Teens, Drinking, and Drugs

Most teens encounter drugs and alcohol. Is your child one of them?

A teen encounters drugs and alcohol

Our culture sends mixed messages about drinking and drugs. Teens are shamed when caught drinking or using. But if they abstain, media and peers act like they’re not normal — like they’re missing all the fun.

To compound the situation, some specialists believe that adoption puts teens at higher risk for addiction. When loss and identity issues associated with adoption adds stress to a teen’s ability to cope, an escape, like alcohol or drugs, can be tempting.

Beyond “Just Say No”

Most American parents took their first drinks while underage. Even so, they are likely to be unaware of their children’s experimentations.

Passivity is passé in an age where binge drinking and addiction are at epidemic proportions. Parents must develop a plan with rehearsed strategies to help their teens refuse drugs and alcohol. My teenaged clients use some of the following reasons:

  • I don’t like the taste.
  • It puts me to sleep.
  • Addictions run in my family.
  • My parents will send me to boarding school.
  • I can’t, I run track. They drug test.
  • My coach would kill me.
  • I won’t be allowed to get my driver’s license.
  • I’ve got a drink! (They can be holding ginger ale.)
  • Why are you pressuring me?
  • What’s your problem?

It is normal for teens to lack long-term thinking. Make certain that they have incentives to avoid drugs and alcohol. Try taking your teen to an Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meeting or to a counselor help him develop a serious perspective.

Address the Topic

People who have two or more risk factors for addiction should not drink socially or take drugs recreationally. Parents whose children may be predisposed to addiction should provide an educational model. If they have parties without alcohol, they help their children who cannot drink.

All teen girls should be warned of their risk of sexual assault if intoxicated. Parents can say, “If you get drunk, you cannot defend yourself. And even if you are not drinking, those who are drinking can hurt you. If you find yourself in a compromising situation, call us. We will pick you up, no questions asked.”

Someone once compared the possibility of alcohol and drug use by an at-risk teen to having an allergy to bee stings: “You can’t prevent the sting, but you can have an emergency plan ready.” This is a sound approach for all parents.


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