It can be a jarring and frightening time if you suspect or find out your child is using drugs or alcohol. The most important thing you can do is to confront it. But how, exactly, is the best way to do this?

    As with every important conversation, it’s best to take some time to prepare. Before you decide to confront your loved one and have the conversation, take a deep breath and plan out your discussion points, and think a bit about the “why” behind their use. We’re here to give you tips and strategies on how to do it.

    Understand the situation

    To understand the damage that can be caused by substance use as a teen or young adult, we need to look at the brain’s structure and the way in which it develops.

    During adolescence, the brain goes through many changes. In fact, the brain is not fully developed until the person reaches their mid-20s. This means that substance use can damage a teen’s brain in the long term, potentially causing learning difficulties and health problems in adulthood.

    If you think or know your child is using substances, it’s useful to accurately understand the risks along with some common reasons for teen and young adult substance use.

    Is Substance Use a Part of “Normal” Teen Behavior?

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    Risk Factors for Addiction

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    9 Facts About Addiction People Usually Get Wrong

    There are many misconceptions about addiction in our culture which often prevent parents from coping with and helping stop their child's drug use. Learn to separate the myths from the facts.
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    Start the conversation

    If you have just discovered that your son or daughter is using drugs, you may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do next. Now is the time to stay calm and prepare yourself for a conversation with your child.

    The conversation is likely to be uncomfortable and your child may react with anger. If you prepare well beforehand, you are more likely to achieve an effective outcome.

    Prepare to Take Action if You Suspect Teen or Young Adult Drug Use

    Is your child using drugs? Use these tips to prepare for the conversation ahead, and lay the foundation for more positive outcomes.
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    If You Discover Your Child is Using Drugs: Start Talking

    Take action to address drug and alcohol use early. Learn how talk with your child and have a productive conversation addressing their substance use.
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    Address the behavior

    You may be wondering how you can motivate your child to stop their substance use. One of the most important things you can do is to set clear limits about the behavior you do and do not want to see. A combination of appropriate consequences along with positive reinforcement can help help encourage the behavior change you’d like to see.

    Letting your have input into the expectations you’re creating along with the consequences for overstepping boundaries will increase your chances for success.

    Addressing Substance Use: Set Limits & Monitor Behavior

    Limits show your teen that you care. The tricky part is finding a balance between your need for control and their need for independence.
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    Allowing for Natural Consequences to Encourage Behavior Change

    Allowing your child to experience the consequences of their behavior can be a powerful influence on their future actions.
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    Use Positive Reinforcement to Help Change Behavior

    Providing some kind of reward to increase the chances that a healthy behavior will be repeated is central to helping change your child's substance use.
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    How can I get my child to understand the risks of marijuana, vaping or underage drinking?

    It is easy to dismiss the use of alcohol, marijuana or vaping products as “just experimentation” or a “rite of passage”. However, given that ninety percent of addictions begin in adolescence, ninety percent of underage drinking is binge drinking, and that substance use can have long-term implications for the developing brain, parents should remain concerned and act to help their child avoid these drugs.

    How to Address Alcohol and Underage Drinking

    Alcohol is the most used substance among teens and adults. So what can you say to your child who is drinking underage?
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    How to Talk About Marijuana

    There isn’t one script for talking about marijuana, but here's what you’re likely to hear — and a few suggestions for how to respond.
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    How To Talk To Your Child About Vaping

    Understand what it is, its appeal to youth, what research has to say about the known and unknown risks, and what you can do prevent your child from vaping.
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    What if my child is using heroin or other opioids?

    The opioid epidemic has had disastrous effects on communities across the country. Opioids (including many prescription pain relievers and heroin) have a high risk of addiction and overdose, but it can still be hard to understand why someone would continue using these substances given how widely known the risks are.

    Opioids create changes in the brain, which cause cravings that can be nearly impossible for many people to resist. Once dependent, not taking opioids leads to extremely painful withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms usually last five-six days and put the person in a place where decisions-making is difficult and the drug overrides their thinking. Consequently, relapse is very common and most people who are addicted to opioids cannot stop using without help, often in the form of Medication-Assisted Treatment.

    How to Use Naloxone to Reverse an Opioid Overdose and Save a Life

    In the event of an opioid overdose (including heroin and prescribed pain medications), naloxone can reverse an overdose and save a life.
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    Learn How Medication Can Help Treat Opioid Addiction

    The use of medicine like Vivitrol, Suboxone or Methadone is an evidence-based approach to overcoming addiction and maintaining long-term recovery.
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    Why Can’t My Child Just Stop Using Heroin?

    Many parents ask why their kid can't just stop. But as more studies are confirming, drugs are actually creating changes in his or her brain. Learn why.
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    Risks for Relapse, Overdose and What You Can Do

    Opioids (prescription painkillers and heroin) pose a high risk of overdose, for both those in active use and in recovery.
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    Last Updated

    October 2020

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