Other preventive strategies

Consider other strategies to prevent teen drug abuse:

  • Know your teen's activities. Pay attention to your teen's whereabouts. Find out what adult-supervised activities your teen is interested in and encourage him or her to get involved.
  • Establish rules and consequences. Explain your family rules and what the consequences of using drugs will be. Rules might include leaving a party where drug abuse occurs and not riding in a car with a driver who's been using drugs. Be sure to consistently discipline your teen if he or she breaks the rules.
  • Know your teen's friends. If your teen's friends abuse drugs, your teen might feel pressure to experiment, too.
  • Keep an eye on prescription drugs. Take an inventory of all prescription and over-the-counter medications in your home.
  • Provide support. Offer praise and encouragement when your teen succeeds. A strong bond between you and your teen might help prevent your teen from abusing drugs.
  • Set a good example. Don't abuse drugs yourself. Teens notice what their parents say and do.

Recognizing the warning signs of teen drug abuse

Be aware of possible red flags, such as:

  • Sudden or extreme change in friends, eating habits, sleeping patterns, physical appearance, coordination or school performance
  • Irresponsible behavior, poor judgment and general lack of interest
  • Breaking rules or withdrawing from the family
  • Medicine containers, despite a lack of illness, or drug paraphernalia in your teen's room

Seeking help for teen drug abuse

If you suspect that your teen is experimenting with or abusing drugs:

  • Talk to him or her. You can never intervene too early. Casual drug use can turn into drug abuse, dependence or addiction — and cause accidents, legal trouble and health problems.
  • Encourage honesty. Speak calmly and express that you are coming from a place of concern. Share specific details to back up your suspicion, which will make it harder for your teen to deny what's happening. Verify any claims he or she makes.
  • Focus on the behavior, not the person. Emphasize that drug use is dangerous but that doesn't mean your teen is a bad person.

If your teen admits to abusing drugs, let him or her know that you're disappointed and enforce the consequences you've established. Going forward, spend more time with your teen and keep a close eye on his or her whereabouts and activities. Check in regularly, ask questions when he or she gets home from an activity and reach out to other parents. If you think your teen is involved in significant drug use, contact a doctor, counselor or other health care provider for help.

It's never too soon to start talking to your teen about drug abuse. The conversations you have today can help your teen make healthy choices in the future.

Feb. 02, 2016 See more In-depth