What You Can Do
Substance abuse is a significant health issue which can be prevented and treated. Because the use of alcohol and other drugs can harm a young person’s body and brain, the U.S. Surgeon General has issued a call to action for families to prevent adolescent substance abuse. Many of the prevention strategies below come from that report.
While almost all teens will be faced with the decision to drink alcohol or use other drugs, adolescent substance use can be prevented. While no inoculation exists for this serious health threat, families can do a lot to reduce the likelihood that a young person will choose to use alcohol or other drugs. Research has identified key behaviors that can help protect teens from alcohol and other drug use.
1. Find Help for Your Teen
Adolescent substance use can range from early experimentation to severe dependence. Our Adolescent Services program has a wide variety of options designed to meet the needs of adolescents, depending on where on the continuum their use may fall.
PEER Services also provides family counseling and support services. Recognizing the needs of families is an important part of treatment; we recognize that teens are not the only members of their families who may benefit from support.
To find out more or to schedule an appointment, please call
2. Support your teens and give them space to grow
- Be involved in your teens’ lives. Be loving and caring.
- Encourage your teens’ growing independence, but set appropriate limits.
- Make it easy for your teens to share information about their lives.
- Know where your teens are, what they’re doing, who they’re with, and who their friends are.
- Even as your teens become more independent, find ways for them to be involved in family life, such as participating in family meals, doing chores, or caring for a younger sibling or an extended family member.
- Set clear rules, including strict non-use rules about alcohol and other drugs.
- Enforce the rules you set.
3. Talk with your teens about alcohol and other drug use
- When you talk with your teens about drinking or drug use, listen to them and respect what they say.
- Make clear your expectation that your teens will not drink or use other drugs.
- Teach your children about the dangers of drug use and underage drinking.
- Discuss laws about underage drinking, including that it is illegal to drink until age 21.
4. Help your teens make good decisions about substances
- Help your teens learn to resist pressures to use alcohol or other drugs.
- Help them find ways to have fun without alcohol or other drugs.
- Do not give alcohol or other drugs to your teens or their friends.
- Tell them that any alcohol in your home is off limits to them and to their friends.
- Don’t let your teens attend parties where alcohol is served.
- Make sure alcohol is not available at teen parties in your own home.
- Help your teens avoid dangerous situations such as riding in a car driven by someone who has been drinking or using other drugs.
- Help your teens get professional help if you’re worried about their potential involvement with alcohol or other drugs.
5. Be aware of factors that may increase the risk that a young person will use alcohol or other drugs
- Significant social transitions, such as graduating to middle or high school or getting a driver’s license, can be triggers.
- Depression and other serious emotional or mental health problems can play a part.
- A family history of addiction can play a part.
- Contact with peers involved in risky activities can increase risk.
6. Be a positive adult role model
- If you drink yourself, drink responsibly. Don’t drink too much or too often.
- Stay away from alcohol in high-risk situations. For example, don’t drive or go boating when you’ve been drinking.
- Help your child understand the decision-making process you use related to your choices about alcohol.
7. Work with others
- No matter how close you and your children are, your relationship alone may not be enough to prevent them from drinking or using other drugs. It is challenging for families to do this alone; therefore, it is important to reach out to schools, communities, and other parents.
- Schools and the community support and reward young people’s decisions not to drink or use other drugs.
- Rules about underage drinking and other drug use are in place at home, at school, and in our community.
- Penalties for breaking the rules are well known. Rules are enforced the same way for everyone.
- Parties and social events at home and in the community do not allow young people to drink or use other drugs.