Top 10 effective ways to reduce teenage drug and alcohol abuse

The most effective way to reduce teenage drug and alcohol abuse is to promote a child’s mental health. Designed for parents, this quick guide identifies effective ways to reduce teenage drug and alcohol abuse with a summary of recommendations from government experts.

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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.

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
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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