Call 1.855.378.4373 to schedule a call time with a specialist or visit
Call 1.855.378.4373 to schedule a call time with a specialist

    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 what, exactly, is the best way to talk to kids about drugs?

    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.

    Understanding why some teens drink or use drugs is a valuable step toward keeping them healthy and safe.
    Learn more
    Identify whether your child could be at higher risk for drug or alcohol use, and learn common reasons for why young people may use.
    Learn more
    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.
    Learn more

    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.

    During their teenage years, children’s brains are still developing, and continue to do so until their mid-20s or later. Substance use during this time period can negatively interfere with this development. It’s vital to intervene you're worried about your teen using substances. In this guide, you'll find answers to questions caregivers like you have about talking to your loved one and keeping them safe.
    Learn more

    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.

    Rules mean you care about your child and his or her safety. Don't feel bad about setting limits — your child needs them.
    Learn more
    Allowing your child to experience the consequences of their behavior can be a powerful influence on their future actions.
    Learn more
    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.
    Learn more

    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.

    What do you do, and what can you say if your child has been caught drinking?
    Learn more
    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.

    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.

    In the event of an opioid overdose (including heroin and prescribed pain medications), naloxone can reverse an overdose and save a life.
    Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) help treat opioid use disorder by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings and helping to prevent relapse. As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, it is considered the gold standard of care.
    Learn more
    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.
    Learn more
    Opioids (prescription painkillers and heroin) pose a high risk of overdose, for both those in active use and in recovery.
    Learn more

    Last Updated

    October 2023