TEENS AND FAMILIES
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or other caregiver — these resources can provide valuable help and support to you or anyone else playing a supportive role in the life of a young person struggling with substance use and addiction .
For many parents, regularly talking to their children about addictive substances can be challenging. With this in mind, we asked our readers, “How often do you talk to your children about drugs and alcohol?”
While nearly one-third of respondents said they talk to their kids about this important topic every week, the most common response was never, which received 40 percent of the votes.
Over the past decade, the number of children who have had gotten sick from touching or eating poisonous, addictive substances has gone up. Fortunately, there are things parents can do to stop these incidents from ever taking place. It is never too early for parents to begin protecting their children from the potentially life-threatening harms of addiction and addictive substances.
In addition to making the headlines of major newspapers from across the country, addiction is also gaining traction on the silver screen. This season, many of our favorite TV shows are addressing substance use disorders and risky drinking or drug use. However, they often sacrifice precision for plot points. Here, we’ve provided some suggested reading to accompany This Is Us, Grown-ish and 13 Reasons Why -- three of television’s most talked about shows -- to help set the record straight.
Thinking back to your middle school or high school health classes, you may recall photographs of lungs blackened by cigarette tar or videos of teenagers dropping out of school, fighting with friends and family, or even dying because of their errant drug and alcohol use. Exposing children and teenagers to the most damaging consequences of these behaviors has long been a mainstay in America’s addiction prevention strategy – but that poses the question: do scare tactics work?
While scanning the latest news, it’s easy to feel as if we’ve traveled back in time to the 1980s. “Just say no?” “The war on drugs?” After nearly three decades, there’s still little evidence to suggest these outdated addiction prevention and treatment strategies work, and some evidence even shows that they are counterproductive. Yet, they continue to influence how we both talk about and treat addiction. And just last month, dialogue about the “gateway drug theory” resurfaced in the New York Times, raising the question: is this highly publicized hypothesis, which also originated in the final quarter of the 20th century, grounded in fact or fiction?
In 2016, U.S. pharmacies dispensed more than 214 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers such as Vicodin and OxyContin – enough for every adult American to have a full bottle of these pills. However, most people receiving these prescriptions report using only some or none of the pills. As many as 92 percent of people recovering from surgery stop taking their medications before the pills run out. Yet, only about one-quarter properly store or dispose of their unused meds – leaving the highly addictive prescriptions vulnerable to fall into the wrong hands.
Today’s opioid crisis knows no boundaries, especially when it comes to age. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that “prescription and over the counter drugs [including prescription opioids] are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco.” Over the past 15 years, the number of children and teens hospitalized due to opioid poisoning has nearly doubled and it has been widely cited that most adults in treatment for opioid addiction started using illicit substances before the age of 18. These statistics make it clear that there is a need to effectively identify and treat addiction to opioids among young people in order to prevent the consequences of this disease from following them into adulthood, or worse — cutting their lives short.
Parents who know or suspect their child is using drugs or alcohol are often at a loss for what to do next. Do you take a hard-lined punitive approach? Confront your child? Approach your child as you would a friend?
Molly Bobek, a Senior Research Associate here at Center on Addiction and a licensed therapist who specializes in family therapy, provides some suggestions for what parents can do when it comes to this difficult situation and explains her approach to helping families concerned about their teen’s substance use.
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