If your teen has started to act out and possibly use drugs, it can be tempting to blame their friends.
“Even before they start to use drugs, kids will start to gravitate toward other kids who have a favorable attitude about using,” says Joseph Lee, MD, spokesman for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
So there is no doubt about it: Your kids' friends affect their behavior. But it's not always that simple.
Apart from friendships, your child's genes, personality, stresses, and relationships within your family also affect their chances of using drugs.
"You can’t boil it down to one risk factor," says David Pating, MD, chief of addiction medicine at Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco.
As your teen’s parent, you can step in to help them avoid, or recover from, the problem.
Know the pressures. “Parents need to understand that kids live in a world where drugs and alcohol are ever-present,” says Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
You should also be aware that there are synthetic drugs that weren't around when you were growing up. These include things called "bath salts," "K-2," and "spice." Teens are also increasingly abusing medicines, like prescription painkillers and dextromethorphan, the main ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines. The list of drugs you're watching out for may not be up to date.
Check on your own prescription drugs. "The No. 1 problem we’re dealing with as a society is the abuse of prescription medications," Pasierb says. “And the number one source of those medicines is kids’ own homes."
Teens mistakenly believe that abusing medicine is "safer" than abusing other drugs. But it’s not.
Do you keep your own prescription and OTCdrugs in a secure place where your teen can't get to them? If not, change that today.
Don't look the other way. Many parents explain away signs of possible drug use. Others downplay it. That sends the wrong message. In a study of 285 students in 11th grade, kids said their parents were more likely to punish them for being rude than for using drugs or alcohol. Those who considered their parents lax about drugs and alcohol got drunk or stoned much more often.
On the other hand, teens that learn about the dangers of drug and alcohol from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use than those who don’t learn from parents, according to the Partnership at Drugfree.org.
Look to your family tree. Does your family have a history of any kind of addiction, even if it's not to the drug your child may be using? That makes them more likely to become addicted. Even if they're not addicted at this point, consider counseling to help them learn life skills to manage that risk, now and in the long run.