Substance Abuse

Get Informed - Substance Abuse

Drug Use

The pressure to use drugs is out there for our teens. As parents, we need to try to prepare our kids to refuse offers of alcohol and other drugs, preferably without alienating their peers.


Some parents may feel that their teen’s alcohol use is ok because it isn’t a harder drug like crack, or heroine. However, it should be noted that alcohol kills five times more teenagers than all other drugs combined (usually through accidents). Young people who use alcohol or tobacco regularly are also more likely to try illegal drugs  (when compared to those who do not use alcohol or tobacco). It also is important for parents to be responsible and set an example if alcohol is used in front of teens.


Teach your children to say no when offered alcohol or drugs and to be firm about it, as substance abusers tend to view converting the “straight” kid as an irresistible challenge. Role play a potential situation with them as seen in the Girlsmarts case and then discuss with them possible answers to the difficult questions that may ensue between your teen and a drug abuser.


Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug among youth in the United States (35.6% of high school students). (1)   Further, while illicit drug use has declined among youth, rates of non-medical use of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medication remain high. Prescription medications most commonly abused by youth include pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and depressants. Teens also misuse OTC cough and cold medications, containing the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM), to get high. Prescription and OTC medications are widely available, free or inexpensive, and falsely believed to be safer than illicit drugs. For the most recent trends of illicit drugs, according to the YRBSS study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, please refer to:


Parents can and should model responsible use of prescription and nonprescription medications (take only when needed, only as directed, and only as long as needed).


Teen substance abuse effects the whole family unit as drug abusing teens become more hostile, and their decision-making becomes greatly impaired. Teens using drugs or alcohol find that their familial relationships greatly suffer. They set bad examples and create much more hostility to the family as a whole. Teen drug abuse shouldn’t be tolerated by parents and appropriate help for their teens should be made.

Teenage Drug Use

Ways to Help Prevent Your Teen from Drug Use

  • Try to spend at least 15 minutes a day talking with your teen about the things that are important to her. Show interest in school and the activities that interest her.
  • Get your teen involved in extra-curricular activities. Kids who are involved in after school activities are less likely to use drugs.
  • Keep connected in the after school hours. If you can’t be home with your teen, call and leave notes or have another adult supervise.
  • Set rules for when your teen spends time at a friend’s house. For example, insist that a parent or trusted adult be home at the same time.
  • Make sure you and your teen have rules about friends visiting when you’re not home.
  • Discourage your teen from staying at a friend’s house if another person in the house abuses substances. Instead, invite your teen and his friend to hang out at your home when you will be there.
  • Meet and greet your teen’s friends to learn more about their interests and the kinds of example they may be setting for your teen. Get to know the parents too.
  • Check up on your teenager. When he tells you his plans, check them with other parents. Let your teen know that you take the role as his parent very seriously.
  • Tell your teen that drug use of any kind will not be tolerated in your family. Be clear.
  • Ask your teen if there are any questions about drugs. Be prepared to answer these questions.
  • Establish the consequences for breaking the rules. Be firm with them. Continue talking to your teen about drugs after the rules have been set.
  • Be a role model for your child.
  • Be there for your teen when he/she needs to get out of a bad situation.



  1. 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Study, seen at, last accessed January 2019.


Information Last updated January 2019

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