"Just say no" just won't cut it if parents hope to persuade children to make smart choices about drugs. You need to look at your own issues and beliefs around drugs and alcohol so that you feel clear about it yourself. It sometimes is better to give kids an honest answer when they ask, "Did you do it?".
You do not have to tell all but it sets up more of a connection if you're willing to be honest with your teen. The message to avoid drugs needs to be absolutely clear, he said. Saying it's all right to get high on weekends, or marking adult celebrations with raucous drinking, is bound to make an impression. Adults may need to make changes in their own lives to send a consistent message.
It's important to have a dialogue, rather than give a lecture.
It might not stop kids from doing drugs altogether, but the approach will make them think harder when confronted by the chance to experiment. When I tlk to teens about drugs I explain the effect of drugs on developing brains, and the relative potency of drugs today compared with those that were popular in the 60s and 70’s. I also addressed the particular issue of edible marijuana. These "edibles" pose a double threat: Not only are they much stronger than marijuana that is smoked, kids also may make the mistake of eating several before realizing how hard the drug will hit.
Once (the high) comes on all of a sudden, they're tripping. They're breaking from personality and getting into a kind of psychosis. You're leaving your ego. It can be interesting or it can be really, really scary. Instead of a two- to three-hour high from smoking, edibles can cause a six- to eight-hour high. The issue with edibles, is that they can lead to a hallucinogenic experience.
Kids can become terrified because they're on this bad trip, especially because they don't know what is going on. What they experience first is, 'I'm going crazy. I don't think I'm going to come back the way I left.' The heart starts to beat faster, and that kind of feeds on itself.
I suggest a three-part approach to a conversation about drugs.
"Tell your child, 'I love you.' Explain to your tee that you see all this stuff (drug use) everywhere and that it scares you. Then, just listen to their response. That usually begins a productive dialogue with our teen.
It's important you as a parent, don't just say “no because I say so,” or “no because it's illegal,” If all you say is “no” the response you may encounter is ”'Yes, yes, yes.”
Thom Kessler, LMFT, RAS
Peer pressure takes place when a child does something he or she does not want to do as a result of being pressured by peers. Peer pressure is a part of almost all children's lives. All children experience peer pressure and give in to it at one time or another. While parents can't protect their children from experiencing peer pressure, there are steps they can take to minimize its effects.
Why is examining peer pressure so important?
Peer pressure is the cause of a lot of teenage smoking, drinking and drug use. Those things alone are not good, but they also affect children’s education. We know the affects of drugs and alcohol on the brain and learning that is why peer pressure studies are so important.
Peer influences have been found to be among the strongest predictors of drug use during adolescence. It has been argued that peers initiate youth into drugs, provide drugs, model drug-using behaviors, and shape attitudes about drugs. There was a study done to determine how much peer pressure affected adolescent drug use. They also used the variable of family. For example, were you more likely to give in to peer pressure if you were from a single parent home, with no father, over someone who came from a two-parent home? Or were you more likely to follow the crowd if you lived with a stepparent?
The results of this study indicated that peer pressure and peer drug models were related to drug use, but that the strength of this relationship was moderated by family structure and mother–adolescent distress. In particular, the relationship between peer pressure and reported drug use was weaker among adolescents living in homes with fathers or stepfathers than among those living without fathers or stepfathers; similar effects were not found for peer drug models. Among adolescents living with their fathers, father–adolescent distress was not related to overall drug use and did not moderate the influence of either peer variable. In contrast, mother–adolescent distress was significantly related to drug use, with adolescents who rated their relationships more positively reporting lower levels of drug use. Mother–adolescent distress also moderated the relationship between peer variables and drug use.
However, for peer pressure this only occurred among adolescents living in homes without fathers or stepfathers. Among these adolescents, higher levels of mother–adolescent distress were associated with increasingly stronger relationships between peer pressure and drug use. The strong relations between peer variables and the frequency of drug use found within this study replicated the findings of previous studies that have found peer variables to be among the strongest predictors of adolescents’ drug use.
If the negative effect of peer pressure is to be minimized, youth, parents, school and community leaders must come together to establish workable and effective strategies to guide teen behavior and to support their transition from children to mature, responsible adults. Here are several strategies to consider (Brown, 1990):
Relinquish the stereotype of peers as a uniformly negative influence on youth. Although some teenage peer groups encourage drug use, delinquent activities and poor school performance, others discourage deviant activity in favor of school achievement and involvement in sports or other extra-curricular activities (e.g., music, religious activities).
Nurture teenagers' abilities and self-esteem so they can forge positive peer relationships. The parent, schools and other agencies can be taught how to help develop the adolescent's self-concept and self-worth so he or she is a valued person.
Empower parents and educators to help teenagers pursue and maintain positive peer relationships. They can provide adolescents with the opportunity to succeed in constructive ways which are valued by the teen, the parent and the community alike.
Encourage cross-ethnic and "cross-class" peer interactions and guide teenagers in dealing positively with cultural diversity and individual differences. Parents, teachers, community leaders, and clergy can model appreciation for ethnic differences and support cross-class and cross-ethnic friendships. Schools and youth organizations can assist by encouraging youth from diverse backgrounds to work and play together.
Place sensible restraints on part-time teen employment. This could ease adolescents' compliance with peer pressures to "buy" acceptance into a peer group (i.e., to have enough money for the "right" clothes, the "right" shoes, the "right CDs, etc.). Increases in part-time employment among youth have had little impact on the time they spend with peers.
Support parent education programs for families with teenagers. Parents need to be better informed about the dynamics of adolescent peer groups and the demands and expectations teenagers face in peer relationships.
Establish intervention programs for preadolescents with low social skills or aggressive tendencies. Addressing these problems before adolescence will decrease the chances of these youth joining anti-social peer groups that will reinforce their problem behaviors.
Realizing how much impact peer pressure has on children's lives and their future, it is a must that we learn more about it and teach coping ways so that children will know how to deal with it. Yet, we need to acknowledge that children are not the only ones dealing with it, parents are too. They have to worry about their children and what types of friends they have and who they are hanging around with. The information above were suggestions I found throughout many articles for parents who need ways to help their children deal with peer pressure.
Advice For Parents
Sometimes parents tend to react before they think things through, when it comes to their children. If they feel a set of friends are not who their children should be around they forbid them to ever hang with them again without coming up with the best solution.
Sometimes telling an adolescent that they cannot see a certain group of friends leads to rebellion or loss of communication between the parent and child, which is never good. Here is some advice for parents dealing with children with friends that they think are bad influences:
Thom Kessler, LMFT, RAS
Parents who provide their teens with alcohol and a place to consume it may think they are teaching their children "responsible drinking." A new review of studies concludes this view is misguided. Researchers found parental provision of alcohol is associated with increased teen alcohol use.
In some cases, parental provision of alcohol is also linked with increased heavy episodic (Binge) drinking and higher rates of alcohol-related problems, the researchers reported in an article found in the March 2014 edition of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
“We suspect there is a surprising amount of ‘social hosting’ going on—parents providing alcohol for their teens and their friends,” said study co-author Ken C. Winters, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “Parents probably aren’t aware that social hosting could have criminal implications in some states if things take a bad turn. I can appreciate that social hosting is often done with good intentions. Parents think they are preventing something worse by having their kids drink at home with their friends. But the risks are great.”
Senior author Dr. Övgü Kaynak and her co-authors reviewed 22 studies that examined the association between parental provision of alcohol and teen drinking. Based on their findings, they recommend that parents discourage drinking until their children reach the legal drinking age of 21.
Parents influence their children’s risk for alcohol use in both direct and indirect ways. Indirectly, parents can influence their teens’ behavior by failing to monitor their activities while their child still lives at home, having permissive attitudes toward underage drinking, expressing direct approval of underage drinking, or simply by providing unguarded access to alcohol at home. More direct ways of influencing teens’ drinking behavior include offering to buy alcohol for them, supplying alcohol for a teen party, or allowing their teen to drink at home, either supervised or unsupervised.
“The most worrisome things parents can do are to model poor behavior by drinking excessively in front of their teens, and to provide alcohol to their teens,” Winters said. “I’m not talking giving about a sip of alcohol or an occasional glass of an alcoholic beverage with a meal for an older teenager. I’m referring to parents who host a drinking party and provide alcohol, thinking they will be able to make it safe. It creates more problems than it solves.”
The researchers report there is little research to support the notion that it is possible to “teach” children to drink alcohol responsibly. Their review suggests that by allowing alcohol use at a young age, parents might increase the risk for progression toward unsupervised drinking more rapidly than it would otherwise have been. Allowing teens to drink may instill a sense of comfort in alcohol use, which could increase their tendency to drink, with or without their parents present.
Parents may be giving their teens subtle messages about drinking without even realizing it. For instance, they may not take the opportunity to say something negative about underage drinking if they see it in a movie or TV show they are watching with their teen.
The researchers stated that they want parents to understand that allowing teens to drink underage, even when supervised by the parent, is always associated with a greater likelihood of drinking during adolescence over time. Social hosting is never a good idea, they emphasize. “Adolescents who attend parties where parents supply alcohol are at increased risk for heavy episodic drinking, alcohol-related problems, and drinking and driving,” they wrote.
Thom Kessler, LMFT, RAS
Below are the initial stages that young people follow as they begin to be exposed to alcohol and drug use. It is very important to understand the process your teen may be experiencing, if you suspect he or she is using alcohol and or drugs. Unfortunately, very often when it comes to the attention of the parents that their child is using alcohol or drugs it may not be the first their child has used – only the first time they have been caught. One of the key elements of early prevention is obviously early detection.
Experimentation: Experimentation is defined as a “one time event.” Once intoxication is experienced, the experiment is over- the results are known. It is not a phase at all but rather the lead into the beginning of the next stage, which is misuse or abuse. Because the adolescent brain is in a crucial stage of development it is not too harsh to define any use as abuse.
Misuse: Misuse is characterized as infrequent use for the purpose of intoxication. The misuse’s are those who do not have a pattern of weekend or weekday use, but use on social occasions such as dances, work functions, “Spring Break,” weddings, Super Bowl Sunday, “420,” Halloween, Graduation, New Year’s, Etc. If consequences occur for these individuals because of their drug use, they quit. They don’t try to manipulate drug tests, or lie to cover up their use, they just simply quit. These individuals do not yet have an emotional relationship to intoxication, though they still might experience consequences, such as DUI’s, sexual promiscuity, fights, or even death.
Substance Abuse: Substance Abuse is characterized by a pattern of use, such as weekends or during the week. It is defined as using drugs despite negative consequences. Using despite negative consequences is the result of a destructive relationship with intoxication. Moreover, substance abuse is an emotional illness.
The emotional illness of substance abuse has many components:
The terms addiction, chemical dependency and alcoholism can all be used interchangeably. The terms simply describe a person’s relationship (biological, psychological, and social) to intoxication. If a person is addicted to one drug, then they are addicted to drugs and alcohol altogether. The name of the chemical they are using is only an illusion at this point. They use chemicals, period. Whether it is marijuana, alcohol, or heroin that they used last week, it is all the same. It is important to not minimize and say, “it is only alcohol.” If a person has addiction they need to be abstinent from all chemicals that create intoxication.
The symptoms of addiction are:
Preoccupation, using despite negative consequences and loss of control.
Preoccupation occurs when the user is preoccupied with getting drugs, paying for drugs, and protecting their relationship to drugs.
Using despite negative consequences occurs when a person experiences a consequence from their chemical use and they continue to use.
Finally, loss of control occurs when a person sets limits on the amount of chemicals they are going to use, and then they find themselves going beyond that limit. For example, the user might buy a bag of marijuana with the goal of making it last all week, but then find that they have used it all in two days.
The user might go to parties with the goal that they are only going to have 2 beers, but after two beers they are still drinking. That is loss of control.
Primarily, addiction occurs because of biology. Genetics and using at an early age when the brain is still developing are the two biggest predictors for addiction.
Genetics is an important predictor to determine if a person is going to have addiction. This simply means that if a person comes from a biological family history of alcoholism/addiction, then it is possible that they have inherited that gene. Depending on which you study you read, the general agreement in all the studies is a family member is has a higher rate of being predisposed to develop an addiction. Many studies cite that if there is addiction in the family of the teen their rate of developing an addiction later in their life is around forty five percent - 45%.
The age of first intoxication is the second most reliable predictor to determine if a person is going to have addiction. Drug use during brain growth and development prior to age 18 significantly changes neurotransmission in the brain, which can lead to dependency on drugs.
Finally, in 1956 the American Medical Association classified addiction as a primary disease. They stated that it has symptoms. It is progressive which means that it only gets worse over time, and that it can be fatal if left untreated.
If you suspect your child is using drugs or alcohol early intervention and or prevention can save them a life time of misery resulting from personal and professional negative consequences and failed interpersonal relationships.
Please feel free to contact me for a free consultation and some peace of mind.
Thom Kessler, LMFT, RAS
According to the "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse Teens and Parents", conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia,) American teens ages 12-17 are at increased risk of smoking, drinking and drug use if they spend time on social networking sites.
This was the first time the survey asked 12- to 17-year olds about how much time they spend in a typical day on twitter, Myspace, Facebook or other social networking sites. Only 30 percent of the teens surveyed said they didn’t spend time social networking during a typical day. As a result of the study 70% of the teens indicate they spend a significant portion of their time on social networking sites (5 to 6 hours daily are:
One of the programs overseen by Betty Ford Center Director of Treatment Services, Mark Baumgartner, is the Young Adult Track for youths ages 18-25.
He feels the Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) survey provides evidence for adhering to relationship expert and author Pat Love’s advice regarding the importance of parents setting digital limits with their children. Examples of these limits would include the computer and all other communication ‘gadgets’ being turned off at a particular time before bed.
“Adolescents and young adults need sleep for normal brain development,” said Baumgartner. “In late adolescence and early adulthood, normal brain development consists of a refinement and efficiency processes of strengthening neural pathways and pruning unneeded ones. The lack of sleep that may occur from being online and social networking way past bed time may delay normal brain development in a manner similar to alcohol and drug abuse.”
He also noted that development is being influenced by what topics receive attention in unrestricted Internet and media access. “This is a form of brain elasticity – the ability of the brain to change. There is a lot of inaccurate information and unsavory content on the Internet, so knowing what and who our teenagers are connecting to online is important.
“Other digital limits recommended by Dr. Love include being clear about who owns the smart phone (the parent) and demanding access to it at any time,” Baumgartner concluded. “Are there rules about when it is OK to be on the phone texting? As parents, we have to appropriately model our own digital limits if we are to effectively establish them for our teens.”
- See more at: http://www.bettyfordcenter.org/recovery/education/drug-alcohol-risk-increased-for-youths-using-social-media.php#sthash.tKCM7
Thom Kessler, LMFT, RAS
Marriage & Family Therapist and Registered Addiction Specialist