Other preventive strategies

In addition to talking to your teen, 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. Make it clear that you won't tolerate drug abuse. Rules might include leaving a party where drug abuse occurs and not riding in a car with a driver who's been using drugs. Agree on the consequences of breaking the rules ahead of time — and enforce them consistently.
  • Know your teen's friends. If your teen's friends abuse drugs, your teen might feel pressure to experiment, too. Get to know your teen's friends and their parents.
  • Keep an eye on prescription drugs. Take an inventory of all prescription and over-the-counter medications in your home and keep them out of easily accessible places — such as the medicine cabinet. If your teen needs to take prescription medication during school hours, it should be dispensed by the school nurse.
  • Provide support. Offer praise and encouragement when your teen succeeds, whether at school or at home. 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.

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
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or family activities
  • Hostile or uncooperative attitude
  • Secrecy about actions or possessions
  • Stealing money or an unexplained need for money
  • Medicine containers, despite a lack of illness, or drug paraphernalia in your teen's room
  • An unusual chemical or medicine smell on your teen or in your teen's room

Seeking help for teen drug abuse

If you suspect that your teen is abusing drugs, talk to him or her. Avoid accusations. Instead, ask your teen what's going on in his or her life and encourage him or her to be honest.

If your teen admits to abusing drugs, let him or her know that you're disappointed. Enforce the consequences you've established and explain to your teen ways that he or she can help regain your lost trust, such as improving grades.

If you think your teen is involved in significant drug use, contact a doctor, counselor or other health care provider who specializes in drug problems.

Remember, 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.

Jan. 12, 2013 See more In-depth