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Top 10 effective ways to reduce teenage drug and alcohol abuse

Calling all parents interested in teen drug and alcohol use

Family life influences teenagers. Although you may not be able to control situations outside of the family (your kids’ peers, schools, communities, and society), you guide the culture of your family. For this you are responsible and accountable.

Prevention of drug and alcohol problems

Part of dealing with alcohol and drug problems is to stop them from ever occurring. Part of this list includes protective factors developed by experts to teach parents how to make family like important, promote mental health, and prevent underage use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.  If you can create the following conditions at home, you can help decrease a child’s chances for taking drugs or engaging in other risky behaviors. To reduce a teenager’s risk for becoming involved with alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, here are the top 10 effective ways to prevent or reduce teenage drug and alcohol abuse:

1. Model the behavior you seek.

Be a positive role model yourself. Walk the talk. Don’t expect teens to stop  drinking or stay away from drugs if you don’t.

2. Resolve personal or family issues.

Seek family counseling or psychotherapy for any family issues about substance abuse, violence, divorce or illness in your family. Get the help you need so that you can be sure that your family unit (and teenager) are mentally healthy.

3. Know what’s going on.

Be involved in your teenager’s life. Know who their friends are, what they are doing and where. Encourage their independence but set appropriate limits like curfews and check-in times. Keep teens accountable with consequences for stretching beyond the limits.

4.  Teach the science of drugs and alcohol.

Talk about drinking and drugs – not just the statistics, but the science behind it. This requires research on the brain science of what substances do to the body. A good place to start is NIDA for Teens or The Science of Addiction.

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5. Know the law.

Research your state’s laws around underage drinking and drug use. Then, sit down with your teenager and review the legal consequences of getting caught.

6. Create a drinking and drug contract.

A family drinking and drug contract helps make expectations and rules clear about alcohol consumption for teens and parents.  And it brings issues into the open. For example, offer to always be available to drive your teenager home if they end up at a party and either get drunk or high, or their ride gets drunk or high. Check out a Sample Teen Drinking and Drug Family Contract for download here.

7.  Get educated about substance abuse.

Know the warning signs of teen drinking or drug problems (and the factors that increase risk such as depression, family history of addiction or social transitions), and have a plan for seeking help if your family needs it.

8.  Help find alternative activity options for your teen.

Learn about community and school activities that may interest your teen and encourage him/her to participate. Teenagers who are active in sports, volunteering, social or church groups are less likely to get bored, or seek out drugs and alcohol for fun.

9. Look outside the family for mentoring help.

Encourage your teenager to seek and find a positive mentor outside the family who   will reinforce your family’s beliefs and values. Your teen can formally seek a mentor through religious or spiritual groups or informally through sports teams or school activities. Then, check in with your teen’s mentor to get another perspective on his/her life.

10.  One-on-one time.

Drug testing a teen should always be a last resort when trying to help your child. Regularly spend time with your teenager and give your loving, undivided attention. Some sample activities to share: a walk, bowling, playing tennis, a bike ride, a quiet dinner out, or cooking together.

Reference sources: NIAAA Publication “Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child about Alcohol”
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Community How To Guide On…PREVENTION & EDUCATION
Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Office for Substance Abuse Prevention (GOSAP) Parent Guide to Preventing Underage Drinking
The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking (2007)
SAMHSA: Too smart to start

Photo credit: kr4gin

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26 Responses to “Top 10 effective ways to reduce teenage drug and alcohol abuse
Herndon Virginia
11:14 pm June 18th, 2011

Appreciate the details here. Was easy to read.

1:13 am July 28th, 2012

Thank you for the information. I don’t think the problem of teen drug abuse is addressed often enough. People need help and we need resources to meet the demand. My son was addicted to drugs and he got help from a sober living house. Parents can look into them as an alternative to kids staying home.

6:40 am December 22nd, 2012

Hi! Can you please help guide me in the best direction to help my troubled 12 yr old nephew. His parents are currently separated and he is now doing drugs. Any suggestions would be appreciated!


12:39 pm January 2nd, 2013

Hi Jeanette. I’d suggest that you read more on theantidrug[dot] com and check out their related links. Also, you can always call 1-800-662-HELP, which is the 24-7 hotline number for the National Drug Abuse Council. I hope that this helps!

4:13 pm September 26th, 2014


I need help looking for a program for my brother, we’ve done anything and nothing seems to be working. I would like to find an in-house program where I can send him for few months where he can get treatment and counseling, I don’t have much money, but I am willing to pay if the fee is not too much….if you can please provide me with some direction or options I truly appreciated.


9:56 am October 2nd, 2014

Hi Maria. You can use our treatment facility locator: http://addictionblog.org/find-treatment/ where you can make a more precise selection of location, payment options and type of program that will be fit for your brother’s need and for your pocket, too.
You can do the same here: http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

11:30 pm October 5th, 2014

What if u have told ur adult addicted son to leave and he refuses

12:08 pm October 6th, 2014

Hi Lisa. It seems to me like you need some professional assistance in handling your son’s addiction problem. Friends and family are a great source of support, but you might benefit a professional’s guidance and advise. So, all is not lost and you can start with http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/local-meetings that aids families and individuals who deal with alcoholism, or http://www.nar-anon.org/find-a-group/ where you can get involved in their daily meetings for support of loved ones of addicts. NAMI http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?section=Find_Support has local support groups, a crisis hotline, and offers help for parents and family members of people struggling with mental illness.

I’d also suugest readin this literature:

8:54 pm October 19th, 2014

my 19 year old son has lie 3 times about smoking weed and drinking. The stress of having no help as my wife is also leaving me after 30 years never wanting to get married doesn’t love me anymore. I don’t drink, smoke attend college ( in my second year). At age 55 it hurts me that I have no choice to leave both because they find every excuse to be negative and just wait for me to make a mistake like being pushy even though I have left them both alone to do what they want the last 2 years, they still are not happy and even though I see them making many mistakes I say nothing anymore.

10:46 pm December 28th, 2014

hi, my son is on drugs & i have just got him to go to a rehab centre but its not working. he keeps relapsing. what he needs is to be taken somewhere where he is not allowed out so that he cant go & get any drugs. do you know of anywhere that will do this. he has gone from taking weed & is now taking heroin sometimes. we live in portsmouth. i am desperate for help. thank you

11:19 am December 29th, 2014

Hi Sandie. Thank you for your persistence in getting help for your son. I’d suggest you use a Treatment Locator: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for guidance in selecting the treatment program that will help your son.

5:37 am February 8th, 2015

I have a 20 year old who refuses to admit he is an addict. He smokes weed all the time not sure if he used additional drugs I belive he does. I already kicked him out. I don’t give him money but I do but him food. I can’t stand to see him like this it’s kill meI have tried crying,begging,yelling nothing works. I don’t want to see or hear him because it hurts. I’m about to tell him I don’t want to see or talk to him if he has money for that he has money for food. He either gets sober join rehab or he is out of my life my heart breaks but I still have a 10 year old that needs me & it’s taki a toll on my health. He tells me I don’t care or love him I wish to God that that were true so I wiu be in so much pain & guilt. Is tough love my only option I’m desperate not sure what to do. I’m a single mom

5:53 pm February 10th, 2015

Hello Sandy. Have you spoken with a counselor or a psychologist? It’s a difficult situation that you cannot handle on your own. Talk to a professonal, they can give you valuable advise on how to talk to your son, how to support him, and how to continue the care for you and your 10year old. He shouldn’t think your door is closed forever. Maybe make it clear that you are willing to help and support him when he decides to pick himself up. I hope your voice gets through to him sooner. I wish you all the best!

11:58 pm March 8th, 2015

My son is not a teenager anymore. ..he is a 25 yr old adult with a heroin addiction. He moved out…renting a room…and working for a temp agency …but they ran out of work and he isnt able to pull all the rent money together so his dad has been helping him for the last 3 mo. My son got his tax refund so I told him he can pay two months rent with that while he looks for work..but instead he only gave one mo rent and spent the rest on drugs and now will want help with rent again…what do we have to do? Totally cut him off financially? Please help us with this heartbreaking situation.

6:42 pm April 23rd, 2015

Hello, I am not a parent but an older sibling of 2.

My family has tried everything, sit down with why they both use drugs and understanding why.

The first sibling (one of the two) just turned 18. He has been smoking weed, drinking and even tried meth. I have given him money before not even knowing that he would spend it on drugs, but I am starting to think he did, so I stopped. I talked to him and all he could say was “wow you told mom” I felt bad, but that has NEVER seemed to stop him. HE ALWAYS, said “I’ll grow out of it”.

But 1 year later here he is, trying meth, got kicked out of high school for failing and then kicked out of his continuation school (school you go too if you are failing to get a GED, easy way out). Now he says he is in adult ed (another way to get a GED, the even easier way) and I ALWAYS see him home, smoking weed while my moms gone with his friends (who are 16). He has also been on probation for robbery for 2 years (stole from garages, hookahs from peoples houses) Worried because my younger sister (16) is now doing the same and thinking the same. (Read below on sister)

My sister sides with my brother, she and him are inseparable. They stay in the same room and go out together sometimes, although now I am starting to see they are not as close. My sister goes out and drinks with her friends and gets high with her friends, she is starting to dress little more revealing. She is in high school (sophomore year) and has failed freshman year and now sophomore year. Next year she will be in continuation school, where mom says sarcastically “she hopes to be there”. I am not saying continuation school is a bad thing for students who could not complete regular high school, I just see a pattern with my brother as a “free will” opportunity for her, although she goes out every night (11pm -5am). She skips her classes and is failing all of them (hence why she is going to continuation school).

The patterns of these my two siblings are saddening and are in denial with their problems, part of myself blames social media, “smoking weed is ok” when it is a CLEAR gateway drug, the other part of me blames them.

We sat down with them a few time (me and my two other sisters; me:19, the other two, 21, 23) and they said it was a “depression problem”.
I believed it then, but this was months ago. When I got in trouble when I was 17 for hiding alcohol in my room I gave the excuse that I was depressed and I was hiding alcohol because of that and I was “binge” drinking. When really, I was hiding it because I liked to party, and that was when I was 17. Two years later I see all the teens thinking this is okay now? I admit I made a mistake but I have grown up from that, and my siblings have been doing this for 2 years and one is almost 17 and the other is 18 who has been doing it since middle school. I may have gotten in trouble once, and learned (this only happened for 4 months, the phase I went through; partying etc). I never dropped out of high school and I worked so hard to complete it, now I am in college and I have a job.

I do not think they learned this from me, I NEVER said anything I did was OK. I still to this day admit to all of it, the faking of depression for alcohol? (which I later admitted to) and am ashamed of, but this was apart from them.

This is just TINY information, there are far more details beyond these, but my family and I especially are lost. Sitting them down, finding out the cause has led to absolutely no evidence, meth is a whole new story and eye opener, my brother was supposed to visit a psychologist for his issues but he doesn’t seem to want to follow through with that. Any other suggestions are welcomed, I want to save 2 lives at stake. I am starting to see this as “not just a phase’.


11:03 pm June 3rd, 2015

One of the real life keys that is actually included above is learning to normalize one’s self.

Another resource said it this way: stabilize mental health That is, keep tabs on your urges for alcohol, sugar (food), drugs and nicotine in cigs (cigars, cigarettes, cigarellos). If there is a search for serotonin – a sense of calm, the use of an illicit substance or excess food can be a health detriment in the long run as physical and mental health are intertwined. We now know that being open with one’s self, going to experience different treatment options and being honest with yourself will help immensely with long-term productivity and health in mid-life.

Work managers and bosses would do well to admire the need for EAP services and offer a day or two off to focus on balancing life’s issues rather than trying to fire someone who seems “to be having an issue” that they do not want to know about. This is cultural competence and is a skill that takes time to develop.

Thank you for the time to share this essential part of life. I would be happy to speak on it as well.


12:30 pm July 4th, 2015

very good write .i really impress by your writing skills .i agree all of your points.in My views If the care of a child is given in a friendly manner though strict when necessary, then they can be prevented to go toward the path of drugs.

10:08 am September 30th, 2015

My son suffers anxcity since I’ve had cancer twice and the doctors seem to brush it off , he is 19 and started using weed cos he said it helped him now I’ve just found out he’s taking strong diazapan , and his moods are getting uncontrollable ! Feel like I’ve his a brick wall and don’t know where to turn ! Help

4:11 pm October 9th, 2015

Hi Michelle. I believe that counseling therapy sessions can help. He obviously has a problem, fear or trauma that compels him to use weed as a coping mechanism. If he develops a positive approach and learns how to deal with difficulties on his own, he won’t need weed to soothe the problems and pains. A good psychologist can help you both, and you can ask your doctor to refer you to someone good in your area, or ask around for recommendations.

7:13 am January 15th, 2016

My son continues to smoke outside the house and with friends. He tries to smoke upstairs and has drug paraphanalia that he was told to get rid of.He had to leave college and is currently not working or going to school.he is gping to a thetapist. He has had angry outbursts towards our family. What is the next step to help him?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
10:48 am January 26th, 2016

Hi, Jenny. I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help: http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/

4:54 pm February 24th, 2016

What would be your advice on dealing with a 23-year-old daughter that moved out for about a year and then has moved back in and that I found the magic mushrooms in her room

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:11 pm February 25th, 2016

Hi, Scott. I suggest that you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help: http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/

9:52 am May 19th, 2016

Your blog is nice and useful

6:28 am August 5th, 2016

Hi, my son is 28years old and I suspect he is using drugs although he denies this. I have just changed the locks and packed his bags, he’s been gone two days. His behaviour has changed and he has emotionally abused his 92 year old nan who lives with us.
He recently has become angry and was unwilling to leave home. What can I do? I am so worried about him. I told him I am always here for him and that I love him. His constantly saying I don’t love him.
Appreciate if you can reply,
Thank you,

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:29 pm August 10th, 2016

Hi Brenda. I suggest that you look into Allies in Recovery, an NGO that deals with the CRAFT model for families and interventions:

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