Time to talk. Time to connect. Time to prevent Substance Use Disorder.
Talking to children about substances early and often can make a huge impact on their substance usage. It’s important children hear from their parents or guardians about all substance use, including underage drinking, using marijuana, or using prescription or over-the-counter medicine in inappropriate ways. Children need clear boundaries when it comes to substance use. When parents and guardians create a supportive, nurturing environment, children make better decisions.
It might be uncomfortable, but it’s part of the job.
Our brains want us to keep doing things that we need or enjoy—like eating tasty food. That’s why you sometimes eat more dessert than you know you should. That’s why a little child often shouts “again!” when you do something to make them laugh. Substances are no different.
When should I start?
It is never too early to begin an open conversation with your child about substance use. On average, in the United States, children begin viewing alcohol in a positive way as early as nine years old, and approximately 3,300 children try marijuana for the first time as early as 12. By the time they are seniors, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, 50 percent will have taken an illegal drug, and more than 20 percent will have used a prescription medicine for a non-medical purpose. The message is clear: talk early, and often.
Know the signs of adolescent substance use.
As a parent or guardian, it’s important to pay attention to changes in your adolescent or young adult child. Often, there are warning signs associated with substance use in adolescents. Beware of moods swings that are paired with changes in behavior or appearance such as:
- Losing interest in regular activities they typically enjoy
- Abandoning old friend groups to join a new crowd
- Appearing aggressive or angry
- Untypical breaking of rules
- More frequent naps or sleeping more than usual
- Physical changes such as weight loss, uncommon nosebleeds, bloodshot or watery eyes, shakes or tremors