Scary as it seems, experimentation with drinking and drugs is not unusual during adolescence.
In fact, according to researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, including Dr. Laura Jean Bierut, parents significantly underestimate their teenager’s drinking and drug use.
This is especially true when it comes to harder drugs such as cocaine, though teens most commonly use alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. Experimentation and use increases as teenagers get older.
You should have a serious conversation with your child about drinking and drug use, and, while it’s recommended that these conversations begin before adolescence, it’s never too late.
It is a good idea to express how you would like your child to handle situations where alcohol or drugs are present. You can also offer your child some options instead of getting into a car with someone who has used alcohol or drugs or instead of driving himself if he’s used alcohol or drugs.
Options might include calling an older cousin or family friend for a ride or taking a taxi. If you want your child to call you instead of driving when she’s been using drugs or alcohol, you should work out what possible consequences might be.
Be sure to check up on your teen and be aware of symptoms of drug use. If you require your child to check in when she gets home at night, you can watch for slurred speech, lack of coordination, bloodshot eyes, jumpiness, rapid speech, or odours of alcohol or marijuana.
More chronic use can lead to changes in personality, mood, and behaviour, a drop in grades, changes in her core group of friends, and more secretiveness. If this occurs, you may want to contact a doctor or psychologist for help – especially if your teen won’t talk to you about it.