17 Aug 2023

How to speak to your teenager about drug or alcohol addiction

Communicating with teenagers is a delicate task, even under the best circumstances. Addressing topics like drug and alcohol addiction can be even more challenging. Director of Rehabs UK, Lester Morse, an expert in the field, once said, "I think one of the biggest issues with addiction has always been how it is often hidden." At Rehabs UK, we understand the difficulties parents and carers face in initiating such conversations. That's why we've crafted this article to provide you with guidance and support.

Why you should talk to teens about drugs and alcohol

The importance of discussing drugs and alcohol with your teenager cannot be overstated. Recent government figures reveal that there were 11,326 young people (those under 18) in contact with alcohol and drug services between April 2021 and March 2022. While this marks a 3% increase from the previous year, it represents a significant 54% reduction from 2008 to 2009 (24,494). Addressing this issue is crucial to helping our youth make informed decisions and prevent potential addiction.

What age should your child be?

Choosing the appropriate age to initiate a conversation about drugs and alcohol depends on your child's maturity and individual circumstances. As Lester aptly suggests, "I think informing the children with as many facts as their age allows is the best policy." Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all answer, and "Shock and shame do not work, especially with younger children." Before you initiate the drug and alcohol conversation

  1. Prepare and Do Your Research: Equip yourself with accurate information about drugs and alcohol, their effects, and potential risks.
  2. Plan What You'll Say: Organise your thoughts and decide on the key points you want to convey during the conversation. Something like "Tomorrow night let’s have a talk about drinking and drugs. You’re not in trouble. I just want to talk about where we stand and hear any concerns you might be having.”
  3. Check in on How You Feel: Reflect on your emotions and ensure you approach the discussion with a calm and composed mindset.
  4. Keep an Open Mind: Acknowledge that experimentation with substances is common among teenagers. Not all experimentation leads to addiction, and underlying factors like mental health may play a role.

Tips on how to talk about alcohol and drug use with teens

  1. Stay Calm and Don't Overreact: Approach the conversation with a calm demeanour, creating a safe space for your teenager to share. Be very clear about your reasons for prohibiting substance use. Teenagers are often ordered to do things without being given a clear reason why and by explaining yourself you’re inviting them to have a more open, adult conversation.
  2. Ask How They Are: Open a dialogue about their overall well-being to address any pressures or stresses they might be facing. They may have been hoping for a chance to ask questions or check in about something troubling.
  3. Respect Their Boundaries: If your teenager isn't receptive at first, respect their feelings and try again at a more suitable time.
  4. Be Supportive and Listen: Offer emotional support and truly listen to what your teenager has to say, fostering trust and understanding. Teens who feel like their point of view is valued may be more willing to engage in a conversation
  5. Keep the Conversation Going: If the conversation flows positively, let your teenager know they can come to you with further questions or concerns.

After the Conversation: What's Next?

  1. Regular Check-Ins: Continue to ask your teenager about their well-being, reinforcing the importance of open communication.
  2. Avoid Self-Blame: If your child experiments with substances, don't blame yourself. Encourage them to research and learn about safety.
  3. Reach Out to Experts: If needed, seek advice from professionals who specialise in addiction and adolescent behaviour.

Expert Guidance and Support from Rehabs UK

If you find yourself concerned about your teenager's relationship with drugs or alcohol, remember that Rehabs UK is here to help. Our team of experts can provide honest advice and reliable support tailored to your unique situation.

Resources for Young People, Parents, and Carers

Here are some valuable resources to further assist you:

Initiating conversations about drug and alcohol addiction with your teenager is undoubtedly challenging, but it's an essential step toward their well-being and a healthier future. Remember, Rehabs UK is here to offer guidance and support every step of the way.