Adolescence is a crucial time. While the brain and body continue to develop, important social influences begin to emerge, including experimentation and peer pressure. As teens continue to explore who they are and where they fit in, they may find themselves facing dangerous situations and making difficult life choices without a parent’s guidance. That sentiment alone can cause unease. Preparing for these life milestones is important, as is knowing how to talk to teenagers about drugs.
Teen Addiction: Colorado Statistics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about one in five teenagers have abused prescription medications, and nearly one in three parents believes there is little they can do to prevent drug use. Evidence suggests the opposite is true. Parental involvement is the most decisive factor in prevention. Researching the best methods that address talking to teenagers about drugs can reduce the risks of addiction.
According to the Youth Substance Use Behavioral Health Barometer for Colorado, youth aged 12 to 17, about 48,000 (or 11.5%) used alcohol for the first time, higher than the regional and national averages . Additionally, the average percentage of teens with a major depressive episode (MDE) increased by nearly 4% since 2008. More adolescents are also experimenting with opioids in Colorado, 10.4%, more than the national average of 7.2%.
Teens across the state may find a reason to experiment with different drugs, including:
- Fitting in
- Feeling good
- Doing/Performing better
Alcohol and drug addiction treatment for adolescents in Colorado is the best solution to help any teen struggling with substance abuse. Some of the most common drugs used by Colorado teenagers include:
- Prescription drugs
For Colorado teen substance abuse help or treatment, contact AspenRidge Recovery today at 855-281-5588. It’s important to understand that teenage drug use often progresses in adulthood. Since an adolescent mind is particularly vulnerable to the brain changes caused by substance abuse, addiction becomes a much more likely outcome. According to the National Institute on Drug Use, prescription opioid addiction may be as high as 25% more likely to occur among people who used the drug before the age of 18. Is learning how to talk to teenagers about drugs a priority? It should be.
Talking to Teenagers about Drugs
Parents should be talking to their kids about the dangers of drug abuse from both a health standpoint and a criminal justice perspective. They should also be investigating effective methods that address how to talk to teenagers about drugs. After all, teenagers are not always receptive to “just say no.”
Having an open discussion about the harms and realities of drugs is the first step. Parents or guardians should remain open-minded to the possibility their kids have thought of or may have engaged in experimental drug use. Kids should be made to feel safe enough to discuss personal issues and difficult situations without fear of judgment or consequence.
Why Parents Should Talk to Their Teens About Drugs
Some parents or guardians may rely on school-based educational programs that address drug use. However, substance abuse education is largely formatted from the perspective of prevention. The DARE program, introduced in the 1980s, focused on scare tactics to help kids stay away from drugs. Research showed that it did very little to prevent kids from experimenting or using habitually.
Parents, on the other hand, are a major influence on their teens. Teen drug abuse and addiction occur most often in households where parents are disengaged from their kids’ activities and personal lives. Transparency in addressing alcohol and drugs goes much further than school-sanctioned courses and training. Parents should be actively working to discuss, not only why drugs are dangerous, but strategies for dealing with peer pressure independently.
Here are a few reasons why parents should speak with their children about the realities of drugs prior to other school-sanctioned programs:
- Routine conversations allow parents to better understand individual struggles their child may be facing. Conversations allow parents to actively participate in their child’s day-to-day life.
- Parents can work to set the tone and example for sharing information. Teens who feel comfortable discussing difficult subjects are much more likely to be open and candid about the realities they’re facing.
- These conversations create opportunities for parents and teens to role-play challenging situations, particular those dealing with peer pressure.
- Candid talks help teens understand what to expect from their parents when faced with something often considered taboo.
- Parents are the biggest influence in their teen’s life. This information should, therefore, begin with the parent.
For conversations to be effective, it’s important to learn how to talk to teenagers about drugs.
How to Talk to Teenagers about Drugs
Recognizing the importance of discussing substance use with your teenager is usually a crucial first step, but putting that into practice is not always easily navigable. What’s appropriate to discuss? What questions should be asked? How should the subject be broached? Parents may also have questions about how to talk to teenagers about drugs.
Teen years can be challenging. The same drug issues that plague many of our youth today were also issues for adults in school. Chances are you were also exposed to drugs. Whether or not you used them, it’s important to be honest about your experience.
Tips for Discussing Alcohol and Drugs with Your Teen
Adolescence is a tricky transitional period for most. Parents are often caught in the dynamic of offering direct support and oversight or stepping back and allowing space for independent living. Teens may also be asserting their independence and withdrawing from their parents. This is a typical progression and nothing to be alarmed about. Independence builds confidence, self-esteem, and life skills that help teens navigate life’s challenges more effectively.
But discussing certain life events–the good and the bad–can help prepare teens for the “real world.” A strong bond with your child, especially during the teen years, helps reduce the chances of them engaging in unhealthy behavior and helps set the stage for preventing nicotine, alcohol and drug use.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Be intentional and present with your teen
Life can get busy. Daily obligations can pull you in many different directions and cause you to lose focus on what your kids are doing. As they get older, you may begin to trust them more and, thus, take a step back in being present around the clock. However, being intentional and blocking out time to speak with your children is still incredibly beneficial and important to their overall growth and development.
Wanting to respect boundaries is understandable, but don’t let that be reason enough to disengage altogether. Instead, make it routine to ask questions and show interest and curiosity, rather than criticism and suspicion.
Some takeaway tips:
- Prompt conversation daily by asking specific questions
- Engage with your teen and their friends
- Inquire with teachers, coaches, and other caring adults how your teen is doing
Reinforce your stance on staying involved because you care and love them rather than distrust them. Making it a habit ensures that your child understands it’s not an interrogation but a continuous, open-ended conversation in which no subject is off-limits.
- Have a real conversation
Life isn’t always easy and cheerful. Being honest and forthright about even the challenging aspects of life helps you gain trust with your kids. Even small children understand deflection and exaggeration. Overstating or oversimplifying complex matters is a great disservice to your teen. Not to mention, it’s one of the main reasons kids lose trust in adults.
Rather than focusing on the good and avoiding the bad, have honest conversations instead. Half the battle is learning how to talk to teenagers about drugs is understanding that no subject is off-limits. It’s paramount that questions are answered honestly and with the utmost clarity. Ambiguous answers can leave your teen feeling uneasy and unsure.
Some takeaway tips:
- Discuss the negative effects of alcohol and drugs
- Allow your teen to ask difficult questions and provide honest answers
- Explain why using drugs and alcohol is dangerous, especially during teenage years
- Share personal experiences with alcohol or drugs
- Offer advice on dealing with peer pressure
- Be clear about your concerns and expectations for things like curfew, checking in, going out, etc.
- Creating a safe space
As difficult as it is to consider talking to teenagers about drugs, nothing is as difficult as a teenager approaching their parents about drugs. Teens run the risk of upsetting their parents or being grounded if they reveal they’ve experimented with drugs. Unfortunately, negative reactions often result in a teenager closing themselves off from communication altogether. Instead of reacting harshly, it’s crucial to create a safe space to discuss anything.
Be open-minded and receptive. Ask questions that prompt your teen to talk, but don’t engage in negativity or ridicule. Instead, leave questions open-ended to avoid receiving a “yes” or “no” response. Ensure that your teen understands you are not there to judge but provide ongoing support and advice.
Some takeaway tips:
- Be open-minded, so your teen is more receptive to you
- Ask open-ended questions
- Encourage honesty by being honest first
- Focus on “I” statements
- “Because I love you, I want to keep you safe.”
- “I feel worried about you going here because…”
- Summarize all discussions to be sure you’re actively listening to your child
- “What I hear you’re saying is…”
- “So that made you feel like…”
- “It seems you’re feeling…”
Teen Substance Abuse
According to a survey of 46,000 teens, 13% of 8th graders, 30% of 10th graders, and 40%of 12th graders say they have used a drug at least once in the past year. The most commonly used drug among the group was marijuana.
If you suspect your teen of using drugs, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms of problematic use and addiction, which can include:
- Restlessness or insomnia
- Cold skin, sweating and shaking
- Poor coordination
- Poor school performance
- Chronic dishonesty
- Poor concentration or forgetfulness
- Secretive behavior
- Constantly asking for money
- Lack of motivation
AspenRidge Recovery Can Help
Our Colorado addiction care centers offer support for those facing substance dependency, including Colorado teens. Our certified clinicians have experience addressing all symptoms within the spectrum of addiction. We can also help parents become informed on how to talk to teenagers about drugs.
We’ve helped thousands of Coloradans attain sobriety through evidence-based and holistic drug treatment programs. We recognize that addressing substance abuse early on can prevent catastrophic outcomes. Our staff are highly trained in assessment and can provide counseling options and relapse prevention. Get help for finding recovery for teenage addiction by calling 855-281-5588.