How to talk to your kids about drugs


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.

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.

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.

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 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.