How Do I Confront My Teen About Drugs?

Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2021

Make your rules on drug abuse clear

Rules surrounding drug use should be clear and consistent to encourage your teen to follow them.
Rules surrounding drug use should be clear and consistent to encourage your teen to follow them.

Parenting can be tricky, especially when handling a teen. One common hurdle is teen drug abuse. By talking openly with your teen about drugs, you can strengthen your relationship and improve communication. An open conversation can allow you to gain insight into your teen’s reasoning while making your expectations of them clear.

As a parent, you may be using vague phrases like “make good choices” and “be smart” when advising your teen on substance abuse. These terms have different meanings to different people, and they’re easy to misunderstand, especially for teenagers. To avoid any confusion, be as clear as possible about what you mean by “making good choices.” Sometimes, a simple change in word choice can help prevent miscommunication with your teen.

Rules surrounding drug use should be clear and consistent to encourage your teen to follow them. Discipline is most effective when it is moderate and enforces defined family rules. Use positive reinforcement like praise for appropriate behavior to strengthen family bonds and help them avoid drug abuse.

When setting rules, you may also want to encourage your teen to provide their own input. Including your teenager in rule-making increases the likeliness of an effective outcome.

Communicate the risks of teen drug abuse

When advising your teen to avoid drug abuse, make sure you also talk about the health effects different drugs can have on the body. Understanding these risks can make your teen feel more comfortable and confident that they’re making the right decisions regarding drug use.

The teenage years are important to healthy cognitive development. Teen drug abuse can impair the brain’s proper development. Drug use during the teenage years:

  • Interferes with brain chemicals
  • Impairs memory
  • Reduces the ability to experience pleasure
  • Inhibits the development of reasoning skills

Other effects of teen substance abuse include:

Adolescent drug users may also experience academic problems, poor peer relationships, and increased encounters with the legal system.

When explaining the risks of drug use to your teen, be honest with them and avoid coming off as too extreme. Taking a calm yet firm tone often helps teenagers better accept what you’re trying to communicate.

Ask your teen what they know about drugs

When talking to your teen about drug use, you may be surprised about how much they already know. They may have gotten their knowledge from school anti-drug programs, or they may have personal experience from friends or themselves. Once you’ve gotten your teen talking about what they know, it will be easier to ask if they have encountered drugs or been offered some.

Engaging your teen by asking questions and allowing them to talk may have a stronger impact on their decision-making. You can fill in any knowledge gaps or correct false information with input of your own.


Teens need how many hours of sleep per night? See Answer

Understand reasons behind adolescent drug abuse

If your teen admits to using drugs while talking to you, avoid overreacting. Stay calm and try to find out why your adolescent made the choice to use drugs. Teens may abuse substances to:

Having a conversation about these issues may reveal the underlying issues your teen faces, allowing you to focus on relieving them. Some teens may find it hard to explain why they use drugs, however, so try to be patient and keep an open dialogue going.

If you suspect your teen may be abusing substances without telling you, be on the lookout for the signs of drug abuse. These can include:

  • Shifts in mood and personality such as decreased motivation and increased hostility
  • Behavioral changes such as increased excuse-making, cash flow problems, and loss of interest in school work
  • Changes in appearance and hygiene such as unusual smells on clothes and breath

What if my teen has a substance use disorder?

As a caregiver, it may be hard to admit that you see the signs of drug addiction in your teen. Though no parent wants to see their child with a substance use disorder, it’s important to act fast when it’s spotted. No single treatment plan for drug abuse works for all teens, but there are a few standard treatments that often prove effective.

Behavioral therapy like counseling is the most commonly used form of teen substance abuse treatment. Doctors may also give medications depending on the type of drug abuse. Disulfiram and naltrexone help discourage alcohol abuse, while methadone helps treat opioid addiction. Getting in touch with a specialist on teen drug abuse can help you as a parent come up with the ideal management plan for your teen’s substance use disorder.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2021
Better Health: "How Drugs Affect Your Body," "Teenagers and Communication."

Centre for Effective Parenting: "Parent/Child Communication."

Family Lives: "Talking to Teens About Drugs."

Get Smart About Drugs: "Why Do Teens Use Drugs."

HelpGuide: "Helping Someone with a Drug Addiction."

KidsHealth: "Nine Steps to More Effective Parenting."

National Institute on Drug Abuse: "Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents," "Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction."

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: "Consequences of Youth Substance Abuse."

Partnership to End Addiction: "How to Spot the Signs of Teen or Young Adult Substance Use," "Preventing Drug Use: Connecting and Talking with Your Teen."

Stop Medicine Abuse: "Not My Teen: Teen Drug Use With Parents' Knowledge Is Still Risky."