How worried should I be about my child’s drug use?

So your child has started vaping, drinking or using substances. Is this just what kids do? Is it going to lead to other drug use, or become another problem? Don’t leave the answers to chance.

How worried should I be?

Ninety percent of people with addictions started using substances in their teen years. Beginning at age 10 through the mid- to late-20s, massive changes are underway in the brain. This includes the development of capabilities related to impulse control, managing emotions, problem-solving and anticipating consequences. Substance use during this time period can prime the brain to be more susceptible to addiction and other mental health disorders, especially for kids who are vulnerable.

How do I know if my child is vulnerable to addiction?

Any substance use has negative effects on the teen brain. But your child is more vulnerable to addiction if any of these risk factors are present:

*Although “addictive personality” is not a scientific concept, some of these behavioral characteristics do signal an increased risk of addiction in young people.

If any of these are true for your child, it’s especially important to take any substance use seriously, and take action to address it.

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How worried should I be that my child has an "addictive personality?"

Even though there isn’t a true medical diagnosis of an “addictive personality,” there are certain risk factors that you as a parent can look for in your child to help understand if they’re more susceptible to problematic substance use.

Start speaking up

Many parents feel that there isn’t much more they can do beyond lecturing or punishing their child if they catch them smoking, vaping, drinking or using substances. But there are proven ways to motivate your child to dial back their substance use. You can have a conversation with your child about substance use without it imploding, and begin encouraging healthy behaviors you want to see and discouraging those that you don’t — especially those related to substance use.

The tools and resources highlighted below are designed to help you help your child.