Talking to your teenager about drugs can be a daunting task. Being proactive is one of the most important steps to preventing teenage drug use. While many parents of teens come for a generation who participated in the D.A.R.E. program, helping teens avoid drugs and preventing addiction often requires more than just saying no, as the D.A.R.E. program had encouraged.

Whether or not you suspect your teenager is using drugs, it’s important to talk to them about drugs. Here are five tips for talking to your teenager about drug use.

1. Don’t wait until you think your child has been exposed to drugs.

As mentioned above, being proactive is an important part of preventing drug use and the possibility of addiction. Don’t wait until you suspect that your teenager has been exposed to drugs or given the opportunity to use drugs.

First, it’s important to note that many children are exposed to drugs in some way before they even become teenagers. Whether they have older siblings or other relatives or are hearing about them in school or seeing them in movies, children are being exposed in middle and elementary school settings.

Getting ahead of the problem can make a big impact on preventing substance abuse.

2. Approach it as a health concern.

teenage drug abuseTry to refrain from condemning drug users or those with an addiction. Approach the topic of addiction as a health concern, similar to how you’d discuss diabetes or exercise. Be honest with your child and use real-life examples when possible.

If a history of addiction or mental illness runs in your family, it can be beneficial to share this with your teenager. Explain to them the increased risks for addiction when there is family history of mental illness or addiction.

3. Find ways to positively reinforce not using drugs.

Find ways to positively reinforce not using drugs. For example, many teenagers may believe that “everyone is doing it,” and this can contribute to the pressure to use drugs. However, research shows that the majority of their peers are actually not doing drugs, smoking tobacco, or using alcohol. Have open discussions with your teenager about the benefits of being drug free.

4. Have clear consequences.

Even if you never anticipate your child doing drugs, it’s important that they understand the consequences if they do. For some families, a formal written contract between the parents and teenager may be appropriate. Even if you do not use a written contract, it’s important to make sure that your consequences are clear before they ever need to be used.

5. Don’t wait to confront problems.

If you think your teenager may be using drugs, don’t wait to confront the problem. Even if you’re not sure but are worried your teenager has been exposed or is thinking about using drugs, it’s important to tackle the issue head on. Don’t wait.

While some people who use drugs as teenagers will quit when they’re adults, this isn’t always the case. The younger someone is when they begin using the drugs, the higher the chance that they will develop an addiction problem. While initially using drugs may be a conscious choice, once someone is addicted it becomes less and less so.

What if they’re already addicted?

If your teenager has an addiction problem, there are a variety of treatment options available. Many teens suffering from addiction benefit from inpatient therapy at a rehabilitation facility. Some of the benefits of inpatient therapy programs include:

  • Supervised detoxification.
  • Group therapy and individual therapy.
  • Controlled medication administration, if needed.

To determine what the appropriate approach for your teen is, you’ll want to have a drug addiction specialist assess their needs. After their needs are assessed, the specialist will likely be able to help you find a program that’s right for them.

Signs of drug abuse in teens.

If you’re not sure if your teen is abusing drugs, remember that it’s better to approach these concerns head on. However, here are some signs that may indicate your teen is abusing drugs.

  • Behavior, mood, and personality changes such as apathy, irritability, or withdrawal.
  • Physical changes such as bloodshot eyes, sudden weight gain/loss, poor hygiene, and/or nose bleeds.
  • Possession of paraphernalia.

No family is immune to the effects of drugs and substance abuse. Teenagers can be especially vulnerable. It’s important that parents are confronting problems head on, being proactive, and talking to their children early about drugs and addiction. If your child is already suffering from addiction, and inpatient treatment center such as Centered Health can help them overcome their addiction.