Have you ever heard the saying “knowing is half the battle”? The best way to protect your teen when it comes to substance use is to know what drugs they are being offered. You should also know what potentially harmful substances are being marketed to them covertly through the media. As a parent, you have the power to teach your teen how to navigate through tough situations if you can anticipate what they might be faced with.
What do you need to know? Widely available and inexpensive substances like cigarettes, alcohol (beer and distilled spirits), marijuana, and prescription drugs are all appealing to young people. Big corporations all make huge profits from their teen fans. This is despite the fact that those under 18 can’t purchase their products, and could be seriously harmed by using them.
Let’s take a look at each of the substances preferred by teens and the risks associated with them.
Smoking is a dangerous and addictive habit that teens gravitate towards because they want to look cool or fit in. Marijuana and tobacco are their most popular choices. Marijuana, first and foremost, is illegal. It affects a teen’s ability to learn, their memory, and their coordination. Cigarettes could possibly be even more harmful. Heart disease, cancer, and respiratory ailments all stem from smoking tobacco. Adolescents are particularly prone to becoming addicted or experiencing chronic illness/premature death. One out of three adolescents who try smoking will end up addicted to nicotine as adults. Tobacco companies use aggressive marketing tactics to ensure they will have loyal customers for years to come.
Alcohol, by far the most popular substance among teens, can seriously damage a young person’s developing brain. It even has the ability to permanently change the way a teen’s brain works. Memory, attention span, and spatial skills are all negatively affected when teens drink heavily. Alcohol is often readily available in an adolescent’s home, and they witness parents and adults guests drinking at celebrations and parties. It is important that adults practice drinking in moderation, which helps teens understand that excessive drinking is detrimental to their health and completely unacceptable at all times.
Finally, prescription drugs are another substance that is very accessible in most homes. Teens perceive these drugs as being safe because they’re prescribed by trusted doctors to family members and friends. They use pills to get high without realizing that they can become addicted and experience mental, physical, and emotional health problems or even death. Many times prescription drug use also leads to heavier drug use. Adolescents may turn to heroin because they can get a stronger and cheaper high.
So what can you do to keep your teen safe? For starters, let them know about the dangers associated with drug use and make it clear that risky behavior is prohibited in your home. When your teen returns from a night out, always make it priority to talk with them before they go to bed. Overdose, addiction, and drinking and driving accidents are topics your child needs to know about. They should understand that these are very real events that usually start with moderate drug or alcohol use that is thought to be harmless. Monitor your teen’s internet use and know who their friends are. You have the power to prevent your teen from giving into the temptation to use dangerous substances.
Do you need some help talking with your kids about drugs and alcohol? Click here for our parenting tips.