How You Can Keep Your Kids Off Drugs

The 2017 National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future study had some scary statistics for parents:

  • One-third of all respondents (8th, 10th and 12th graders) admitted to using drugs in the last 12 months.
  • Nearly two out of 10, or 17% of eighth graders, admitted to having tried an illicit substance at some point (not necessarily in the past year).
  • By 10th grade, almost half, or 49%, had tried an illicit drug at least once.

Even scarier is the fact that trying an illicit substance just one time can be deadly.

Why is that? The synthetic opioid Fentanyl has made its way into other street drugs, including counterfeit pills stamped with legitimate-looking names like Percocet. It only takes a very small amount of Fentanyl to kill someone – extreme risk of death starts at just 400 micrograms according to Harm Reduction Ohio. In fact, drug overdose deaths reached their highest level ever in 2017. This unwelcome increase is largely due to the increasing presence of Fentanyl.

Thankfully, there are proven ways to prevent your kids from using drugs, starting at a young age.

Talk to Your Kids About Drugs – Early

Talking to your kids about drugs sounds like good advice. Now, there is research that backs it up.

A recent study published in the Health Communication journal found a decreased likelihood of drug experimentation in children of parents who had directly approached them with information and guidance about drugs.  

You may not think the conversation needs to start at before age 12, but research shows otherwise. Seventh and eighth grade respondents to the 2017 Monitoring the Future survey who hadn’t had a conversation with their parents about drugs were also more likely to indicate that they had tried illicit substances.

Make Sure They Get Their “Zzs”

Research has found that 11-year-old boys who got the most sleep were less likely to use drugs and alcohol at 20 and 22 years of age, according to a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The study controlled for socioeconomic factors, race, neighborhood safety and more.

In an interview with KDKA, Pittsburgh’s CBS affiliate, Dr. Brant Hasler, UP School of Medicine assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology and the lead author of the study, cautioned that if kids are continuing to sleep less into their teenage years, that might play a role as well.  

“’Poor sleep can lead to problems like anxiety and depression, and those can in turn lead to possibly problems with substance abuse,’” Dr. Hasler warned in the article. “’We also know sleep has effects on the brain. So, not getting enough sleep effects the prefrontal cortex and makes it more difficult for people to regulate themselves.’”

Maintain the Family – and the Family Dinner

ProjectKnow analyzed the 2014 and 2015 results of the Monitoring the Future study and found that 8th and 10th grade respondents who lived with both their mother and father had the lowest rates of illicit substance use. Overall usage was higher among those who lived with their father instead of their mother; however, the highest usage was among those kids who weren’t living with either parent.

The researchers also found that teens who regularly eat meals with their parents are twice less likely to report that they “get drunk” as those who “rarely or never” break bread with their parents.

Keep Them in on School Nights

Peer pressure is real…and having unsupervised time with them can spell trouble. The ProjectKnow study found that teens who were allowed to go out on school nights with friends were 5.4 times more likely to say they had “been drunk” in the last month than respondents who weren’t allowed out.

Strike the Right Balance with Your Parenting Style

Parents who are too strict or “authoritarian” (versus those who listen, gain trust and earn the respect of their children) have a greater chance having delinquent and disrespectful kids, according to a study published in the February, 2012 issue of Journal of Adolescence.

“Basically, parenting is a two-way street,” said Justin Baksh, licensed mental health counselor and Chief Clinical Officer at Foundations Wellness Center. “There is a difference between being authoritative and authoritarian. Yes, you set down rules. However, you should remain open to feedback from your child, and responsive to his or her needs. It’s also important to explain the reasoning behind the rules so they don’t seem arbitrary. Even though you are responsive to your children, you’re still the authority figure…and this is key to having kids accept your direction.”

It’s also important not to be too lax, either.

“Permissive parents are overly responsive to their children, and those children tend to grow up to be less self-controlled, independent and/or self-reliant,” Baksh explained.

You Can Do Something

These are only a handful of things parents can do to help keep kids off drugs. As you can see, there is no reason to simply accept that your kids may try drugs one day. No matter what your situation is, you can do something to affect your children’s future. Parents are much more powerful influencers in life than they may realize, and it can start with a simple (yet direct) conversation.

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