How to Talk with Youth about Drug Use
FROM CARRIE KUBACKI, HEALTH & WELL-BEING EDUCATOR, UW-MADISON DIVISION OF EXTENSION, LANGLADE COUNTY
Today’s youth are faced with many significant issues as they navigate the pre-teen and teen years. While drug experimentation and use are consistent issues over the decades, the types of substances used and ways to purchase and share drug use are much riskier than before.
The 2019 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey reports that around 50% of students in grades 9-12 have ever tried vaping and that 30% of students currently drink (past 30-day use). Other results showed that 30% of students have tried marijuana and 11% have tried using prescription drugs as a way to get high. (https://dpi.wi.gov/sspw/yrbs)
It is important for adults who interact with youth to not only know the types of substances that youth are using, but also how to recognize the warning signs for substance use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) outlines the following as some of the potential warning signs that a child may be using drugs and to be careful not to assume these are only typical or “normal” parts of puberty:
- Mood or personality changes (becoming more angry or hostile)
- Change in peer group
- Withdrawing or isolating more at home
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Becoming more secretive about activities
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Decline in school performance
- Deteriorating relationships with family and friends
So, what can parents and other adult caregivers do to engage youth in discussions around substance use? Here are a few tips from the Partnership to End Addiction:
- Talk with your child openly and honestly about your family values related to drug use and peer pressure.
- Ask open-ended questions of your child as an attempt to understand their point of view and experiences.
- Actively listen rather than lecturing. Offer support as needed.
- Discuss ways for your child to be safe when out with friends. For example, practicing ways to say no and get out of situations or having an arranged way for your child to let you know they need help.
- Get to know your child’s friends and families. Talk about their views and approaches to youth substance use.
- Communicate clearly your expectations and rules when your child is out with friends or engaged in other activities.
- Model healthy behaviors as an adult. Find ways to engage in healthy activities together that do not involve alcohol or other drugs.
By being aware of and openly discussing the dangers of youth substance use, we create more opportunities for prevention and intervention to keep our children safe. For more information about youth drug use and ways to talk with youth, please visit the following sites: