As a parent, you only want the best for your child. Your biggest fear is that any poor life decisions they make could result in permanent harm to themselves or others.

Drug abuse among adolescents has captured the attention of both parents and health experts alike. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, one in every eight teenagers abuses an illegal substance each year (2021).

It is no secret that teenagers charge headfirst into things. Without proper guidance, they can easily become susceptible to developing a drug or alcohol addiction. Here are some tips for preventing alcohol and drug abuse in your teen.

5 Ways to Prevent Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Your Teen

1. Recognize the Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Most teens will try drugs or engage in underage drinking in limited amounts. Teenagers that are abusing drugs on the other hand will use frequently, excessively, and dangerously. If you think your child may be developing a substance abuse problem here are some things to look for.

  • Poor or declining grades
  • Is having disciplinary problems in school
  • Money and valued items are disappearing from your home
  • They are unmotivated or sluggish
  • They exhibit bizarre sleep patterns (Staying awake and sleeping for long periods of time)
  • They experience sudden appetite loss or gain
  • Finding drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, lighters, bottles of hard liquor among their personal items
  • Their appearance is unhygienic
  • They exhibit mood swings or hyperactive behavior
  • They behave secretly or lie about where they are going or what they are doing

2. Talk to Your Teen

Avoid lecturing; you don’t want to see their eyes glaze over. Try instead to have a real conversation. Chances are they have already learned quite a bit about drugs either from their health education classes or from peers. Don’t be afraid to engage them directly about what they know. It will show that you are receptive and care what about what they have to say.

Schedule an Appropriate Time

Sitting down to talk about such a heavy topic may be uncomfortable for your child. Let them know in advance that you plan to have the “drugs and alcohol talk.”

To increase your chances of them being receptive, try to pick a time and place where they will be both comfortable and willing to have the discussion. Be able to identify inappropriate times such as when your teen is distracted or angry.

Share Experiences from Your Past

If you have used illicit drugs or chose to abstain in the past, share your experiences with them. Explain why you decided for or against drugs in a particular situation. If they understand that you are coming from a place of experience rather than one of fear, they will be more likely to heed your advice.

If Your child Admits to Using Drugs or Alcohol, Ask Them Why?

Some teens use drugs and alcohol as a way to reduce stress or anxiety. Try to get them to open up about why they are self-medicating and suggest healthier outlets for them instead.

Others may be trying to gain acceptance from their peers. According to research teens have a tendency to overestimate the amount of drugs that their peers are taking (Schram-Sapitya et al., 2009). This could be dangerous in social settings where drugs and alcohol are involved because it may fuel competition over who can consume the most.

Another reason so many teens are using drugs and in particular alcohol, is due to how attractively they are presented in the media. Big tobacco and alcohol are also to blame. Unknown to most teens (and some adults), they pay to have their products placed in film and TV.As you both discuss the myths about drug use, ask them if this knowledge still makes drinking and smoking attractive.

3. Institute Rules and Consequences for Drug Use

Be firm so that your child knows what the rules are and what will happen if they are broken. While finding out that your child is using drugs may be shocking, the best results will come from punishing the behavior and not the individual.

 Here are some examples of punishments that discourage drug use.

  • Removing Privileges
  • Increasing Household Responsibilities and Chores
  • Grounding

4. Seeking Treatment

Just as adults sometimes need addiction treatment, so too do adolescents. In fact, all available research we have suggests that they are more prone to addiction than adults. According to an expert on teenage neurochemistry, this is because they still developing their prefrontal cortex, a key area for decision making and impulse control. (Jenson qtd in NPR,2015).

Getting Started

Consult your child’s doctor or an addiction professional. If they are indeed drug dependent, they will need to get treatment. The good news is that there are many options for treatment that cater to exclusively to adolescents.

  • Inpatient Programs

Inpatient drug rehabilitation programsrun24-hour centers for drug treatment. They can provide both detox services and counseling for 30–90-dayperiods

While enrolled, most facilities encourage parents to visit. Many also offer family therapy to reconnect any bonds that were broken due to addiction.

  • Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment program takes place a couple of days a week for one or more hours at a time. This is perfect for parents who want their teens to continue going to school while in treatment. Unlike inpatient programs, there usually is not a set time that an outpatient program ends.

5. Keeping Track of Where Your Teen is

By knowing where your teenager is, you can significantly reduce the likelihood that they will be abusing drugs or alcohol.

Here are a few different ways to ensure that your teen is where they are supposed to be: 

Establish Check-in Times

If your teen is coming home from school or spending time with their friends, have them call in periodically. If they are in a compromised situation, it will be easier to detect it by hearing their voice than over text.

Extracurricular Programs

Activities that take place after school such as sports programs, clubs, tutoring, band, music lessons, or even just after-school care can help ensure that they are always supervised by accountable adults. Best of all, many of these programs will contact you if your child refuses to show up.

Utilize Tracking Applications

If your teen’s actions are getting out of hand or you just want to make sure they are safe, there are many apps that will allow you to make use of the GPS feature of their cell phone. For more information on available tracking, apps click here(

Nobody should have to go through addiction alone. If you or a loved one is dealing with a drug-related disorder contact us now at 877-468-0857 to learn about a variety of recovery resources available to you.


Bustamante, J. (2021, May 13). Teenage drug use Statistics [2021]: Data & trends on abuse. NCDAS.  

Gross, T., & Jenson, F. (2015, January 28). Why teens are Impulsive, Addiction-prone and should protect their brains. NPR.

Schramm-Sapyta, N. L., Walker, Q. D., Caster, J. M., Levin, E. D., & Kuhn, C. M. (2009, September). Are adolescents more vulnerable to drug addiction than adults? Evidence from animal models. Psychopharmacology.

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