Addressing Substance Abuse With Teens

With the increasing news regarding drug abuse and overdoses amongst teenagers, you may be worried about your child. Are they going to be peer pressured? Are they already involved with substances? It is normal to worry about what they may do or come in contact with, but taking action is the best way to combat these fears. Substance abuse is a real risk among teens, so you should know how to talk to them about it.

As a parent, you play a critical role in your teenager’s life. At such a vital age, substance use can severely impact their future and brain development. Keeping tabs on your teenager won’t prevent them from experimenting or developing a problem. Parents must talk with their teenagers about substance abuse and its consequences and risks.

The Risk of Teens and Substance Abuse

Although all substances are illegal for those under the age of 21, adolescents still find ways to access alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other addictive substances. In fact, a survey sponsored by The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that by the end of high school, more than two-thirds of students have tried alcohol.

Findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that young people ages 12-20 account for a tenth of the alcohol consumed in the United States. Not only are these facts troubling, but the use and abuse of such substances during the teenage years can lead to developmental problems, risky behaviors, health issues, and addiction.

Preparing to Talk to Your Teen About Substance Abuse

A significant factor in preventing your teenager from engaging in substance use is educating them on the impact of substance as well as remaining open and honest during such talks. Having a solid and trusting relationship with your teenager is more likely to steer them away from risky behaviors.

When they feel supported at home, they are more likely to make better decisions. Most teens do care what their parents think and don’t want to disappoint them. If they understand that your worry is for their well-being and because you love them rather than you trying to control them, they will more likely respect your rules.

It is one thing to remind your child of the dangers of drinking and using drugs at parties, but substance abuse also needs to be discussed. If you avoid the subject of substance abuse, they won’t feel safe coming to you for help or guidance.

Before instigating a one-sided lecture on drugs and alcohol:

  • Prepare yourself for the conversation
  • Set up a time to sit down and talk with your teenager
  • Ensure they have your focus, and you have theirs
  • Listen as much as you talk

Talking to Your Teenager About Substance Abuse

This is a serious subject and requires both parties’ undivided attention. Set out an hour for dinner to talk to your child. Go for a drive or walk together so your teenager doesn’t feel like you’re drilling them with questions, information, or accusations. A lack of eye contact may seem wrong in this situation, but your teen may be more open to what you have to say without such intensity.

Remember you want this to be productive. You want to be calm yet serious. You want your teenager to know that you have concerns but also that you trust their judgment. You want them to have all the facts, including the fact that you are a safe place to come to with matters on this subject. Some things you can do to make this conversation smoother include:

Be Prepared for Questions

You want to have an open dialogue. When they ask questions, they are paying attention, absorbing the information, and are curious to talk more.


Do not shut down their opinions. Actively hear what they have to say and note their concerns. This ensures you understand what they need to know more about or where they stand on the subject.

Do Not Judge Your Teen

It is vital that you accept anything they may have done in the past. If you want them to open up to you about their friends and experiences, they need to feel supported, not shamed.

Talk It Out

Make time to discuss each of your thoughts and feelings, as well as clearly state the facts. Let them know about the effects substances can have on the mind and body, especially of a teen. Be sure they understand how substance abuse begins and how to make good choices. It can help to print out scientifically reviewed information for them to read before and after talking.

Continue Talking

This should not be a one-time conversation. Substance abuse is an ever-present concern, so keeping the line of communication on the subject open is vital.

If your teen has questions or worries that you aren’t sure how to address, seek the help of a professional with teenage substance abuse experience. You can sit down together so you can both get the answers you need and feel more reassured and prepared to face what comes your way.

Teenage substance abuse is a major problem in the United States. As a parent, seeing the growing number of overdose deaths in the news surely worries you. Instead of feeding your fear and instilling reasons to hide behaviors in your teen, have an open and honest discussion about the facts and their feelings on the subject. A supportive and understanding talk can have a better impact. At Havenwood Academy, we help teenage girls with mental health conditions, substance use disorders, and trauma work through their struggles. We provide top-notch care through various therapy modalities, medications when necessary, and family involvement. We want to make sure your teen understands they are supported every step of the way. If your daughter is struggling with behavioral issues or substance abuse, we are here to help. Reach out to us at (435) 586-2500 today, and we can get you started.


Think Havenwood Might Be For You?

We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.