You’ve heard it time and again: It’s important to talk to your teen about drugs. But you have one glaring question: How?
Many parents find it difficult to broach this subject. They either don’t know how to bring it up or aren’t sure what to cover in the conversation.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is aware of this challenge parents face. To help you with this difficult teen-talk, NIDA has created a new resource. NIDA offers seven discussion points to touch on when speaking with your teen about drugs. Here they are:
Question #1 - Why Do People Use Drugs?
Acknowledge the many reasons people turn to drugs. They want to feel good, stop hurting or perform better. For teens, the list-topper is because they’re curious when they see others doing drugs and simply want to fit in.
Then, go into further detail about why people continue using drugs. Explain the physical effects. Drugs stimulate “happy chemicals” in the brain. Initially, they make you feel “good.” But, continued use develops tolerance. You need more and more to get the same feeling. Then, you start to feel bad if you don’t have it. The good feelings are all gone and you simply feel sick, anxious and irritable without it.
You can also talk about the most commonly used drugs and their side effects. These include alcohol, marijuana, prescription painkillers, sedatives, heroin, prescription stimulants, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD and inhalants.
Question #2 - What is Drug Addiction?
Let your teen know how substance abuse takes over the life of the user. They can’t stop taking the drug, even if they want to. Despite the fact that it causes physical, relational, emotional and financial harm, the urge becomes too strong to control. It leads to problems with friends, family and can even land them in jail or the ER.
Question #3 - Can’t I Just Use Willpower?
Explain the changes chemical dependency causes in the brain. Continued drug use affects parts of the brain that control judgment, decision-making, learning, memory and control. Drugs may be a choice in the beginning, but after a while, self-control becomes harder and they will become addicted.
Question #4 - If I Take a Break From Drugs, Will It Be Easy to Stay Drug-Free?
People who have become addicted to drugs can get treatment and stop using. However, if they don't take steps to avoid triggers, they’re likely to use again. This is called a relapse.
Question #5 - What Is a Trigger?
Triggers are things that give you the urge to use drugs again. These include places, people, things, smells, feeling, memories, or anything that you relate to drugs and getting high.
Question #6 - What Makes You More At-Risk For Substance Abuse?
NIDA suggests the following common challenges:
- A troubled home
- Mental health problems
- School/friend trouble
- Being around others who use drugs
- Using drugs when you’re young
- Your biology
Question #7 - Can Substance Abuse Be Treated?
Yes! People enter recovery every day! Teens and adults get treatment, change their lives and start down a new path. Let them know it’s hard work. The road is difficult. But, it’s possible.
By touching on these points, you will give your teen a healthy overview of drug use. Armed with this knowledge, they will be better equipped to make good decisions in their future.
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