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How to Talk to Your Teen About Drugs

Talking to your teenager about drugs can be awkward in the best of situations. If you’re visiting this site, you probably know or suspect that your teen is using, which makes things even more difficult. You may even feel as if you’ve failed as a parent. You haven’t, because you’re educating yourself and getting them help. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind when bringing this up with your teen.


The most important thing when talking to your teenager is honesty. Just like adults, kids can tell when you don’t know what you’re talking about. This means you’ll need to do your research before you talk to them. If you suspect your teenager is using Vicodin, for example, take some time to learn the drug’s effects, its side effects, street names, etc. If they know you’ve taken the time to learn about drugs yourself, they’ll be more open to conversation.

Start with a question

Teens are at a point in life where they crave respect and independence. They will be more receptive if you begin the conversation by acknowledging this. Narcotics Anonymous recommends beginning with a question, like “What have you heard about such-and-such a drug that’s good?”

Then, listen. Hear what they have to say. This isn’t the same as offering approval, but a simple “I understand” can go a long way towards establishing trust. Once your teen understands that you acknowledge them as budding adults, they’ll be more receptive to the information you have to present. To continue with the Vicodin example, you might respond with “You seem pretty knowledgeable about this. I assume you know that opiates lose their effectiveness over time. What happens if you need another surgery and the pain meds don’t work?”

Be a good role model.

If you’re using drugs yourself, your teenager is not going to take anything you have to say seriously. This includes excessive alcohol use or overuse of prescription medication.

Howto Talk to Your Teen About Drugs Early intervention is the best intervention. The younger a person is when they start using, the more likely they are to become addicted. A 2010 study from the National Institutes of Health showed that people who started using marijuana before age 14 had a 12.8 percent chance of developing a drug addiction later in life. People who started after age 18 only had a 2.6 percent chance of becoming addicted. The sooner you get your teen help, the more likely they will be able to live an addiction-free life as adults.

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