a variety of well-regarded, accurate, resources , that will teach you how to offer the right kind of information to young people. Your values. Your community. Your life experiences — mistakes, and all.
Know what feels emotionally safe for you. If your own history involves decisions you regret or situations that are emotionally hard to revisit, your discussions may be more complicated.
Give yourself a break. Talk about things you can. Involve others co-parent, grandparent, friends to talk about things you have trouble with. Professionals like teachers, counselors, doctors, and nurses, are well-versed in these topics. Partner with them to guide your teen.
Even young children need to learn about the importance of healthy bodies, clear minds, and how to manage stress in positive ways. Older children need to understand the concept of addiction — that nobody chooses it, it creeps up on you, and can happen to anyone.
Ongoing conversations are opportunities to clarify values and think through how to make decisions. Last-minute conversations can feel like they come from a place of fear or mistrust. Our teens may misinterpret them as controlling. Because young people rebel against control, your efforts can backfire. When that happens, emphasize the why. You love them. And you want to keep them physically and emotionally safe. These carefully crafted messages often glorify substance use, overemphasize fun, and connect substances with maturity.
You must. You do. Teens value our guidance when it prepares them to safely and wisely navigate the world. They reject it when it strays into their personal business. This is tricky because you need to prepare your teen to navigate the peer world. Instead, keep the conversation about friends and peer pressure general and frame it around safety. When you discuss it in that context, you are much more likely to be seen as protecting rather than controlling them.
Listen to what your tweens and teens have to say about substances. They likely know more than you think they do. Listening is the key to getting teens to talk to us. Fewer words coming from us often means more coming from them. Young people ask questions to get trusted information or clarification. Questions are good. Sometimes they are just curious or have heard others talking about it.
Be factual in the responses you offer. What did you take away from what I said? Stories about people other than themselves or their friends allow teens to more comfortably ask or answer questions.
Marketing efforts, ranging from billboards to magazines to television or internet ads offer critical opportunities for substance abuse prevention.
Even when obligatory warnings are included, these advertisements have one objective, to create the next generation of new smokers, drinkers or users.
They offer images of everything we hope to be — attractive, popular, forever young but also mature. One of the most protective things we can offer teens is an explanation of how marketing works.
With that explanation comes an understanding that encourages our teens to not take things at face value. As we view these advertisements alongside our teens, we can ensure they have a balanced view of the realities of substance use. Click here to learn which behaviors require clear boundaries. Parents should establish firm expectations about substance use. Discussions should address topics like legality, safety, and potential consequences for using different substances.
Teens must be aware of parental expectations about driving. Topics to address include wearing a seatbelt, prohibiting driving while under the influence, banning texting while driving, and understanding what to do if stopped by the police. Make sure you clearly communicate them to your teen. Teens should know what you expect and what consequences they face for breaking rules. But this can push them away. Sometimes when we try to warn them of the danger of drugs, it turns into a hysterical rant or a lecture.
This may lead them to the very behavior we fear. Lectures backfire because they tend to be too abstract and present complicated or sometimes scary consequences.
We also tend to lecture during heated moments — but our anger and fear is all our teens experience. We must learn to offer the same information in a way that allows teens to take it in and come up with their own conclusions.
That way, they are more likely to follow the solutions. A starting point is to engage and discuss rather than preach and demand. Help them learn to make responsible choices. Make it clear that the intention is to keep them safe and moral. This helps them understand the whys. Why you are giving them guidance and why boundaries are in place. Our culture associates substances with fun. You are going against the tide of carefully crafted marketing messages.
So alongside anti-drug messages, we must also support healthy, social activities. On another level, much of substance use has nothing to do with fun.
It is used to escape from intense feelings. To let go. To manage stress. Acknowledge these realities and support teens to choose healthy coping strategies that allow them to escape.
And they work — sometimes too well. It is because substances can offer quick, easy fixes, that they can lead to addiction. They may relieve stress in the short run but can generate much greater stress and other threats to our well-being in the long run.
Parents must offer tweens and teens healthy strategies to manage stress. You can encourage them to plan ahead — we offer a comprehensive stress management plan that guides teens to come up with their own healthy ways to manage stress.
As importantly, you can model healthy stress management for them while reaping the health benefits for yourself. You are not alone. The most highly effective parents work in partnership with other trusted adults to create a multi-layered blanket of protection for their adolescents. Even in families with comfortable and open communication, adolescents still benefit from reinforcing guidance from other adults. Parents are irreplaceable in setting clear expectations, while professionals may more comfortably offer specific messages about health and safety.
In the event that you suspect that your child may have a problem with substances , it is critical to turn early to professional guidance. Teach your child that seeking help is an act of strength. Teens say, parents, not friends, influence their values more than anyone — but only if their parents effectively communicate.