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Raising a Responsible Adolescent

What about drugs?

Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers

How to Say It to Teens: Talking about the Most Important Topics in Their Lives

by Katrina Day Wester

Do you have a teenage child that has questioned why she can’t drink while you do? Do you have an appropriate response for her other than saying, “It’s the law”? Do you worry that peer pressure might one day overcome your usually sensible teen? If so, here are some facts to arm yourself with the next time you and your teen get into a discussion about drinking.


  • Although a teen might feel “old” enough to drink alcohol, the truth is that their bodies are still developing and alcohol has a greater impact on their physical and mental well-being than it does on an adult.
  • Children who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin after age 21.
  • Alcohol affects your brain; it can lead to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses, and even blackouts.
  • Alcohol can damage every organ in your body.
  • Alcohol depresses your central nervous system thereby lowering your inhibitions. By doing so, it affects your self-control that can lead to risky behavior including unprotected sex.
  • Excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to coma or even death.
  • It is illegal to buy or possess alcohol if you are under 21.
  • One drink can make you fail a Breathalyzer test. In some states that means you can lose your driver’s license.
  • Mixing drugs and alcohol can be deadly.
  • Alcohol is fattening.

Even if you did drugs as a teen, you might not be able to recognize the signs of drug use today. Many of the drugs are different.

How, as a parent, can you tell if your child has a drinking problem? Here are some of the warning signs. Is your child:

  • Acting run-down, depressed or suicidal
  • Having problems at school or with the law
  • Stealing money
  • Switching friends


  • Moderate your own intake of alcohol.
  • Talk to your child about alcohol and its consequences.
  • Set the rules and then enforce them.
  • Set a curfew and make it known that it’s non-negotiable.
  • Talk to your child about peer pressure and work with her to stand up when the pressure gets tough
  • Remind your child often that you will always pick her up from a party “no questions asked” if she is concerned about the designated driver or about driving herself.

If you are worried about your child using drugs, you are not alone, but just bear in mind that alcohol kills 6 times the number of people killed by every illegal drug combined. The numbers are staggering: ten million Americans are addicted to alcohol and it’s the #1 drug problem of today's youth. Don’t let your child be a part of the statistics talk to them early and often about the dangers of alcohol.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) The Facts for Families©
M.A.D.D. (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) http://www.madd.org
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Alcohol and Drug Information) http://www.health.org


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