Behavior and communications powerful tools against teen substance abuse

preventing student drug use

January isn’t just the start of the year for some kids. For high school seniors, it’s the first glimpse of the end, a stroll down high school’s home stretch. It’s an opportunity – or a temptation – for kids to coast a little, to party and hang loose, which is fine; socializing is normal and enjoyable. There is one problem however – the temptation to experiment with drugs and alcohol can be strong, and experimentation can lead to serious substance abuse issues.

So what can a concerned parent do? Many who had their formative years during the 80s remember the slew of anti-drug campaigns. Surprisingly, most of these drug prevention programs didn’t work very well. It’s been 30 years since most of those ad campaigns and many of those 80s kids now have kids of their own facing the same temptations and pitfalls. It’s a tough situation – there’s no faster way of making something enticing and interesting than forbidding it — yet most people know casual substance use can turn into addiction very quickly. A better strategy is needed.

Parents are a vital defense against drug abuse

Studies conducted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids have shown parents are still the primary influence over their children’s lives, more than the internet, other media, friends and celebrities. Sean Clarkin, senior vice president of programs at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids told “… Our research shows that kids in high school and even college say parents are still their primary influence.”

Unfortunately, many parents don’t seem to realize it. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, or SAMHSA, conducted a surprising 2013 survey. It reported one in every 10 parents had not spoken to their teen children about tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, despite two-thirds of the same parents believing that such talk could discourage their child’s use of those substances.

It’s important to remember kids and younger adults have the same genetic risk of addiction everyone else does. Younger people are also at a greater risk of substance abuse due to the way the human brain matures. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain controlling reasoning and decision-making, does not fully mature until age 25. Clarkin also points out substance abuse can spur from mental conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression, traumatic life events or having friends who use substances.

A strong role model does more than talk

Joseph Lee, M.D., psychiatrist, writes in his book “Recovering My Kid” that parents should focus on fundamental behaviors to create what he calls a “culture of leadership” in the home, by behaving the way they’d like their kids to behave. Children model their behavior on what they see of their parents. Additionally, the Partnership encourages parents to talk regularly and calmly with their children about substance abuse. “Kids who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use than kids who don’t,” says Clarkin.

White River Academy offers a focused environment for boys aged 12 to 17. In addition to our educational programs, we will instill character values and promote personal growth in your son. Our parent weekends help repair – and maintain – family bonds and teach techniques to continue positive growth after treatment. We can help your son achieve a positive future. For more information about our programs and registration, please call our 24/7 helpline.

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