Throughout nearly every walk of American life, addiction has had an effect on countless families and individuals, regardless of class, race, gender, or any other demographic divide. However, one particular demographic that deserves to get looked at, more often, is that of young people who struggle with addiction. The rate of drug abuse amongst members of the youngest generation is directly going to impact the future of addiction, and whether we can bring down rates that have been drastically rising for the past two decades.
Current drug abuse statistics
Currently, an astonishingly nearly 9 out of 10 teenagers reveal that they know a classmate or peer who drinks alcohol, smokes cigarettes, or does harder drugs during the school day. Of teenage alcohol abuse, 1 out of 5 teenagers in a recent survey admitted to binge drinking within the past month, and 1 out of 3 admitted drinking at all. Alcohol is the most abused substance, by teens, but marijuana is not far behind. 1 out of 5 high school seniors admit to smoking marijuana in the past month, while 1 out of 20 does so every day.
What’s interesting about teenagers and substance abuse is that the trends of how many teens abuse substances have actually trended positively, in some ways, over the years. For example, even though teen drinking is still a major problem, it is down 20% from what it was in 2001 when more than half of all high schoolers admitted to drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. Over the past 50 years, teen substance abuse has been trending downwards.
However, one aspect of addiction today is the severity of drugs that are being abused. Today, prescription drug abuse, across many demographics, is at an all-time high. While that fact is truly frightening on its own, it gets worse when you consider how prescription opioids have served as a gateway to much more dangerous substances, such as heroin, which is up amongst teenagers, with 1 out of 3 teenagers saying it is easy to obtain heroin.
How to Communicate with Kids About Addiction
In the throes of addiction, it’s important not to forget about all the different types of people who are affected in the process. In particular, the children in the addict’s life cannot be simply brushed off when it comes to the recovery process. Like most things in life, honesty is the best way to handle these types of situations. Sitting down and talking to kids about addiction can help them understand what this person that they love is going through. Here are some tips for talking to children about addiction…
Know That You Can’t Hide It
One temptation that many families have is to the entire ordeal from the children, which is just a way of neglecting to confront the situation. However, kids, while more innocent, are not stupid. Children will be able to recognize that something odd is going on, even if they don’t understand the intricacies of what addiction is. This is especially true for older kids, but just as true for younger ones, who have an innate ability to empathize that alerts them when stress is going on around them. Rather than trying to hide the situation from the children, there is something else that should be tried…
Be Honest with Your Children
The best course of action, when it comes to confronting the heart of addiction with your children, is to simply be honest with them. It doesn’t mean that you have to be explicit in the specifics of drug abuse, but it does mean that you are very upfront with the struggle of the addict and what this person that they love is going through. This keeps kids from coming to their own solutions and puts to rest a growing curiosity that can eat away at them as they are growing up. Establishing transparency with your kids early on builds a strong foundation of trust that they will have in you, as well.
Help Them Understand the HarmBy being honest with your kids, it also gives you the ability to talk to them about the dangers of addiction that may be presented in their lives. If any good can come out of somebody that they know going through this, it can serve to help kids see the true hold that addiction can have over a person’s life. Without villainizing the person who is actually going through addiction, try to communicate the importance of avoiding situations and substances that can lead them on a similar path.
Be a role model
The number one person that your kids are going to look to, in terms of how to live life, is you. Even if your kids don’t listen to what you say all of the time, your actions have a direct impact on their future actions. For this reason, it is so important to make sure that you are being a role model, as it pertains to substance abuse, for your children.
Be ready for teen years
It’s important to set up a good foundation of understanding of how drugs and addiction work when your kids are young, but the real dangers that these substances present to your children are more likely to manifest when they are children. For this reason, you need to mentally prepare yourself for their teenage years. The peer pressure and opportunities for your kids to partake in substance abuse are going to rise, substantially, during this period of time.