“Whether you sniff, it smoke it, eat it or shove it
up your a**, the result is the same: addiction.”
– William S. Burroughs, U.S. visual artist and writer
Now that I have your attention, a quick question for you.
Did you know that approximately 13.4% of American youngsters, aged 12-20, who answered the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) told them that they’d been binge drinking during the last month?
13.4%. Around 1 in 8. Now, that could easily be your youngster. A little troubling, no? Maybe, a little frightening for some of you.
Now consider this.
The consequences of this underage alcohol abuse include:
- Interfering with normal adolescent brain development
- Increasing the risk of developing Alcohol Abuse Disorder (AUD)
- Increasing the likelihood of serious drug abuse
- Physical injuries
- Sexual assaults, and
- Even deaths (this includes those from fatal car crashes).
You may be thinking, “Not my child,” and you may be right. The odds are in your favor.
However, many parents thinking the very same thing as you will one day will be attending the local morgue, rehab facility, prison or psychiatric ward. Yes, it’s unthinkable, but the unthinkable often happens.
The importance of talking to our young children and teenagers about drugs and alcohol has never been so important, now more than ever, as the U.S. is seemingly in the unshakeable grip of the opioid epidemic.
Did you also know that there are something called “pill parties” frequented by teenagers? Each kid steals a pill from their parent’s or grandparent’s medicine cabinet, they are placed in a bowl at one of the kid’s houses, and it’s the luck of the draw. Like a younger version of Russian Roulette.
It’s not just opioid painkillers and illegal drugs either – other prescription drug abuse has seen a huge surge in recent years, such as the teenage abuse of Adderall, Xanax and Valium.
My name is Andy and my motivation for writing this is simple. I never got this talk as a kid. It wasn’t the fault of my parents or my school education. It was just something that was rarely done back then.
Needless to say, drug and alcohol addiction had me in its grip for most of my younger life, until I got clean and sober over 9 years ago, thanks to the drug and alcohol detox and rehab I attended, and, of course, my parents for taking me there.
That was one road trip I’ll never forget.
The advice here is primarily to be positive and speak to your kids. Today. It will seriously lessen their chances of substance abuse issues later on. Here to help you is your guide to “The “Drugs & Alcohol” Talk You Need to Have with Your Kids,” all of it very sound, up-to-date advice devised by professional addiction treatment specialists.
Try to have this chat with your children early, around the ages of 8-10, and preferably before they can actually experience substances for the first time. This is by far the best option. Letting them understand the risks involved is important for them to then make their own choices and decisions based on facts, and preferably not because of peer pressure.
If you suspect that one of your youngsters is actually using drugs or alcohol already, don’t wait to then speak to them about it. Waiting will not do them any favors. NSDUH data shows that 12.8% of youngsters who tried marijuana at age 14 or younger went on to develop “illicit drug dependence or abuse.”
In contrast, only 2.6% of those who tried marijuana at 18 or older developed the same level of dependence. Talk to them now. If your child is becoming addicted to a substance, always deal with it quickly once you know. Detoxing from alcohol and/or drugs and having further treatment is not the end of the world.
As with anything, focusing on the positive aspects of issues will make your “drugs and alcohol” talk with your child more fruitful. For example, NSDUH data also shows that around 93% of 8th Grade students don’t smoke marijuana. Therefore, there is a good chance that your child’s peers don’t do it, making it more socially unacceptable for your child to do so.
Keep your conversations with your children about the use of drugs and alcohol centered firmly on the aspect. Don’t make it an interrogation, in other words. Your conversations should be always be neutral, informed and open.
It’s very important to establish the clearest possible boundaries for your youngsters regarding any use of drugs and alcohol. As the vast majority of kids and teenagers would understand and acknowledge, their parents aren’t going to be best pleased if use of drugs and alcohol is uncovered. However, actually defining what you will disapprove of creates the necessary trust you both need around the issue.
Many people who abuse drugs and/or alcohol do so for the purpose of self-medicating themselves, as a way of dealing and easing the stresses and strains in their lives. From an early age, it’s important your child understands their family is a supportive one, regardless of the issues involved, and that the best way to solve problems is by talking openly about them. By doing this, your children will also build up their own resilience to the things that may be troubling them.
Your children, as we all have done in our formative years, are going to have their idols – popstars and rockstars, celebrities, actors and actresses, and so on. Examples of these, such as Prince, Whitney Houston, Demi Lovato and Eminem, shows them clearly that everyone is susceptible to addiction issues, regardless of wealth and their place in the limelight.
By using what’s written above as a framework to your “drug and alcohol talk with your children – sooner is better, face problems head-on, be positive, clear boundaries, creating a stress-free home, and real-life examples – you can face the prospect with a certain amount of confidence that your message will be clear and understood.
What experiences have you had regarding the “talk”? Have they been met positively or negatively? Do you think your children clearly understood the dangers? Please let us know with a comment below.
Finally, if you think your child is using or even abusing alcohol or drugs, please don’t leave it too late. Get them help now, but, first and foremost, speak to them, and let them know they are not alone.