Teenage Substance Abuse Prevention
As most people, and especially parents know, most teens pick up some unhealthy behaviours and patterns during adolescence.
However, many teenagers develop an unhealthy behaviour toward drugs and alcohol. This has a major negative impact on their future, their families and their friends .
These unhealthy habits and addictions not only lead to negative consequences in their lives and the people around them, but it also has a very unhealthy and negative impact on public health .
Therefore, it’s in the best interest of the individuals themselves, their friends and families and general society to prevent teenage substance abuse early on.
Therefore, it’s important to recognise and understand the warning signs of teen drug abuse.
Teenage Substance Abuse Warning Signs
If you think you or someone you know is abusing drugs, you should look out for these warning signs :
- Changes in friendship groups
- Difficulty in sleeping or changes to sleeping patterns
- Tired and lethargic
- Changes in their physical appearance or their physical standards slipping
- Struggling at school
- Breaking rules
- Lack of motivation
- Being hostile and angry
- Frequent sickness
- Irresponsible behaviour
- General lack of interest in previously loved hobbies
- Withdrawing from the family
Consequences of Teenage Substance Abuse
Although the effects of drugs can be temporary, some of the consequences of drug-taking can often last a lifetime.
For example, some of these consequences can include :
- Broken or damaged relationships with their partners, family or friends
- Experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety
- Short or long term low self-esteem
- Declining health
- Social isolation and social anxiety
- High-risk sexual activity, such as unsafe sex
- An increase in the likelihood of developing mental health disorders
Who is More at Risk?
There are many different factors that may increase why a teenager is more at risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.
For example, teens who struggle with anxiety or depression are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol than someone who doesn’t struggle with anxiety or depression.
Additionally, teens who have recently experienced a big change, such as losing a close family member or friend, or moving locations or schools are more likely to experience feelings of stress and isolation.
Teens who have grown up being exposed to drugs or alcohol are also more likely to develop an addiction of their own.
This, in turn, makes them more likely to try drugs or alcohol in order to distract them from their emotions.
Unfortunately, the earlier a teen uses and abuses drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to develop and substance abuse disorder later on in their life.
This is because the earlier you start abusing drugs or alcohol, the more likely you are to develop a tolerance. This tolerance can develop into an addiction and dependency within just a couple of weeks.
How to Prevent Teenage Substance Abuse
Below, we list some of the main ways you can help prevent teenager substance misuse:
1. Family & Social Influence
One of the most effective ways to prevent teenage substance abuse is to start at home.
It’s important for parents, peers and other family members to openly talk to their children about the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse.
This can be a great way of helping your children understand their negative effects and create a strong awareness of boundaries. These boundaries include teaching a child when to say no to something that may have a negative effect or harm them.
During these talks, it’s important for the parents to stay consistent in their communication, which will help the child trust their parents and their boundaries on drugs and alcohol more.
In most UK schools, there are agencies, teachers and other school personnel brought in in order to teach children about the negative consequences of drugs.
The main objective of this is to prevent teenage substance abuse before they enter adulthood.
There are currently three various educational programmes in place :
Universal programmes or syllabuses are weekly lessons taught in schools about how to resist taking drugs .
Selective programmes are more interventional in their nature and are taught to children who may be deemed more at risk due to their unstable home life .
Indicated lessons are geared specifically towards teens who are already showing problematic behaviour, and who are possibly already considering or being exposed to abusing drugs or alcohol .
Strategies to Prevent Teenage Substance Abuse
If you’re worried that your teenager is considering or already abusing drugs, try the following strategies to try to help them:
1. Learn your Child’s Usual Schedule and Activities
You should pay attention to your child’s usual schedule, hobbies and activities. You should try to keep a schedule of their usual whereabouts. This way, if they’re not where they should be, or spending their time elsewhere, you’ll know about it quickly.
Try to get your child involved in activities that may be supervised by an adult, such as local football clubs or dance groups.
2. Establish Clear Rules, Boundaries and Consequences
You need to make your household rules very clear to your teenager early on in adolescence. For example, you should make it clear that getting in a car with anyone who’s taken alcohol or drugs is unacceptable, and that trying or experimenting with drugs will not be tolerated.
You should set out the consequences of not following these rules very clearly, and be sure to act on them should your teenager ever break those rules.
3. Get to Know Their Friends
It’s important to get to know your teenager’s friends. If you have a good relationship with them, then they are much more likely to also follow and respect your rules.
You’ll also be able to recognise any differences in their friends too, should you be worried about them taking drugs and negatively influencing your teen.
4. Keep track of any Prescription Drugs they may be Taking
It’s important to keep track of any prescription drugs that they may be taking, just in case they start to abuse prescription drugs.
5. Praise and Support your Child Daily
In order to maintain a good relationship with your teen, you should offer and provide praise and encouragement whenever they succeed.
This will help to create a strong bond between you and your teenager, and this in turn will help prevent them from abusing your trust, rules and drugs.
6. Set a Good and Healthy Example
Most people know that drug and alcohol abuse is bad for your health. Therefore, you should set a good example by valuing your health by eating healthy and exercising regularly.
If you do drink, then it should also be in regulation.
Talking to Your Teenager about Substance Abuse
You should make the topic of drug and alcohol abuse a regular conversation in your household, in order to establish clear and strict boundaries.
When having this conversation, you should try and decide on a time when you’re not going to be interrupted.
You should also pick somewhere in private, just in case your teen has any questions to ask that they might be embarrassed about asking in a public environment.
You should make sure to ask about your teen’s current views on drugs. You shouldn’t just lecture your opinion to your child, the conversation should be two way.
They should be able to ask you any questions they may have, or tell you anything that they may be currently worried about.
Whilst you will want to educate your teen on the negative consequences of drugs, you should avoid scare tactics. You should educate them on how life might affect things that they enjoy or find important, such as sports or their physical appearance.
It’s also important to remember that your teen is already exposed to drug and alcohol abuse through the media, such as on TV or songs.
It’s important to bring this up, and explain to them that drug and alcohol abuse is often stereotyped and unfairly depicted in the media.
You should also talk about the damage that peer pressure can do. Your teen might not feel comfortable standing up to friends to say ‘no.’ Therefore, you should talk to them about a tactic and communication style that they feel comfortable with.