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Before Invading a Teen’s Right to Privacy continued...

"Parents should talk to their child before resorting to detective work," Swick tells WebMD. No matter what is going on, talking will be a big part of helping your child through it. If you do find something that confirms your worst fears, you will be in a better position if you can say, ‘we talked about this, and I was still seeing things that concerned me. As your parent, I am not going to ignore signs that you might be in danger.’"

The most effective communication is as common as getting ready for school. "The scary ‘Drug Talk’ never goes well," says Pasierb. Rather than a talk both of you are going to dread, he recommends an ongoing dialogue that lets your child know where you stand on drug use. "Open communication is about things parents say every day, on the way to soccer practice or while watching TV," Pasierb tells WebMD.

Reasons Parents Overlook Teen Drug Abuse

There are plenty of reasons parents may be tempted to ignore signs of teen drug or alcohol abuse. "Shame and stigma around addiction play a heavy role," says Kim Manlove. After their 16-year-old son died as a result of drug use, Manlove and his wife, Marissa, started a support group for other parents. "A lot of the parents we work with think they have failed as a parent if their child has a drug problem," says Manlove.

Many parents don’t raise the subject, thinking they don’t know enough about drugs. If this is the case, time at the library or on web sites such as can build the knowledge and confidence to start talking. Other parents dread their teenager’s response if they question possible drug use. Teen brains are uniquely primed to react to even the most innocent comments, even facial expressions, with explosive bursts of emotion.

For parents who avoid conflict, the promise of an emotional outburst may seem an impossible hurdle. "Teens are more comfortable being in opposition with their parents," says Swick. But getting involved when you suspect teen drug or alcohol abuse is worth the discomfort. Parents who intervene early in teen drug or alcohol abuse can significantly reduce the possibility their child will become addicted.

Preparing for Middle School

Tips to help your tween cope with this exciting but risky time.
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WebMD Video Series

Click here to wach video: Cough Syrup Drug Abuse

1 in 10 teens abuse cough medicine. It's dangerous, even deadly. Is your teen in danger?

Click here to watch video: Cough Syrup Drug Abuse