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Teen Substance Abuse

Teen Substance Abuse

By Dr. June Stride View more articles

What’s a Few Beers?

“Maria, how about bringing me another beer when you come back?” Max called from his recliner in front of the TV where he and their son, Jeffrey, were catching the tail end of the basketball playoffs.

“Dad, can I have the car this weekend? Jeff asked, thinking his dad had loosened up a bit after his usual six-pack and was more likely to give him permission (and knowing he had a better shot with his dad than his mom).

“What’s up, Jeff? Something special?” Max half-heartedly responded, obviously his mind more on the last lay-up shot than on the question.

Before Jeff could explain and get his dad to agree, his mom returned carrying a tray of snacks and another beer for Max. “What’s that, Jeff? I didn’t quite catch what you said.”

“Well, tomorrow night the kids want to check out the new place in Harborville. They’ve got a rapper and a funky band. I told the kids I probably could drive.”

“You did, did you? Looks like you blew that one, Jeff. You’re 17. You know the rules and the law. You’re underage and that place serves alcohol and Heaven knows what else. No way we’re giving you permission to go. Certainly you can’t have the car!”

“Ah come on, Mom. It’s the place to go. What’s a FEW BEERS? How bad can a FEW BEERS be when Dad has his every night?”

“Wait just a minute. I work hard every day and when I get home I just want to pop a few to relax. “


We set the scene, sometimes unknowingly sending messages contrary to those we want our kids to have. Ours is an ‘instant-gratification’ society. We want to do what we want to do. We want immediate responses. Whenever possible, we look for shortcuts. When we want to have a good time or relax, we have a drink or a few drinks. Those shortcuts we take may lead to long-term problems for our kids.

FYI: CBSNEWS.com shared some frightening statistics on teens and drinking: Approximately 1/5 of the alcohol consumed in our nation is consumed by underage drinkers!

Also, according to a national survey, 24 % of teens reported that because of substance abuse, they had “done more” sexually than they wanted and 12 % of 15 to 17year olds reported having unprotected sex because of drinking.

You may want to check out www.aacap.org , www.health.org for more information about teens and substance abuse.

Hey, none of us are bona fide experts on keeping our kids safe, drug free and relatively content with their lot in life until they reach adulthood. We do what we can, the best we can, in whatever situation we find ourselves. Sometimes that isn’t good enough. Even those parents that we most admire as excellent role models for us, as well as for their own kids, sometimes get sideswiped with drug abuse problems.

Succumbing early to such temptations as alcohol and drugs could result in long-term addiction and potentially dangerous or deadly consequences. Some of the pointers below may sound too general to help, but sometimes the most important messages are the simplest.

10 Tips to help prevent teen/tween substance abuse

1. Start as early as possible being the best possible role model for your child. That means consider what you say, how you say it and what you mean. It also means considering what you do, how you do it and the message your child is getting from it. Make your values known and live by them.

2. Listen actively to your child. Use the 5 B’s to help you: BE there. BE open. BE concerned. BE alert. BE informed.

3. Share moments and experiences. Build a bond. Do not be afraid of admitting your failures while you were growing up, especially if you can share how you overcame difficulties, faced problems and found solutions. Make certain that your child is in a safe, supervised environment at all times.

4. Show interest in your child: his/her dreams, wishes, plans, fears, friends, fun, school progress and activities.

5. Do things together as a family promoting ‘togetherness’ and work ethics. Involve your child in making choices and decisions about how to have fun, spend time and money.

6. Develop your child’s sense of responsibility. Give him/her chores. Make him/her feel an important part of your family through participation and carrying out responsibilities. Expect that he/she will be reliable and timely in the completion of chores. Better yet, have him/her help you develop a list of essential daily/weekly chores and have family members select their own responsibilities. Give guidance where necessary. Build in accountability.

7. Be accepting of mistakes. Consider them learning experiences. Allow your child to grow by accepting the consequences for his/her mistakes. Too often we enable our kids by protecting them from mistakes or removing the consequences. How will they become responsible for their actions or inactions if there are no consequences?

8. Love them unconditionally. Show your love. You may clearly express displeasure with behaviors but make sure that he/she understands that you are not withholding love as a result of your displeasure and/or discipline.

9. Find and use an inviting and engaging substance abuse prevention guide to share with your growing child. Give plenty of opportunities for your child to practice speaking out, practice refusing, analyzing risky situations and suggesting options for avoidance of drug abuse.

10. Make your position on drugs CLEARLY known. Find a local MADD (mothers against drunk driving) for resources and up to date info to support your position.


Bright Idea: Consider signing a SADD Contract with your child (Students Against Destructive Decisions, visit www.saddonline.com). Such a contract clearly and simply outlines how young people will strive to make healthful decisions regarding alcohol and drug abuse. Moreover, the contract states that the parents commit to listen and communicate about destructive decisions. Additionally, parents will promise to provide safe transportation home, and defer discussion until both child and parent can discuss the matter calmly and in a caring manner.


Most of all, if you suspect that your child has a substance abuse problem, it may well be true. SEEK HELP. Your immediate action may be needed. The earlier that intervention is available, the better for your child. Finally, remember to get help for yourself so that you can continue in the role of loving and responsible parent.