How to prevent a child from using drugs

David Sheff, Best-Selling Author, shares advice for parents on the best methods for preventing your teenage child from using and abusing drugs and alcohol
How to Prevent Your Teen from Using Drugs or Alcohol
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How to prevent a child from using drugs

There are a lot of things we can do to prevent our kids from using. The most important thing that I have determined that will help our kids to grow up healthily so they don´t have drug problems is to recognize the fact, to pay attention to the stresses in their lives, to recognize the fact that they may have risk factors, that there may be addiction in their family, they may be suffering psychological disorders, have learning disabilities, have suffered loss in their family, the kinds of things that set kids up to be more likely to become addicted. But there are also really sort of practical things that we can do to help our kids. It is really asking a lot of a child to go to a party. I mean kids, what do kids want to do when they are 15 years old? They want to be accepted. They want to be perceived as being cool. So if a kid goes to a party on a Friday night and they are with a bunch of their friends, if it is a party where a lot of kids are getting high, it is kind of asking a lot of a kid to say no thank you, I don´t use drugs. So we want to prepare them for situations like that because there is a good chance they are going to have to be making some decisions. The way that we do that is first of all we talk about it. Second of all, we rehearse with them really literally rehearse. We take roles and practice. How are you going to deal with this if someone hands you a joint or gives you a glass of beer? And we want to prepare them with responses to that, and their responses can be anything from: Listen, my parents drug test me. Even if we don´t. So if I get high, they are going to know so I can´t use. That works. I have heard it work from parents. One thing that kids have used, you talk to your kids about take a beer, go to the bathroom, empty the beer, fill it up with water and you can nurse it, and nobody knows you aren´t drinking. Maybe it sounds stupid, but it works. I have heard from kids who say that they get through their whole high school years and go to parties. They don´t have to stay home and be bored or feel like they are really out of it. And another thing parents can do is work with their kids so that they can always have a way to reach them if they are feeling unsafe. So if your kid is at a party and everything is fine, then great. But if your kid is at a party and they are starting to get nervous, if they are feeling that they are in a situation that may be unsafe, and it could be unsafe because of drugs but it could be unsafe for many other reasons, have a code word that they either text you or they say on the phone, whatever the word is. And suddenly you will know that it is time for you to be the bad guy and for you to say to them I am coming to get you and for them to be able to hang up their phone and say oh my God, my parents are such assholes. They want to come get me and make me go because I have to go see my grandmother in the morning. All of these things sound maybe at face value kind of stupid and that they wouldn´t really help, but there is a lot of experiments that show that these, that if kids are kind of forewarned is forearmed. And it really helps kids in some situations.

David Sheff, Best-Selling Author, shares advice for parents on the best methods for preventing your teenage child from using and abusing drugs and alcohol


Expert Bio

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David Sheff


David Sheff is the author of Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy, the follow-up to his New York Times #1 bestseller, Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s AddictionClean is the result of the years Sheff spent investigating the disease of addiction and America’s drug problem, which he sees as the greatest public-health challenge of our time.

Beautiful Boy was based on Sheff’s article, “My Addicted Son,” which appeared in the New York Times Magazine and won an award from the American Psychological Association for “outstanding contribution to the understanding of addiction.”  It was named the nonfiction book of the year by Entertainment Weekly.  

Named to the Time 100, Time Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Influential People, Sheff also won the 2013 College of Problems on Drug Dependence Media Award. Sanjay Gupta, MD, said, "As a clear-eyed chronicler of addiction, David is without peer.”

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