How to Prevent Addiction in Teens
How to Prevent Addiction in Teens

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Authored by Sarah Lockwood. She submitted this article to support healthy community norms for the town she grew up in, Reno NV.

The teenage years are a common time to begin experimenting with drugs. As a parent, it can be worrisome to think your child may fall in with a bad crowd and start to abuse drugs and alcohol. Though addiction is not always 100% preventable, there are certain steps you can take to either prevent drug use or catch it early enough to seek help. Here are a few of the best ways to prevent addiction in teens.

Open Lines of Communication

The most important aspect of a parent-child relationship is trust. Kids who feel safe confiding in their parents are more likely to talk about controversial topics such as drug use. If you respond negatively when your child chooses to confide in you, they will learn that it is not safe to come to you when they need help or advice.
You must cultivate a calm, supportive demeanor for the times your child needs your help and teach them that it is okay for them to talk to you. This will make it more likely for your child to tell you when they are experimenting with drugs or if they have already become addicted.
In extreme cases, a negative reaction can result in your child running away. Teenage runaways are even more likely to become addicted and are also harder to help. Once the parent-child trust has been broken, it can be extremely difficult to repair, particularly if the teen flees the home.

Avoid Use of Scare Tactics

Overblowing the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse is likely to have the opposite of the desired effect. The teen is likely to find these tactics absurd, therefore taking drug abuse less seriously than they should. In the age of the Internet, access to information is just a click away, and your teen will find out that you are lying in an attempt to control them.
If you want your kids to avoid drug use, be upfront and truthful. Do your research, find an unbiased source, and offer them facts about common drugs and the consequences of abuse.
You may also want to provide information about any applicable family history of addiction. A well-informed child is more likely to make better-informed decisions about drug experimentation than a child who has been manipulated by scare tactics.

Teach Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Though recreational drugs are very common among teens, drug use as a coping mechanism is also unfortunately common. Teens who are struggling with bullying, self-image, identity, or any number of personal crises are likely to rely on unhealthy coping methods if they have not been taught healthy outlets.
Though some teens may need the help of a counselor, knowing how to cope is a necessary skill. Teach your children to talk about their problems clearly and without shame.
They should also have a few activities they can turn to during times of stress. Things like exercise, drawing, and reading are good ways for teens to handle the stress of adolescence without feeling the need to turn to substance abuse.
Factors such as gender identity, sexuality, economic status, and family history greatly influence a teen’s risk for addiction. However, fostering open communication, utilizing facts, and teaching healthy outlets can benefit all teens regardless of risk factors.
If your child does become addicted to a substance, remain supportive and calm. Get them the help they need while keeping these tips in mind. Even during the recovery process, they can be great ways to keep your child’s life on track.

Sarah Lockwood is a concerned parent and former social worker. Having worked with the public for decades and after watching her own daughter struggle with addiction, Sarah knows all too well the devastation that can be caused by drug and alcohol abuse. Sarah’s daughter is now in recovery, but her experiences with substance abuse inspired her to get involved with She plans to spread awareness and support through her work for others dealing with addiction. While Sarah devotes a lot of time to the Coalition, she makes sure to relax and enjoy the small things in life, as every day is a gift.

About the Author

Reno Sparks Neighborhoods consists of volunteers who team up with other groups in person and use the cloud to collaborate on community building projects.

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