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6 Tips for Parents of Teens

If your child is lying about using drugs or alcohol, looking the other way is a dangerous mistake. Study after study shows that parents’ involvement plays an important role in preventing adolescent drug use. And the earlier problem is addressed, the better your chances of containing potential damage. Here are six things you can do.

1. Trust your instincts.

Turner sees many parents discount their concerns about their child’s behavior. They say things like, “I’m probably just being an obsessive parent.” Or “Maybe I’m being hypersensitive.” But parents know their children. “If a parent’s gut is telling them something is off, there has got to be a reason,” Turner tells WebMD.

If the cold or cough syrup in your medicine cabinet disappears or gets used up, ask about it. Over-the-counter cough medicines contain dextromethorphan, an ingredient teens can drink in excess to get high.

Cagey behavior may have a simple explanation or a serious cause. Perhaps your child is stressed over schoolwork. Maybe she had a fight with a friend. Or she could have a problem she’s afraid to talk about. Turner counsels parents to make it as easy as possible for their teens to talk to them. Start by asking what is going on. Talk about specific things you see and concerns you have, and then be ready to listen.

2. Educate yourself.

Julie Unwin saw her middle-school son become increasingly sullen and withdrawn. “In my gut I believed something was wrong,” she says. "But I thought, if he was using drugs I would see a physical sign.” The Unwins' son didn’t come home slurring or with bloodshot eyes because he wasn’t using alcohol or marijuana, at least not at first. There might have been signs, but his parents didn’t know what to look for.

Drugs rise and fall in popularity over time. It’s possible you have never heard of your child’s drug of choice. With time and research you can get to know the different substances available to kids today. The web sites drugfree.org or drugabuse.gov have drug guides that describe commonly abused substances and their effects.

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