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4 ways to talk to your children about drug abuse

Oct. 7, 2015 at midnight


Some of the most challenging conversations parents can have with children involve drug and alcohol use. Today, there is scientific evidence teens are more susceptible to addiction than adults, so the discussions are more important than ever.

According to a Yale University study, adolescents are a higher risk of addiction because of chemical changes taking place in their brains. The research shows areas of teenagers’ brains controlling impulsive behavior are not fully formed, while brain circuits that reinforce drug use function at a high level.

Teen drug abuse is a problem nationwide, including locally. In a survey for the Coalition for Drug Free Youth in Longview, a combined 30 percent of respondents said the use of synthetic marijuana and regular marijuana were significant concerns. The Regional Needs Assessment for Region 4, which includes Gregg County, shines light on the accessibility of marijuana. Thirty-six percent of 11th grade students state it would be "very easy" to get marijuana. Of those same 11th grade students, almost 47% believe it is "very dangerous" for kids their age to use marijuana. Meth abuse was also listed as a prevalent concern.

Numerous studies have shown children are less likely to experiment with drugs if their parents have talked with them beforehand. Here are some suggestions for making those conversations more effective.

  1. Explain the risks

The legalization of marijuana for medicinal or recreational in some states has created problems for parents in places where it is still outlawed, like the state of Texas. For some teens it sends a message that using marijuana is not a serious issue. The National Institute of Drug Abuse advises parents to explain the risks to their children. Some of them include:

It can be addictive.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is unsafe.

It is linked to school failure. Marijuana negatively affects attention, motivation, memory and learning. The effects often persist after the drug's immediate effects wear off, especially in regular users.

It can cause psychosis or panic. Research suggests there is a link between early marijuana use and an increased risk of psychosis among those with a preexisting susceptibility.

There are legal ramifications. In Texas, possession of less than 2 ounces of pot is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. More than 2 ounces is a Class A misdemeanor and can net the violator up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Those costs do not include attorney fees, possible increased insurance rates, possible suspension or expulsion from school, etc.

  1. Listen and ask

The Mayo Clinic advises parents to listen when their teen children talk about drug use and to observe his or her nonverbal cues. Then go ahead and ask them about their views.

“Don't be afraid that talking about drug abuse will plant ideas in your teen's head,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Conversations about drugs won't tempt your teen to try drugs. Instead, talking about drug abuse lets your teen know your views and understand what you expect of him or her.”

  1. Establish a plan

When you talk with your children about drugs, explain up front what the consequence will be for breaking the rule, healthychildren.org recommends. The plan should include things like what to do if they are at a party and drugs are present and how to respond if drugs are offered to them. Explain what the punishment will be if they use drugs and how it will be implemented.

  1. Keep talking

“When you talk to kids or teens about drugs and alcohol, don’t expect it to be a one-time conversation,” recommends WebMD.com. “These topics should be brought up often so that your kids are prepared to handle situations at school, parties, and elsewhere.”

In the Longview area, parents or teens who need advice or help with drug issues can contact Partners in Prevention. The organization can provide referrals for anyone struggling with any substance abuse problems.

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