Drug Use & Teens: 5 Crucial Things Every Parent Can Do


The world of recreational drug use is continually changing. While marijuana and alcohol remain go-to choices for many tweens and teens, a new crop of pharmaceuticals (prescribed and over-the-counter) are also harming students. Inhalants such as glue, aerosols, paint and paint thinners are causing trouble, too.

Teens across the nation are using technology — the Internet, text messaging, even Craigslist — to get their hands on some of these dangerous substances. They are all readily available, cheap and reach the brain in record-time, potentially causing brain damage, falls and even death.

Parents often can’t follow the latest dangers as they emerge, though. They may also not be aware (or in denial) that their children are using drugs — shown in the disconnect between what parents think their children are doing and what kids themselves report.

Still, your child is less likely to use drugs if you teach them about the dangers, says Robin Walsh, MA LLP, CAADC, a substance abuse therapist at Henry Ford Maplegrove Center. Here are Walsh’s five strategies to ensure your child steers clear of the dangers:

  1. Get educated. The more you know about the current drug and alcohol climate, the better equipped you’ll be to keep your kids safe. When parents are knowledgeable about drugs — the lingo, the paraphernalia, the ordinary household items kids use to get high — that in itself can be a deterrent, Walsh explains. She recommends connecting with the community coalition in your area, or calling a facility like Henry Ford Maplegrove for information.
  2. Lock up drugs. Dispose of unused or outdated medications and keep current prescription and over-the-counter medications locked in a safe place that isn’t accessible to your kids. Even herbs, vitamins and other supplements should be out of kids’ reach.
  3. Have a conversation. Make sure your child understands the dangers involved in drinking, using recreational drugs and misusing prescription medications. It doesn’t have to be a big, hour-long discussion, but the repercussions of substance abuse should be made clear. Make sure you have accurate information, Walsh says, and be prepared for challenges from your child. Also keep the lines of communication open, so your child feels comfortable coming to you with questions about drugs and alcohol.
  4. Get involved. Research confirms that children are less likely to drink or use drugs when their parents are involved in their lives. “Get to know your child’s friends — and their friends’ parents,” Walsh says. “People sometimes have different views and values.” Kids will experiment and make mistakes. Some may even get into trouble. But a strong support system and parental involvement could separate the child who gracefully navigates adolescent challenges from the child who turns to drugs and alcohol to reconcile difficult emotions.
  5. Random tests. If you have good reason to suspect substance abuse, don’t just blindly accept your child’s assurances to the contrary. Instead, implement random drug checks. “Go to your local drugstore and purchase drug test kits,” Walsh says. Sure, you want to be able to trust your child, but you also have to give them an opportunity to prove that trustworthiness.

Looking for more information about how to help a child or family member with addiction? Learn more about our Community Education classes taught by a substance use education specialist at Henry Ford Maplegrove Center.

Categories: FeelWell