As a parent, it is normal to worry about your teen and their consumption habits. Yet, in order to engage your teen in a healthy, constructive conversation about drug and alcohol use, we believe that seeking education on WHY teenagers engage in this behaviour is important. Below are some reasons and resources to help you during this journey.
Why Do Young People Use Drugs & Alcohol?
Social Circle and Peer Pressure
To put it plainly, experimenting with alcohol and drugs is, unfortunately, "the norm". Many teenagers see drug and alcohol use as part of the normal teenage experience. Parents and other adults consuming these substances support this belief for teenagers. Not only this, persuasion by friends and readily available substances at their social scenes can also lead to consumption. Encouraging your teen to have different friend groups and to develop strategies to combat peer pressure help ensure they are not making decisions based on other people.
Studies indicate that teens believe some popular media (such as movies, TV shows, and music) communicate positive messages about drug and alcohol use. It is important to have an honest conversation about your teenager’s media consumption and its effects on their beliefs.
To Escape Reality
Navigating the transition from high school to adult life is tough! Some teens can find themselves in stressful situations and are unable to find healthy outlets for their emotions. This can result in teens consuming substances to escape from their current reality. Drug and alcohol use can provide a short-term shortcut to happiness. It is beneficial to help your teenager find healthy outlets for stress such as sport, music, journaling, and/or speaking to a professional.
Breaking the routine of school can have many impacts on your teenager. In some cases, teenagers turn to alcohol and drug consumption to overcome feelings of boredom and loneliness. Having a conversation about finding new hobbies and encouraging healthy friendships is beneficial to minimising drug and alcohol use.
Curiosity, Experimentation, or Risk-taking
Many teenagers are on a quest to figure out who they are. During this period of self-discovery, trying new things and making new friends are a must! However, sometimes teenagers will turn to alcohol and drug use as a part of this process. Encourage alternate activities that are healthy forms of risk-taking, experimentation and exploring curiosity (indoor skydiving’s pretty cool).
Sense of Control
Like being on some kind of weird rollercoaster, transitioning from high school to adult life can leave teenagers feeling a loss of control. Teenagers can turn to alcohol and drug consumption as a demonstration of their newfound independence or to find control in an ever-changing life season. Help your teenager find a sense of control by introducing positive opportunities that foster independence and responsibility.
Confidence and self-esteem are challenging for most people. As teenagers are finding themselves in new and unfamiliar situations, these problems start to bubble to the surface. To help get that "high", teenagers are more inclined to try drugs and alcohol when they find themselves in periods of low self-esteem and confidence. Implementing strategies that help improve confidence and self-esteem can help your teenager not rely on substances at social events.
Inaccurate information and perceptions can water down the risks of substance use. It is important to educate your teen about the risks of participating in alcohol and drug use and what to do if someone experiences the adverse effects of these substances.