Drug use among adolescents: prevention and support

When young people take drugs, many parents initially feel helpless and powerless. Although there are no guarantees, there are many things you can do to encourage your child to stop taking drugs at an early age. Here you will find valuable tips for educating young people about drugs.

Young people who take drugs are initially just curious

Whether it’s legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol or illegal drugs like cannabis, cocaine or methamphetamine, young people are usually just curious when they first try drugs. Whether an addiction develops from occasional and controlled drug use in young people depends on many factors:

  • personality and self-confidence
  • Private problems, lack of future prospects
  • consumption habits of friends and parents
  • Addictive substances that quickly make you physically dependent
  • To a certain extent also predisposition

When do you speak of an addiction?

One speaks of an addiction when the body and mind can no longer do without the drug. Affected people have to pursue their addiction (several times) every day, even if it harms them and those around them – they lose control. This can develop not only in connection with drugs. Certain behaviors can also be addictive, such as addiction to gambling, computer games or the “perfect” body, which manifests itself in eating disorders .

Empower youth against drugs

Addiction and drug problems are found in all walks of life and no parenting style offers a guarantee that young people will not use drugs. But there are many things parents can do to reduce risk and empower their children against drugs:

  • Encourage your child’s basic trust in themselves and in people they can count on. Self-confidence, trust in their own abilities and the feeling that they will always find support from you help them against peer pressure.
  • Teach your child ways to deal with problems, stress, and disappointments . Whether they work out with sports, get rid of worries or do relaxation exercises – if young people know how to deal with difficult situations, they don’t need to flee into intoxication.
  • Find something your child can get excited about . Boredom is one of the most common reasons adolescents use drugs. A hobby is not only fun, but also conveys a sense of achievement and arouses commitment.
  • Help your child to overcome crises and pain . For example, the separation of the parents is difficult for some children and young people to cope with even years later. Try to work through crises together with your child – and possibly with professional help.

How do you know that young people are using drugs?

It is not so easy to tell whether young people are using drugs, especially if it only happens occasionally. You should pay attention to the following:

  • Does your child behave more aggressively or dismissively than usual?
  • Does your child seem listless and listless?
  • Does your child have poor concentration, loss of appetite or confusion?
  • Are school performances declining significantly?
  • Does your child neglect their friends?
  • Does your child ask for money unusually often?

These signals can, but do not necessarily have to point to drugs. Above all, it is important to have a good relationship with your child. What is going on in his life right now? What worries him, stresses or annoys him? Start the conversation before you panic over hasty conclusions.

What to do if young people use drugs?

It is difficult to propose concrete measures at this point. Every child, every situation and ultimately every drug is a little different and needs its own solution. In general we can recommend:

  • Breath deep. The news that their child is taking drugs leaves parents in shock, fear and anger. Thoughtless reactions such as shouting, reproaches or threats are understandable, but will not get you anywhere. Talk to your child calmly and openly about their consumption. Try to figure out what, how often, and why they use drugs. Patience and empathy are important now, but also that you take a clear stance on the subject of drugs . Discuss rules with your child that they must respect – at least at home.
  • Inform yourself thoroughly. You can obtain information on various drugs, their effects and their dangers from addiction advice centers and on the Internet, for example from the parental advice service for children and young people at risk of addiction and dependence (ELSA) . This helps you with fears and questions. Talking to your child will also be easier if you have an idea of ​​what you are talking about.
  • Find support. Many families avoid the topic of drugs because they are stuck or ashamed. The Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) offers a directory of addiction counseling centers in which you can search for a counseling center near you by entering your postcode or location. Employees there will help you – often anonymously. The nationwide addiction and drug hotline can be reached by phone around the clock. Not only addicts need qualified help, relatives usually suffer massively from the difficult situation. Self-help and discussion groups offer parents, siblings and other relatives a space to deal with their own feelings.

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