Talking to Your Teen about Drugs: How to Support Them The Right Way

Posted by Tonny Rossi on March 14th, 2019

No matter what sort of efforts you may put in as a parent, there is still a very good chance that your teenager will have at least some exposure to drug use before they time the finish high school. Statistically, upwards of 70% of teenagers will try alcohol and about 50% will try cannabis before they graduate. Even if they have not used drugs themselves, it is likely someone close to them has.

Uncontrolled drug use can result in a wide variety of problems for teenagers. These problems may include poor performances in school, difficulties maintaining healthy relationships, troubles finding a job (if necessary), and various others. Because of this, it is important to establish a productive relationship with your teenager where you can both be very honest about the potential dangers of the world of drugs.

However, while many parents find themselves wanting to talk to their teen about drug use in a productive way, knowing how to do so can often be very difficult. Creating an environment that is judgement-free while still discouraging the use of drugs is a careful balancing act that many parents feel unprepared to manage.

In this article, we will discuss some of the most time-tested strategies for talking to your teen(s) about drug use. We will also discuss how teenage drug treatment centers may, at times, be necessary. By being proactive and initiating some of the difficult conversations, you can make a major difference in their lives.

Be willing to do plenty of research

One of the reasons that talking about drugs with your teenager can be so difficult is that the world of drugs is largely misunderstood. Just as some television shows, movies, and other forms of media have likely misrepresented drugs to your teen, these very same forms of media have likely also distorted your own personal worldview.

Whether you are hoping to confront your teen about an ongoing problem or are simply trying to provide them with some helpful information, it will be important to make sure you know what you are talking about. Research the different classes of substances (depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, etc.) and try to understand the impact they can have on people’s lives.

It will also be helpful to try and get a better understanding of why people choose to use drugs in the first place, why recovering from a substance abuse disorder can be difficult, and the potential treatment options that may be available. Fortunately, there are plenty of teen drug treatment centers that make this information readily available.


Create an environment of love and support

If you truly want to have an open, candid conversation with your teen about drug use, then it will be absolutely critical that you create an environment of love and support. Judgment, hostility, and aggression will all ultimately cause your teen to recognize that substance abuse is a topic that is simply off limits in your home.

Most individuals with substance abuse problems already recognize that what they are doing is damaging to their body. If recovery were really so simple, they would have surely chosen to do so by now. Though telling your child that you love them no matter what and that you will always be there for them may sound like “cliché” advice, this is truly the best method for creating a situation in which your teen will actually listen to you and value whatever it is you have to say.


Be mindful of your teenager’s behavior

The tone of your conversation about substance abuse will largely depend on the end objective that you have in mind. If your teen does not have any demonstrable signs of a substance abuse problem, but is simply approaching the age where drug use may occur, then your tone should be much more informative and non-confrontational.

On the other hand, if you believe a serious problem has already formulated, the objective of your conversation will obviously be much different. In order to know which type of conversation will be most appropriate, it will be important to monitor your teenager’s behavior. Based off of your research, does it seem that your teen has an active substance abuse problem? Or are they merely expressing a degree of angst and rebellion commonly associated with the teenage years?


Take the initiative and start the conversation

Most teens do not consider their parents to be their “go-to” resource when it comes to learning about the world of drugs. Instead, they are much more likely to turn to their peers (who also have limited knowledge) in order to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.

Whether your teenager has a substance abuse problem or not, you should take it upon yourself to start the conversation. Consider gathering some literature and approach them by saying “we need to talk.” This might be awkward, and yes, they may even roll their eyes. But taking the initiative to at least start talking about this will be a very important step in the right direction.


Keep the conversation going

The “conversation” you have with your teenager about drugs shouldn’t be limited to a single occasion. Because the pressures from their peers, the development of new substances, and their degree of personal autonomy are likely increasing in unison, maintaining an evolving dialogue will be absolutely critical.

As time goes on, the subjects that you discuss with your teen can become considerably more complex. For example, the first time you approach the subject, your conversation may simply be about the fact that substance abuse can be harmful. But as time goes on, talking about drugs and sexuality, the recent rise of prescription drug abuse, and other more complex issues may all be important components of the ongoing dialogue.


Recognize when it’s time to get help

Talking with, loving, and caring for your teen are all very important components of creating a healthy living space. But, at the end of the day, there may be limits to how much you can reasonably achieve as a parent. If your teen has already developed a substance abuse disorder, it may be time to reach out for professional help and find the right teen treatment option.

If you caught your teen drinking alcohol or consuming cannabis on a single occasion, a dramatic “intervention” may not be necessary (though you should still talk to them). However, there will be a point where “the line” has been crossed.

  •          Substance abuse has had a clear impact on your teenager’s home life
  •          Substance abuse has enabled or worsened a mental health condition
  •          Your teenager’s grades in school suddenly begin to drop
  •          Your teenager has overdosed or begun using harder substances (the slippery slope)

On some occasions, it may be necessary to admit your teenager to a drug treatment center. Other forms of therapy have also been proven to be quite effective as well.



As a parent, there are many difficult conversations you will need to have with your children as they transition into adulthood. Unfortunately, substance abuse disorders are a very real part of our reality. In order to assure that your teen is able to live the best life they possibly can, maintaining a strategic dialogue about drug use will be very important.

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Tonny Rossi

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Tonny Rossi
Joined: November 28th, 2018
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