Discusses teen use of alcohol and other harmful or illegal substances. Covers the effects and consequences substance abuse has on a teen's life, including physical and emotional health. Includes info on how to recognize and deal with teen substance abuse.
Substance Abuse: Dealing With Teen Substance Use
Use of alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants,
and other drugs in adolescents is a major concern for parents. Preteens and
teens are starting to use harmful and illegal substances at younger ages. Drinking, smoking, and drug use can affect your child's general health. They can also affect physical growth,
emotional development, and school performance. You can recognize and respond to
substance use by:
Knowing the signs of substance use.
Discussing substance use with your teen.
the right treatment if your teen has an abuse problem.
How to recognize and deal with teen substance abuse
Is your teen using alcohol or drugs?
If you think
your teen may be using substances, look for warning signs. They include:
Signs that suggest substance use. Watch
for a decline in personal appearance. And look for other evidence of substance use, such as
discarded chemical-soaked rags or drug paraphernalia.
peer relationships. Your teen's friends have the greatest effect on whether he or she is using substances.
home behavior that are more severe than expected from teenagers, such as
aggression or withdrawal.
If you think that
your teen has begun to experiment with alcohol or other substances:
Ask about use. Find
out what substances he or she has tried. Talk about what effects the substances had and
how he or she feels about substance use. Listen closely to what your teen
liked about using the substance and why. Your teen will be more likely to be open and truthful with you if the two of you have a close relationship. Ask
your teen about peers who provided drugs and peers with whom your teen used
Share concerns. Talk about your
concerns, not only about drug and alcohol abuse but about other problems that
may be going on. For example, are there issues with school performance?
Review expectations. Talk with your teen about the family
rules concerning substance use. Discuss the consequences of breaking the rules. If
you don't want your teen to use any substances (including cigarettes and
alcohol), make that clear. If you don't have a written plan for dealing with
this issue, write down a plan with your teen.
Ask that he or she stop. Ask your teen to stop, especially if there is a strong family
history of substance abuse or dependence. If your teen stops now, he or she
probably will not develop a substance abuse problem.
Provide drug education. This is an important time to provide
more drug information. You or your doctor may provide this.
Talk about the immediate effects and consequences of using alcohol, inhalants,
cigarettes, and/or other drugs. Don't talk only about long-term health
Is it "getting out of hand"?
Your teen may be
having problems in school, at home, with relationships, or with the law
related to substance use. These difficulties point to a substance abuse problem. If you think
your teen is using any substance regularly or daily—such as alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, or
other drugs—don't ignore it. This use is serious. It should
not be denied or minimized. Frequent or regular use of a substance can quickly
lead to physical or psychological dependence. Or your teen may already be dependent on the substance.
To help your teen:
Investigate. Look for
evidence of your teen's use. Review the information on ways to identify use.
(For more information, see the Is Your Teen Using Alcohol or Drugs? section of
the topic Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse.) If you suspect a specific drug, get
other information about that drug and its effects.
Choose a time. Wait until he or she is not high (intoxicated)
to confront your teen about using a substance. Talking to someone who is high
on drugs or alcohol usually does not work. And it may make the situation
Ask about use. Find out what
substances are being used. Ask how often, in what setting, and where your teen is
getting them. Your teen may be very reluctant to give you all this
Have an evaluation. Talk with a
doctor about an evaluation of your teen's substance use. Your teen may need
treatment. Early treatment may prevent future alcohol and drug use
Get support. You may find it
helpful to join a support group for family members of people with
alcohol use problems, such as Al-Anon. There are Al-Anon meetings specifically
for parents. These meetings include discussions about family effects from
alcohol and other substance use. Substance abuse is a family disease. All
family members are affected by it, and they need some form of help to change
the ways they react to the person who abuses substances.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.