Preventing Substance Abuse in Students

As parents, we do everything we can to prevent our children from succumbing to substance abuse. Teenagers, more so than others, are especially vulnerable to learning addictive behaviors. The region of the adolescent brain concerned with judgment doesn’t complete development until well into adulthood. In such an experimental stage of life, it isn’t abnormal for teenagers to make new friends, learn the ropes of social groups, and engage in that group’s activities. As guardians, it’s our responsibility to prepare them to make the right decision when the time comes.

There are potential signs to look for that indicate a teenager might be abusing drugs. Secretive behavior, avoidance, and moodiness are some indicators of changes in attitude. A rotation in friend groups can raise questions, especially if it is followed by obstinance or refusal to abide by ground rules. When isolated, these characteristics do not necessarily spell out risks, but if a sudden change overcomes your teenager then it is cause for discussion. While teenagers do tend to try on many hats to find their identity, a combination of these things can be a sign of an outside pressure present. Students might turn to substances for various reasons; many partake to relieve depression and anxiety, or for experimental purposes alone.

It is pertinent to remember that we cannot prohibit everything our youth is exposed to while growing up, and there will be times when they are in a perilous situation that requires action on their part. It is up to guardians to employ their child with the knowledge necessary to make the safest decision. Open communication and information are a teenager’s best defenses against substance abuse. By educating our children with knowledge of the dangers of alcohol and other substance use, we can display a visible pattern of cause and effect that shows their dangerous potential. Encouraging a safe environment to come home to will also boost integrity. Letting your child know they can turn to you in moments of distress is crucial to their being able to communicate for help. Employing an open-door policy can be important, meaning the teen will come to the parent as their guide without fear of retribution.

We were all teenagers once upon a time. If we were lucky, we had a mentor to go through those trying times with us. It’s important that we accept that role as guardian to our youth now. By fostering communication and sharing information, our teens are less likely to give in to social pressure and more likely to protect themselves from the dangers of substance abuse. If you suspect your teenager might be abusing substances, use this Family Checkup Tool for tips on communicating or refer to SAMHSA’s national helpline for information.


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