Talking to Your Teens About Back-to-School Drug Use
By Jill Gonzalez

Research has shown that about 80 percent of high school students and 44 percent of middle school students have seen illegal drugs being used or sold on school grounds. When drugs are prevalent on school campuses, the likelihood that kids will eventually start using drugs increases significantly.

Teenagers who associate with the “in crowd” and who attend schools where drugs are widely used are 10 times more likely to use prescription drugs to get high than students who attend schools that are predominantly drug free. These same students are nine times more likely to use illegal drugs (other than marijuana).

The instances of teenage drug use continue to increase each year despite the widely talked about dangers of using drugs. For the most part, warnings about drugs seem to go unheeded by teenagers, largely due to peer pressure and the desire that most kids feel to fit in. Fortunately, there are some steps parents can take to try to make sure that their kids do not fall victim to the social pressures that the majority of them feel at school.

Recognize the Problem
Many parents do not realize just how common illegal and prescription drugs are in the schools that their children are attending. Only about 11 percent of parents think that drugs, alcohol and tobacco are important problems for their teenagers to deal with. However, about 25 percent of teenagers rate those substances as the most important issues that they have to deal with.

Talk to Your Kids
Studies have shown that the most important thing parents can do to keep their kids drug free is to talk to them on a regular basis. If your kids learn from an early age that they can come to you with their problems and that you are not going to react emotionally or negatively to everything that they have to say, they will be far more likely to confide in you when they are teenagers.
Be honest with your kids about drugs, alcohol and tobacco so that they will learn just how dangerous these substances are. This doesn’t mean that you should employ scare tactics or threats in an effort to try to control your children. It simply means that you need to talk to them openly and honestly about these issues. This will allow you to keep the lines of communication open with your kids throughout their childhood, and it will let them know that you are always available to listen to them objectively.

Just Say No
As parents, you need to feel free to say no when your kids want to attend parties or hang out with other people that you believe are a bad influence or that may be using drugs. Even if your teenagers get mad at you, they’ll eventually get over it. It’s better to take a stand than to allow your kids be in a bad environment. Remember that you are their parent, not their buddy, and have the right to say no to things your teens clearly want to do.

Watch for Warning Signs of Drug Abuse
If you suspect that your teenagers are using drugs, keep an eye out for the following warning signs:
    •    Acting silly or giggly for no apparent reason
    •    Red, bloodshot eyes
    •    Difficulty remembering things that just happened
    •    Difficulty walking
    •    Excessive drowsiness
    •    Moodiness
    •    Problems at school
    •    Rebellion at home

Emphasize Togetherness
Another important thing that you can do to facilitate a stronger bond with your children and decrease the risk of them using drugs is to make family meal time a priority. Research has indicated that doing something as simple as having dinner with your kids every night makes a tremendous difference in how they behave.

When parents make an effort to emphasize the importance of family and togetherness, children of all ages respond in a positive way. Taking the time to let your kids know that they are a priority in your life goes a long way toward building a strong bond with them that may just help to keep them drug free throughout high school.