The Drug Talk

As concerned parents of teenagers, we all know that drugs are bad. There is a greater possibility of engaging in risky behaviors, developing drug dependency, academic problems and serious health issues due to drug abuse. The negative effects of drugs and alcohol during adolescent are widely known. However, here are some things you may not know:

  • More teens die from prescription drugs than heroin/cocaine combined
  • 60% of teens do not see regular marijuana use as harmful and 54% do not think regular steroid use is harmful
  • By 8th grade, 28% of teens have consumed alcohol, 15% have smoked cigarettes and 16.5% have used marijuana
  • 7 million underage teens report to drinking alcohol in the past month, 5.4 million engaged in binge drinking, and 1.4 million engaged in heavy drinking
  • Teens who consistently learn about the risk of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use drugs than those who do not

That last statistic is interesting and uplifting! As parents, we have some power! So how do we talk to our teenagers about drugs? Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Ask about their opinion and experience. Avoid boring lectures. Instead, ask your teen about his or her opinion on drugs. You can do this by asking open-ended questions. Avoid accusations and judgment. You want to create a safe space to discuss this serious issue. In turn, this will set the tone for your communication in other aspects as well.
  • Be open about your own experience. Teenagers are curious. They will ask you about your own use and will speculate otherwise. Be honest! You will create a more open dialogue if you can be truthful. If you chose to do drugs, share what the experience has taught you. If you chose not to do drugs, explain why.
  • Explain expectations, set limits and discuss reasons. This is different for every family. The emphasis should be on how drugs can affect the things that are important to your teen – such as trips, sports, health, appearance, driving, and other privileges. Be realistic. Scare tactics do not work and actually alienate your teen. Explain that even teenagers can develop drug problems, and create an open dialogue for discussion of concerns. Answer questions and admit it when you are not sure. Find out together and form a united front.
  • Consider social and media messages. What is the world telling us about drugs? It is important to realize that the media glamorizes substances, especially new synthetic drugs like Flakka and Spice. Discuss what your teen has seen or heard.
  • Peers and socializing. Do not undermine the power of friends and peers. Instead, discuss the pressure to experiment and brainstorm ways to resist drugs and stay safe.
  • Know your teen. In order to know the warning signs, we need to know the norm. Ask your teen about school and know what they like to do on their spare time. Take the time to meet their friends and provide adult-supervised activities for your teens. Monitor academic and behavioral problems. Issues with memory, coordination and loss of interest may be warning signs.

If you suspect that your teen is abusing drugs, simply talk to them. Remember, it is never too soon to talk to your children about drugs. You can use these teachable moments to create an open dialogue. Did you know that Switchboard of Miami offers many prevention and treatment programs for teenagers? For more information on our youth development programs and other resources, please visit or call 2-1-1.