What every parent should know about drugs

Dr. Scott Bonn, DocBonn

You can protect your child by informing yourself about the dangers of drugs. Just as you inoculate your kids against illnesses like measles, you can help immunize them against drug use by giving them the facts before they’re in a risky situation.

When kids don’t feel comfortable talking to parents, they’re likely to seek answers elsewhere, even if their sources are ill-informed and unreliable. Kids who aren’t properly informed are at greater risk of engaging in risky behaviors and experimenting with drugs. Parents who are educated about the effects of drug use and learn the facts can help correct any misconceptions children may have.

Make talking about drugs a part of your general health and safety conversations with your child. Parents are primary role models for their children so your views on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs can strongly influence the beliefs of your child.

Establish Good Groundwork

No parent, child, or family is immune to the effects of drugs. Some of the best kids can end up in trouble, even when they have made an effort to avoid it and even when they have been given the proper guidance from their parents.

However, certain groups of kids may be more likely to use drugs than others. Kids who have friends who use drugs are significantly more likely to try drugs themselves. Those feeling socially isolated for whatever reasons may also turn to drugs.

It’s important to know your child’s friends and their parents. Be involved in your child’s life. If your child’s school runs an anti-drug program, get involved. You might learn something! Pay attention to how your kids are feeling and let them know that you’re available and willing to listen in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize when your kids are going through difficult times so that you can provide the support they need and, if necessary, seek professional care.

A warm, open family environment where kids are encouraged to talk about their feelings, where their achievements are praised, and where their self-esteem is bolstered, encourages them to come forward with their questions and concerns. When censored in their own homes, kids go elsewhere to find support and answers to their most important questions, and that can result in serious problems.

Start talking to your children about drugs while they are young and before temptations arise.

Preschoolers: Start early

Don’t get nervous about talking to young kids about drugs.  You’ve probably already laid the groundwork for a discussion. For instance, whenever you give a fever medication or an antibiotic to your child, you have the opportunity to discuss the benefits and the appropriate and responsible use of those drugs. This is also a time when your child is likely to be very attentive to your behavior and guidance.

Start taking advantage of “teachable moments” early in your child’s life. If you see a character on a billboard or on TV with a cigarette, talk about smoking, nicotine addiction, and what smoking does to a person’s body. This can lead into a discussion about other drugs and how they can potentially cause harm.

Keep the tone of these discussions calm and use terms that your child can understand. Be specific about the effects of the drugs—that is, how they make a person feel, the risk of overdose, and the other long-term damage they can cause. To give your kids these facts, you might have to do a little research.  See the link at the end of this article for more information.

Teens: Make them accountable

Kids this age are likely to know other kids who use alcohol or drugs, and to have friends who are driving. Many kids are still willing to express their thoughts or concerns with parents about these topics, especially if open communication was established early in their lives.

Use these conversations not only to understand your child’s thoughts and feelings, but also to talk about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Talk about the possible legal consequences of driving under the influence, including jail time and fines, as well as the possibility that they or someone else might be seriously injured or even killed.

Consider establishing a written or verbal contract on the rules about going out or using the car. The contract can cover a range of situations. For example, if you find out that someone drank or used drugs in your car while your son or daughter was behind the wheel, you may want to suspend driving privileges for 6 months. By discussing all of this with your kids from the start, and establishing a contract, you eliminate surprises and make your expectations clear.  This, in turn, makes your child accountable for his/her behavior.

Good luck!  If you are looking for more resources for yourself or your child you can always talk to your family doctor.  For more information now on how to talk to children about drugs visit: http://www.teenchallenge.org/site/c.inKLKROuHqE/b.5610627/k.1AB5/Teaching__Children_About_Drugs.htm

Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq.”  Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter or email him directly at docbonn1@gmail.com.


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Posted on June 9, 2012, in Addiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The vast majority of anti-drug programs are complete nonsense and useless and based on erroneous assumptions and misinformation.True drug education requires dealing with reality,and the reality is that many teens are already drinking. This, as international researchers have noted in their presentations, a major problem in the United States where the uniform minimum legal drinking age of 21, but the average age of when people start drinking is 13-14 years of age. This means that that alcohol education programs used in American schools start out with a major handicap – the erroneous assumption that a significant segment of the target audience is not already drinking or experimenting with drugs..
    Peter E. Nathan, PhD, in his study, “Alcohol Dependency Prevention and Early Intervention,” cited research indicating that “students who are most responsive to school based programs probably are those for whom such programs are least necessary. Programs may not be reaching those children who are at greatest risk to develop alcohol and drug problems.”
    In the high risk category were those with a family history of abuse, a history of antisocial behavior, and those from ethnic and racial minority groups who were either “physically or psychologically beyond the reach of traditional, school based prevention programs.”
    Successful programs use honest and effective educational programs that treat drug use as just another part of a broad health curriculum, with topics such as medical care, nutrition, exercise, hygiene, ecology, safety, and other activities that affect the students’ quality of life.
    In the prevention of addiction and alcoholism, addressing only drugs and alcohol overlooks other factors contributing to the onset of drug and alcohol related illness and addiction. Make sure your school sends an honest, positive message that includes models beyond abstinence, and embraces moderation, harm reduction, and responsibility. If possible, school-based prevention programs should be integrated into the school’s academic program, because school failure is strongly associated with drug abuse. Integrated programs strengthen students’ bonding to school and reduce their likelihood of dropping out.
    Any program utilized to prevent or reduce underage drinking and drug use must be continually evaluated. An evaluation needs to answer the following questions:
    What was accomplished in the program?
    How was the program carried out?
    How much of the program was received by participants?
    Is there a connection between the amount of program received and outcomes?
    Was the program run as intended?
    Did the program achieve what was expected in the short term?
    Did the program produce the desired long-term effects?
    Repeated research and evaluation of successful methods shows that the most proven and practical approach dealing with teen drinking and drug use is strategic harm reduction. In other words, make the world a safer place. Safe for the drunk teen, and safe from the drunk teen. The idea is to put a separation between the individual and harm, and society and harm. Seat belts and airbags are harm reduction strategies, for example.

  1. Pingback: Sage Stallone is dead. Prescription drugs kill. Doctors enable addicted patients. « Doc Bonn Blog

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