Alcohol and drug abuse can have a major impact on the lives of individuals, and for those in their teenage years, consuming these substances can lead to a wide range of short- and long-term problems.
As the parent of a teen, it may not be possible to keep your child shielded away from these substances. Nevertheless, you can take some steps to ensure your teen doesn’t fall trap to these evils!
Read on to know how you can prevent your teen from substance abuse or help him overcome addiction.
Understand the Reasons for Substance Abuse
Adolescents start consuming alcohol and drugs due to a number of reasons. Knowing and understanding them will help you take better control of the situation, and also prevent your teen from falling into the trap in the first place.
One of the main reasons teens start consuming alcohol and/or drugs is because adolescence is a developmental stage and teens are more than eager to take risks, experiment, and test boundaries during this period. Here are some other reasons why teens take to alcohol and drugs:
- Seeing a lot of people around them – adults and other teens – consume alcohol and drugs can lead them to believe that it’s okay to do so.
- Peer pressure can cause teens to succumb. In addition to this, people who abuse alcohol and drugs claim to be experts on these substances, assuring others that the risks of consuming them are minimal.
- Movies and TV shows portray alcohol and drugs in a positive light.
- Alcohol and drugs work quickly, providing instant gratification. Since the initial effects feel good, teens start seeing these substances as shortcuts to happiness.
- Teenagers who are unhappy or frustrated because of troubles at home or at school find consuming alcohol and drugs to be a quick escape from reality.
- Adolescents who get bored easily or have trouble keeping themselves occupied, or those who crave excitement find that alcohol and drugs fill a void in their lives, also giving them something to do. Moreover, consuming these substances provides a common ground for interacting with other adolescents and adults who abuse these substances.
- Alcohol and drugs can loosen inhibitions and alleviate social anxiety. As such, these substances appeal to teenagers who are shy or lack confidence, emboldening them to do things that they might not do otherwise.
Note that factors like success in school performance, creating strong bonds with the family, school, and religious organizations, and parental monitoring can reduce the potential for alcohol and drug abuse. On the other hand, chaotic home environments, ineffective parenting, approval of substance abuse behaviors in the family, inappropriately shy or aggressive behavior, inadequate social coping skills, and poor performance in school are risk factors and can increase the potential for abuse.
Create the Right Environment
Keeping your teen away from addictive substances like alcohol and drugs starts with creating the right environment at home. While being a good role model by abstaining from these vices yourself is a great way to start, do empower your teen by strengthening family bonds- consider having dinner with the whole family each day, shopping together, going out on family trips, taking time out of your schedule to attend important school and other events, etc.
Also take an active interest in your teen’s life and try to be more involved. This doesn’t mean you press for information; instead, try to find common ground and let conversations flow freely. If your teen doesn’t want to talk, just spend time with him in the same space doing your own thing- you might get him to talk about something or the other that way!
Identify the Signs
Individuals who abuse alcohol and drugs often try to conceal symptoms. However, you can spot plenty of warning signs if you pay attention. Here are some of them:
- Personal Appearance: Poor hygiene, deterioration of physical appearance, messy, red, flushed cheeks, and burns or soot marks on lips and fingers.
- Physical Changes: Bloodshot eyes, sudden change in weight, tremors, slurred speech, sudden appetite, etc.
- Behavior: Secretive behavior like locking the door or talking in hushed tones on the phone, change in friends, unexplained cash flow problems, mood changes, loss of interest in schoolwork and drop in attendance, etc.
Confront Problems Promptly
Teenagers that smoke, drink alcohol, or consume drugs are more likely to become addicted to these substances by the time they turn 20. Remember that initial consumption of these harmful substances may be a voluntary decision, but as addiction takes control, giving up can be difficult. So act immediately if you suspect that your teen is abusing alcohol or drugs or if you find evidence for the same.
Don’t jump to conclusions; stay calm and talk to your teen about your concerns. If your teen denies abusing alcohol or drugs, you may want to schedule an online appointment for a drug test to make sure.
If your teen tests positive or if he accepts consuming alcohol or drugs, refrain from getting angry or being judgmental. Explain the consequences of abusing these substances and offer your support to get your teen out of this situation as soon as you can.
- Don’t self-blame or use emotional appeals- this will only cause guilt and further compel your teen to consume alcohol or drugs.
- Do not lecture your teen- listen to his point of views and discuss the impact of drugs on his health, appearance, and life.
- Talk about the issue without shame, but don’t try to cover up their mistakes or shield them from the consequences.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say ‘No’
Fearing a negative reaction from your child can keep you from doing what’s right. Quit worrying about being the bad parent, and take a tough stand against the consumption of alcohol and drugs. Draw the line, setting clear and realistic expectations for your teen’s behavior. Do establish consequences for breaking rules and be sure to enforce them consistently. Get your teen to understand how abusing alcohol and drugs can affect his life negatively. Set a good example first, and use the information provided here to prevent your teenager from substance abuse.