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Article Summary

How Can I Protect My Child From Using Drugs?

While looking for answers to the "how can I protect my child from using drugs?" question, you should understand that drug prevention tends to be much easier than treating addiction.

As such, it is highly inadvisable for you to wait until your child is a teen to start teaching them about substance abuse and addiction. Today, both national and local news outlets release stories about teens and other young people losing their lives to accidental drug overdoses. Additionally, many people are aware of the many adverse consequences that arise as a result of substance abuse.

Read on to learn more about what you can do to protect your child from using drugs:

Understanding Addiction

The nature of addiction is such that it is now considered to be a condition that is primarily based on the biochemical abnormalities that arise as a result of continued substance abuse. As such, it needs to be treated in the same way you would treat any other disease - and not as a lack of morality and parental guidance or as an inclination towards crime.

Today, the epidemic is governed by a variety of biochemical abnormalities, the collapse of the traditional family unit and resulting value systems, a general lack of awareness and education, as well as the potency of a variety of drugs.

That said, it is imperative that you find answers to the "how can I protect my child from using drugs?" question as early as you possibly can. In the experience of most addiction treatment specialists, most teens start using alcohol and drugs before they are nine years old. After that, they progress to more powerful drugs like marijuana, heroin, prescription medications, and cocaine - among many others.

To this end, it is imperative that you teach your children that drugs are dangerous and that they should never use them - unless it is for a medical reason and they are receiving your guidance and supervision. If possible, you should start before they are six years old.

While giving them the lessons, ensure that they are simple enough for them to understand. Even so, you should be serious in your messaging. For instance, you can bend down, look them in the eyes, and show that you mean what you are saying.

Alternatively, you might want to tell them that they should never take any pills, medicine, or drugs from anyone - even friends - irrespective of what they are told. Inform them about the dangers of addiction and let them know that they can lose their lives as a result of engaging in substance abuse.

At this early age, they will probably not understand what you mean. However, the energy of your voice and the tone of your words will let them know that you are serious - something that could potentially protect them from the dangers of drug abuse and addiction.

When they grow older, you will get more opportunities to discuss the problem of substance abuse more extensively with them. By this age, they will already have got the message that drugs are harmful - and you will only need to reinforce the message.

Protecting Children From Addictive Substances

Although addiction is now considered to be a medical condition that can be treated, there are steps that you as a parent should take to protect your children so that they are not affected.

As a parent, you need to understand that you are a significant influence on the behavior and actions of your children. To this end, it is imperative that you continue setting a good example by avoiding drugs and alcohol - and ensuring that your children never see you engaging in any of these harmful substances.

In the same way, it would help if you were able to provide effective communication with your children. This means that you should continuously inform them about the many risks and adverse effects that arise from drug and alcohol abuse. If possible, you can also seek help from experts in the field.

One of the concerns that you might have is that your children might eventually fall victim to substance and drug abuse. Luckily, you are still able to influence their behavior - meaning that you should be able to take some positive steps to ensure that they do not start in the first place.

Frequently Abused Substances

As you try to find answers to the "how can I protect my child from using drugs?" questions, you need to remember that there are some commonly abused substances among the young.

In this case, you might think about hard drugs like cocaine or heroin. However, the truth is that few people ever start using these hard drugs - especially if they are still young and unable to afford them in the first place.

Instead, there is a higher likelihood that they will start abusing the medications that they can find in your medicine cabinet or those at their friends' and neighbors' homes.

That said, even illegal drugs continue posing some level of risk. However, even as you try to protect your children from these substances, you should take positive measures to ensure that you have locked up all addictive, intoxicating, and mind-altering substances within the home.

But which are the most commonly abused drugs? Consider the following that tend to be popular especially among children, teens, and young people who are still under the care and management of their parents:

  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis (both hashish and weed)
  • Fuel (fumes from lighter fluid and petrol, which can be inhaled to cause intoxicating effects)
  • Hallucinogens (like magic mushrooms and LSD)
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Party drugs including ketamine and ecstasy
  • Prescription medicines
  • Solvents (like glue and paint thinner)
  • Stimulants (such as cocaine and amphetamine)
  • Tobacco

From this list, it is clear that most of these substances are available freely in the home environment. You might even have a couple of them at your own place. In such a situation, it is imperative that you ensure that they are always in a place where your family is unable to access them.

Causes Of Substance Abuse

You can also learn how to protect your children from using drugs by understanding some of the reasons why they might start using these intoxicating and mind-altering substances.

Among the young, in particular, the main reasons why they might start using these drugs include peer pressure, experimentation, and curiosity. Many young people also try drugs - although few of them become addicted or develop a chemical dependence on these substances.

However, those who continue using drugs and alcohol might have many problems in various aspects of their lives. As such, they might resort to the pleasurable effects that they derive from these substances as a way to escape these problems.

Even so, some main risk factors might lead your children to start abusing drugs and eventually become addicted to them. These factors include, but are not always limited to:

a) Family History of Substance Abuse

From many different scientific research studies, it is clear that children who come from families where people have a history of drug abuse and addiction have a higher risk of becoming victims of the same drug problems in the future.

Whether this link is environmental or genetic in nature is as yet unclear. However, you can be sure that both of these factors might cause your child to start engaging in substance abuse.

As such, it would be in your best interests to seek addiction treatment before your children realize that you have a drug problem. The earlier you manage the condition, the easier it will be for you to teach them about the dangers of substance abuse without coming off looking like a fraud.

b) Mental Illness

Researchers have also linked psychological illness with substance abuse. In particular, people who are suffering from depression and anxiety might try to self-medicate their conditions and the resulting symptoms by turning to alcohol and drugs.

Unfortunately, abusing these intoxicating and mind-altering substances only serves to alleviate these adverse symptoms in the short term. After continued drug and alcohol abuse, a variety of even more dangerous effects will arise - that will eventually counteract any advantages that the substance user might have derived from the drugs they were abusing.

To this end, you should observe your children and even take them to professionals for a proper diagnosis in case you suspect that they have any mental health conditions. This way, they will receive the treatment they need earlier enough before these conditions cause them to start abusing drugs.

c) Stress

The stress of daily life can be emotional, financial, physical, or psychological. Irrespective of the source of the stress, it tends to take a heavy toll on everyone it affects.

At some point, those who are affected might start using drugs as a coping mechanism. In the short term, this will allow them to escape temporarily from the problems that they are suffering. This is because drugs might seem to provide welcome relief. However, in the long run, continued drug abuse only starts making things even worse than they were before.

To this end, you should try as hard as you can to minimize the level of stress that your children are undergoing. If you fight with your spouse, for instance, try and resolve the conflict before it starts affecting the children - otherwise, this could make drugs seem attractive to them.

Parental Influence Over Substance Abuse

As a parent, you might wonder if you can influence your children's attitudes towards alcohol and drugs. In many cases, children who come from families and are surrounded by friends who abuse drugs are more likely to start using the same substances. As such, you can be sure that it is important that you provide positive role models to your children.

In particular, your behavior on a day to day basis is one of the most powerful influences that your children will ever have. As such, the way you conduct yourself in front of your children will act as a strong reinforcement in how they end up behaving in the future.

For instance, if you try and inform your children about the dangers of smoking but you still put away a couple of packs every week, then this will send a confusing message to the children. This is because they will be conflicted in their understanding of your information and what you are doing. To this end, it is imperative that you always match your words with your actions. Failure to do this will not get your children to take you seriously.

But what else can you do to ensure that you are a positive role model that your children can follow as they try avoiding drugs and alcohol? Consider the following tips and tricks:

a) Deal with Ongoing Stress

Many people turn to alcohol and other intoxicating substances whenever they feel stressed - such as after a long day of hard work or when they want to relax. However, if you are a parent, you can be sure that such drug abuse will only teach your children that substances are the best way to release stress and to relax.

Instead, therefore, you might want to look for alternative ways to de-stress at the end of a hard day. For instance, you could start working out or taking long walks in the evening. Alternatively, you may turn to books and other forms of recreation that are not linked to substance abuse.

b) Never Smoke

Secondly, you should stop smoking once you get children. If you would like your children never to smoke and to grow up detesting the habit, ensure that you lead from the front by showing them a good example.

To this end, if you are already a smoker, attend a rehabilitation program. It could help you reduce how much you smoke or even ensure that you cut down completely. After that, you can continue reiterating and reinforcing the message that smoking is a bad habit that your children should never be involved with.

c) Drink Responsibly or Quit Altogether

For many American parents, it is difficult to quit alcohol once and for all. However, if you can, you can be sure that this will be one of the best decisions you would have ever made for the safety and security of your family.

Apart from the positive effects that arise when you quit, you can rest assured that your children will grow up in a family where alcohol is not tolerated. This could teach them that alcohol is not a good substance - and further reduce the risk that they will start drinking or suffer some of the adverse effects of early drinking (such as getting involved with traffic accidents or with the law as a result of poor behavior while intoxicated).

On the other hand, you might find that you are unable to give up alcohol. In such a situation, the best thing you can do is to ensure that you never drink in front of the children. If you do, ensure that you only have a glass or two of a relatively mild alcoholic drink like wine or cider.

When children see their parents inebriated, they might start thinking that this is the right way to drink alcohol. This message could compel them to get involved with alcohol at an early age - a habit that could lead to a wide variety of negative consequences down the line.

d) Teach Positive Behavior

Last but not least, start teaching your children the right behavior from a young age. If possible, you can even point out any behavior that you know for a fact is irresponsible and that you do not expect of them.

For instance, if you are listening to music or watching television and a character uses alcohol or drugs, ensure that you mention to your children that you disapprove of the behavior. This is because when children hear and see positive images of substance use and addiction, they might get the wrong example.

In the same way, you should never tell your children about the fun that you used to have back in the day when you were still using alcohol and drugs. This will only reinforce the message that substance abuse is something that they need to do at some point in their lives.

In the long run, you can be sure that your actions will end up speaking louder than your words or anything else you might tell your children. To this end, it is imperative that you are always mindful of all your actions when you are with your family. Before you do anything, therefore, always think about whether you would want to see your children doing the same thing. If the answer is no, do not do it - otherwise, you will send the wrong message.

Talking About Substances

Apart from the example you set, one of the answers to the "how can I protect my child from using drugs?" question revolves around communication. In particular, you can be sure that you need to communicate on a regular basis and in positive and reinforcing ways with your children.

In fact, the more informed you are about your child and who they are turning into, the easier it might be for you to guide them towards positive behavior and away from any harmful and negative activity. This will also be better for you before they are more likely to trust and confide in you.

To this end, it is imperative that you always talk to your children about what they did during the day - both with their friends and when they were at school. This way, you will be able to keep the lines of communication between you and them open at all times.

However, many young people tend to be reluctant about talking with adults - especially when they become teens. Therefore, you might want to try asking them questions that they are unable to give a no or yes answer to. For instance, asking about the best thing that happened to them during the day is better than if you ask them whether they had fun at school.

Even so, children have a relatively low risk of coming into contact with drugs of abuse until they get to their teens - and graduate to high school. However, this is not to mean that you should wait until they get to this age before you start talking to them about the many dangers and harmful effects of substance abuse.

In fact, the best time to start talking to your children about drugs and their many adverse consequences is when they are still young. By so doing, you will be able to equip them with the information they need to be able to handle any drug-related situation that might arise later on in their lives - such as if someone offers them alcohol or drugs during their teens.

Other things you should consider talking with your children about include:

  • How you feel about drug and alcohol abuse
  • The harmful effects of abusing drugs, alcohol, and tobacco
  • The legal status of various drugs, especially as they apply to young people and those who are below the age of majority
  • The strategies they can use to say no to drugs and alcohol
  • The times when you have refused to do drugs or drink alcohol

You should also be attentive while talking to your children and listen to what they have to say. As far as possible, try and listen without any judgment. Although you might disagree with what they have to say, you should only do so in the calmest way possible. Of course, you should avoid the temptation to preach to them.

Additionally, consider using these moments and opportunities to inform your children about the various myths that they might have heard from others - such as everyone drinks alcohol or that marijuana is not harmful. Take some time to learn about different drugs and their various consequences and effects. Then, share the information you gleaned with your children.

In the long run, you will come to realize that your input had a significant bearing in protecting your children from starting to drink alcohol or use drugs from an early age. It could also prevent them from getting started on these intoxicating and mind-altering substances over the course of their lives - a feat that you can congratulate yourself on and for which they will be eternally grateful to you.

At the end of the day, you should remember that children who live with parents who regularly discuss the matter of substance abuse and addiction with them have a lesser likelihood of using these drugs in comparison to those whose parents choose not to talk about these matters.

Getting Involved In Their Private Lives

While trying to learn the right answers to the "how can I protect my child from using drugs?" question, you might want to get more involved in the lives of your children. However, you should always remember that teens and older children tend to want more freedom and independence - particularly from their parents and other adults in their lives.

As such, it might be especially tricky for you to always keep up with their private lives. Still, you might want to try and get involved - at least to some extent - without necessarily seeming pushy and intrusive.

This is because young people and teens who have parents who are interested in their lives and who show their love have a lesser likelihood of being involved with drugs of abuse and alcohol.

But what can you do to maintain your involvement with your children? Consider the following tips and tricks:

a) Family Time

The first thing you can do is to set aside some time for the entire family on a daily or weekly basis. This could be during meals like breakfast and dinner, during TV time, or even some time that you spend as a whole family.

Then use this time as the ideal opportunity to talk more with your children while also relaxing and having a fun time. Remember, the more you see your children, the easier it will be for you to communicate with them and vice versa.

b) Emotional Support

On the other hand, if your children seem upset, sad, and angry for one reason or the other, ask them what is wrong. Let them know that you will always be there and that they can lean on you for support when something is not going right in their lives.

However, you should take care not to press the issue - especially if they seem reluctant to discuss the problem with you. Just ask them what is happening and let them know that they can always come to you in case they need your help.

c) Know Their Friends

You should also take the time to get to know everyone they spend time with. This is because peer pressure is among the greatest gateway to drug and alcohol abuse - especially for children in their early and late teens.

Therefore, you should always welcome their friends into the house and take some time to observe them. This way, you will get the opportunity to keep tabs on the people they spend most of their time with - as well as discourage any friendships that you think might be problematic later one.

d) Attend Events

Last but not least, you should show your children the support they need. For instance, you might want to always show up for their school plays, concerts, sporting events, and any other activity they are enthusiastic about and heavily engaged with.

It is also important that you continue praising them for their efforts and continue encouraging them to keep at it until they win. This is because if you only neglect their events and activities, they are highly likely to feel unloved, unsupported, and neglected - feelings that could spur them down the road towards substance abuse.

Signs And Symptoms Of Substance Abuse

Despite your best efforts to keep your children away from drugs and alcohol, they might eventually start experimenting. When this happens, they might try hiding the fact from you especially if you have already made it clear that you are against any form of substance abuse.

However, some signs and symptoms can alert you to ongoing substance abuse - signs that you should always watch out for especially if your children start acting in any way out of the ordinary.

These signs include:

a) Poor Appearance and Hygiene

Most children - teens in particular - tend to prioritize their looks and appearance. This is why they will constantly asking for the latest fashion and the best clothes that you can afford. They will also have an increasingly intense urge to look and feel good.

Therefore, if they start neglecting their hygiene and appearance, then this might be a warning sign that they have started abusing alcohol and drugs. Confront them about the problem and if they say yes, seek the right help for them.

b) Deterioration in Health

Drugs of abuse and alcohol tend to cause adverse effects on psychological and physical health. To this end, if your child has been abusing these substances, you might observe poor memory, poor concentration, and decrease or increase in appetite, paranoia, lethargy, and under sleeping or oversleeping.

c) Changes at School

When young people start taking alcohol and drugs, their performance at school is highly likely to suffer as a result. For instance, you might observe that they have lost their motivation for school and they are missing classes for no good reason. In the long run, this will reflect in their grades deteriorating.

d) Changes in Behavior

Teens tend to become private when they get to a particular age. However, if their secretiveness is excessive, then it is highly likely that they might be involved with drugs and alcohol.

Other behavioral signs and symptoms of substance abuse include increased aggressiveness and violence, unusual needs for money, as well as values that can be sold disappearing from the home.

Over and above everything else, the particular damage and symptoms arising from substance abuse will vary widely depending on the drugs that they abuse. However, if you notice anything that is concerning you, always speak to the child. If possible, you can also book an appointment with a doctor who will conduct tests and tell you if they have been using drugs.

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