Why Prevention Matters for Teens
Preventing teenagers from abusing drugs and alcohol means getting them through a vulnerable time in their life.
Research has shown that people are more likely to develop an addiction if they start abusing drugs at a young age.
The goal of prevention is often just postponing that first drink until the teen’s brain has developed enough to enable responsible decision-making skills. If you think a teen you care about is abusing drugs, we can help you.
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Negative Consequences of Teen Substance Abuse
It’s important not to downplay teenage drinking or drug abuse. Some may “grow out” of this behavior, but even those who do are subject to negative consequences of drug abuse that may be long-lasting. These include:
- Mental health problems (including depression and anxiety)
- Strained or broken relationships with friends and family
- Physical health problems
- Academic problems and suspensions
- Ending up in the juvenile justice system
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Teens Who May Be at Risk
Statistically, some teenagers may be at a higher risk of developing a substance abuse problem. Recognizing who may be at risk could provide important preventive help for teens who need it most. Common risk factors include teens who:
Are in periods of transition
Going from elementary to middle or middle to high school means teens are often introduced to new pressures and influences. Younger teens may be encouraged to do drugs to fit in with the older crowds, and new social circles could introduce teens who are already using drugs.
Suffer from mental health disorders
Depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns can manifest in children at a young age. In many cases, those who face these issues are more likely to have a substance abuse problem.
Don’t have positive adult influences
Teens who come from broken or abusive homes are rarely aware of the consequences of drug abuse. Additionally, teens who grew up around family or caretakers who abused drugs are far more likely to continue the cycle of abuse in their own lives.
Success of Prevention Methods for Teenagers
Government agencies, community leaders and school officials are always on the lookout for new ways to prevent teenage substance abuse. Although it is still a problem nationwide, rates of substance abuse among teens have gone down over the past decade. This suggests that the preventive measures being taken are effective at reducing, if not getting rid of, the problem. The two biggest things that officials say impact teen drug use prevention are education and parental involvement.
Educating Teens on Drug and Alcohol Risks
The teenage brain is in a state of rapid development, which can lead to erratic behavior. Research suggests the human brain isn’t completely mature until 25 years old, and the most dramatic changes in growth happen during adolescence. Because of this, teens aren’t always mentally equipped to make the best decisions about their health and future.
Educating young people on the potential risks of abusing drugs and alcohol can enable them to make better choices.
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These educational initiatives were created for all teens, regardless of background or potential for drug abuse. Universal programs teach personal, social and drug resistance skills in brief weekly sessions.
These intervention programs are for students who have been identified as at risk due to family, personal or community risk factors. Selective education helps inform teens about the risks of substance abuse.
Students in the indicated education program are already showing signs of problem behavior. Indicated programs are less focused on prevention and more on reducing or controlling existing drug use.
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Family Involvement in Teen Lives
The biggest impact on teenage substance use is parental influence. Teens who grow up with parents who talk to them about the dangers of binge drinking and drug abuse are far less likely to develop a dependence on drugs. Some ways parents can instill strong anti-addiction values in their teens include:
Setting an example
By showing their teenagers what appropriate substance use or abstinence looks like, parents can teach them by example. This means limiting alcohol use and never driving after drinking. Designated drivers send a powerful message to teens about the importance of not driving under the influence.
Young people may internalize the idea that everybody drinks or that some drugs are harmless. It’s important for parents to be aware of these beliefs and help debunk them.
Encouraging open communication
Teens should feel comfortable sharing anything with their parents, including questions about drug or alcohol use. This starts with parents opening up communication about substance abuse, telling their children where they stand and showing them that it’s not a taboo topic.
Avoiding and debunking media that glamorizes drug abuse
Movies, TV shows, music and video games may paint substance abuse in a positive light. Whenever possible, it’s best to limit these influences, but some are unavoidable. It’s important for parents to talk to their children about these messages and help them understand why drugs in real life aren’t as harmless or as fun as they are portrayed to be in movies.
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