Comprehensive Guide to Preventing Teen Addiction

Published On: March 30, 2016

The very idea of your teenage child developing an addiction is surely a nightmare scenario you seek to avoid.

However, many of you reading this post will unfortunately now be faced with this very nightmare.

Thankfully, there is a solution.

Here we provide 7 tips for avoiding teen drug/alcohol addiction.

We also provide 7 tips for stopping teenage addiction where it has unfortunately arisen.


The science of teenage drug/alcohol addiction

Scientists believe teens are not more prone to making impulsive decisions than adults.

This makes teens more vulnerable to addiction.

Neuroscientists say this is because teens’ frontal lobe isn’t as insulated as their adult peers.

This insulation in the frontal lobe is made up of a protein known as myelin.

Neuroscientists say this insulation isn’t properly formed until you reach your mid-20s.

This lack of insulation in teens’ frontal lobe means they are not as good at accessing the rational parts of the brain as you and me.

And this is exactly why teens are more susceptible to addiction.

If you would like to learn more about this interesting science, please read the book The Teenage Brain by Amy Ellis Nutt.


Tips for avoiding teenage drug/alcohol addiction

Luckily, when it comes to preventing teen drug and/or alcohol addiction, there are several steps a diligent parent can take.

Below we list 7 tips for preventing teen drug and alcohol addiction:


Tip #1: Be a positive role model by not drinking/smoking yourself

Many parents complain when their offspring start smoking and drinking alcohol, yet many of these same parents are happy to smoke and drink in front of their child.

This sets a poor example and communicates to teens that it’s ok to indulge in harmful substances.

This may even provide the impetus for addiction.

So please reconsider drinking and smoking in front of your children.

If you must drink alcohol, then we advise you refraining from drinking until your teens are absent.


Tip #2: Don’t avoid talking to your children about addiction

Talking to your teens about drug/alcohol use is something many of you will find discomforting.

In fact, many of you will prefer to lecture your children on the birds and the bees than talking about the dangers of drugs/alcohol.

But we strongly advise you get over this reluctance and instead hit the topic head-on.

Remember, there’s no shame in discussing the dangers of drug/alcohol use with your teen.

If you feel uncomfortable with the topic, perhaps deal with the matter along with several other health-related issues.

Lastly, we recommend you start having these conversations with your children when they are young (i.e. pre-teenage years).

This allows you to reinforce your message over several years.

Remember, repetition is the mother of all learning, so educating your children on the dangers of drug/alcohol use early on will have a much more potent effect compared to leaving it until the last possible minute.


Smiling young woman giving a thumb’s down against a white background

Tip #3: Let your disapproval of drugs/alcohol be known to your teens

We advise you to directly voice your disapproval of drug/alcohol use to your children.

This tip is about setting clear boundaries and expectations.

We also recommend you state in clear terms what will happen if your children fail to meet these expectations.

However, for your credibility to uphold, you must follow tip #1 above by being a positive role model.

Remember, people judge you by your actions, not merely by what you say.

We also recommend you educate yourself on addiction. This information gives you more credibility when lecturing your children on drug and/or alcohol use.


Tip #4: Set limits on what your teens are allowed to watch

Unfortunately, many television programmes and films glorify drug and alcohol use.

If you’ve ever watched an episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ then you will know what we mean!

Thus, we advise you censor what TV programmes and films your teens are exposed to, particularly during their early teenage years.


Picture of doctor’s hand giving an adhesive plaster for an elderly hand

Tip #5: Heal old wounds

Many teens adopt an addictive lifestyle because of trauma suffered in their past.

This trauma includes neglect, abuse, family breakdown and continual disappointment at the hands of an uncaring parent.

Accept that you may have been the cause of at least some of this trauma, and go out of your way to patch things up.

Healing old wounds may dramatically reduce the odds of your teenage child developing an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.

And above all, be ’emotionally’ available for your teens.

We’re not asking you to be perfect, but we are asking you to be there for your teenage children when they need you.

For instance, a study conducted at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse revealed that children who frequently have dinner with their families are vastly less likely to abuse drugs/alcohol compared to children that don’t.

Remember, teenage years are fraught with emotional ups and downs, and it’s nice to have a shoulder to cry on now and again.


Tip #6: Tell your child of your own bad experiences with drug and/or alcohol

Many parents will have experimented with drugs/alcohol in their own teenage years.

And many of them will have paid some sort of price as a result.

Fortunately, those mistakes you made in your past can now be an asset.

Inform your child of your own teenage drug/alcohol use and explain to them how this negatively impacted your life.

Your own past experiences with drug/alcohol use really strengthen your credibility, since it shows your concerns are well-founded.

In fact, sharing your past experiences allows you to become a mentor as well as a parent.


Tip #7: Teach your teen about drug and alcohol’s dangerous health effects

This tip is about fear.

Fear is a very powerful emotion that prevents us from taking actions that could lead to serious injury or death.

So we advise you utilise this emotion when talking to your teenage child about drug and alcohol use.

Here’s some examples of the deadly effects caused by drug/alcohol use:

  • Ecstasy kills brain cells and may cause heart and liver failure
  • LSD and magic mushrooms can cause permanent brain damage
  • Alcohol kills brain cells and damages the liver
  • Use of inhalants can damage the kidneys, lungs and heart


What to do if teenage drug alcohol addiction has arisen

Now we explore actions you can take if you discover your child has developed an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.


Tip #1: Be on the lookout for signs of addiction

If you suspect your child has developed an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, then please look out for the following symptoms that could well confirm your suspicion:

  1. Has your child changed his or her friendship circle?
  2. Has your child’s appearance took a turn for the worst?
  3. Has your child’s hygiene took a turn for the worst?
  4. Has your child become more aggressive and withdrawn from his or her social life?
  5. Has your child’s school/university/college grades declined?
  6. Has your child started to neglect/ignore his or her hobbies?
  7. Has your child’s eating habits changed?
  8. Has your child started to lose weight?
  9. Has your relationship with your child deteriorated for no apparent/rational reason?


Tip #2: Determine the extent of your teen’s addiction

Unfortunately, the more drugs and/or alcohol your teen has consumed, the harder it will be to stop.

This is because the body builds up a tolerance to drugs and alcohol.

This means ever greater quantities of drugs/alcohol are required in order to satisfy your teen’s thirst for drugs/alcohol.

When your teen withdraws from drugs/alcohol, a range of withdrawal symptoms will arise.

These symptoms vary in their discomfort, but some of these symptoms are potentially fatal.

If your teen suffers from withdrawal symptoms, we strongly advise you to seek out expert medical attention.


Tip #3: Don’t rule out mental health issues

If your child suffers from an addiction, please don’t rule out wider mental health issues.

Researchers say over 75% of teen addicts suffer from an underlying mental health issue such as ADHD, anxiety, depression or an eating disorder.

Try to get your teen assessed and diagnosed.

If your child is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, at least you are now able to take the necessary steps to ensure the disorder receives the proper treatment it requires.


Tip #4: Don’t tolerate experimentation

Some parents will dismiss their teen’s drug and/or alcohol use as ‘experimentation.’

However, experimentation soon evolves into addiction.

And addiction always means trouble!

So reassess your tolerance to ‘experimentation’ and ensure your new boundaries and expectations are clearly communicated to your teenage child.


Tip #5: Don’t blame yourself

Many parents will feel like a failure when they discover their teenage child is abusing drugs/alcohol.

However, we urge you not to blame yourself.

In many cases, your child’s drug/alcohol use is due to a complex cocktail of causes, least of all your parenting skills.

Moreover, blaming yourself will not help the situation.

In fact, blaming yourself will cause more harm than good.


Tip #6: Don’t blame your spouse, partner or ex-partner

And above all, don’t blame your spouse, partner or ex-partner for your child’s drug/alcohol addiction.

Blame is a negative emotion that gets in the way of a solution.

After all, your child’s addiction could be a result of your fractured relationship with the other parent, so don’t add to your child’s pain by blaming their mother or father.


Tip #7: Don’t negatively judge your teen for his or her drug/alcohol use

If your teenage child has become addicted to drugs/alcohol, then negatively judging their actions is seldom the best solution.

In fact, pointing the moral finger at your child is more likely to do more harm than good.

Instead, find a rational solution to your child’s addiction that does not involve pointing the finger at him or her.

Above all, try not to be too judgemental and show them that you genuinely wish to put things right.

This approach will mean your child is comfortable seeking out your help in the future.

That’s all for now

We hope you enjoyed our guide on teen addiction.

If you would like to request an intervention, please contact us.

Please be aware that we’re based in the United Kingdom.

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