How to Have the Right Conversation About Your Teen’s Drug or Alcohol Abuse


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Every teen goes through experimental phases. The pot wasn’t hers — a friend probably left it behind by mistake. My son would never get involved with underage drinking.

There are plenty of rationalizations a parent will mentally prepare when faced with the harsh truth about a child’s potential drug or alcohol problem. But teenage drug addiction and alcohol abuse are real, and likely more real than you’d care to imagine. It’s now estimated that 7.5% of American teens will have abused Vicodin for non-medical purposes by the time they graduate high school.

And that’s a problem.

When you suspect your child’s been abusing drugs or alcohol, (or worse yet, have physical proof of it) you’re going to be upset, but there are a few important things to keep in mind before you confront him or her about it. For example:

Don’t yell or use the conversation to project your anger.

As angry as you might be about your child’s teenage drug addiction, simply yelling at him or her isn’t going to do anything constructive. Of course you have a right to your own feelings of anger, but you shouldn’t simply make the confrontation all about you venting your emotions. This is about helping your child, and the quickest way for him or her to retreat again is by you yelling them into a situation where he or she feeling cornered.

Play it calm instead.

When you feel angry, wait. Take a deep breath. Schedule the conversation for a time in the future when you’ve allowed yourself time to cool off. Again, approaching the situation with a calm demeanor is the best way to invite your child to the idea of getting help.

Don’t aim for conversation at a time when your teen has recently used.

The helpful drug prevention and treatment website lists this tip as paramount to the success of any intervention, formal or informal. Your advice is likely to fall on deaf ears or be forgotten completely if your teen is intoxicated. Serious topics like having him or her attend drug rehab facilities or meet with counselors are best left to a more appropriate time.

Wait until he or she sobers up.

This might require a night of “waiting it out,” but it’ll be worth it. You can’t talk seriously about teenage drug addiction to someone who’s not coherent enough to have the conversation with you.

Don’t be impulsive with your talking points.

A halfhearted intervention is only bound to be taken half-seriously, so don’t wing it. If you have a spouse or live-in partner, plan it together and be prepared to share the talking duties. Your child is going to have questions and perhaps even demands, so prepare for a barrage of questions and potentially even anger directed your way.

Plan and prepare instead.

If you’re planning on pushing for drug rehab for teenagers, have some locations scouted out in order to talk about them at length with your child. He or she will likely want to know, in detail, the plans you’ve made.

Remember, untreated drug and alcohol abuse can have serious lasting consequences for a child (as well as the entire family). Never let the warning signs of addiction go unattended. Helpful links.

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