Drug abuse ranges from legal substances like tobacco, alcohol and over the counter medication, to illegal substances like cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy. It can even include the overuse of prescription medication.
Experimentation with ‘mood-altering’ substances tends to begin in the teenage years, often due to peer pressure, media influence, a need to challenge authority and break rules. Often seen as a rite of passage to adulthood, left unchecked, it can lead to mental instability, addiction, loss of control and reckless behavior.
Dads, the first step in tackling this crisis begins with early education and prevention. Talking about drug abuse can be a difficult conversation to have.
1. While it is important to keep an eye out for warning signs and changes in behavior, don’t wait till you see the signs to start talking to them about substance abuse.
2. Plan ahead and do the research. Know the various substances, what they are called, their effects and how they can negatively impact your child.
3. Start an open dialogue by asking them what they know about drugs, what they’ve heard from their peers and if they have come across any drug use. Take the time to understand their perspective and make a note of any misinformation or gaps in their knowledge.
4. Tell them what drugs are and how they affect the brain. Talk to them about the associated risks in a clear and concise manner. Avoid lecturing or boring them.
5. Do not exaggerate or scare them with misinformation. Teenagers often do their own research and will begin to doubt you as a source of information.
6. Talk to them about the long-term consequences of drug use to their health, how it is a criminal act, and its potentially negative impact on their future education and employment prospects.
7. Be prepared to answer any questions they may have including ones about your own experiences.
8. Teach them how to deal with and respond to situations where they will be offered substances and encouraged to experiment with them.
9. Remember to check-in and talk to your child about mental health, emotional well-being and cultivating positive habits.
Our guide outlines the facts based on research from several online and offline resources. If you are in doubt or worried about your child for any reason, consult with a qualified and certified mental health professional or medical doctor.