Your Kids ≠ Addiction
Maybe you were an addict. Or, there’s addiction in your family tree.
So, you want to make sure your kids stay free of drugs and alcohol.
Is that even possible?
Here’s What You Want to Happen: This Part Is Important…
The bad news: You can’t prevent your children’s exposure to drugs and alcohol. But, maybe, you don’t even want to. If your child has a predisposition or a long list of risk factors leading them toward addiction, you are limited to what you can do anyway.
But, exposure isn’t the problem. This isn’t to say that alcohol and drugs aren’t addictive. But then, many of the things your kids will encounter will be: Shopping, eating, video games, and even sex and love. You can’t protect them from life.
Besides, most kids – mentally and psychologically healthy kids – aren’t the ones who’re abstaining from alcohol or drugs completely. Instead, they are experimenting with weed and drinking, albeit in moderation. For better or worse, this is normal adolescent behavior.1
But as a parent you are not helpless. You can protect them by providing them with good information. Make your children feel comfortable about talking to you about substances and their effects. This is not just about education – talk about their feelings as well as ideas. Children need to sort out their emotions and parents can help with that. Let your child know that their opinions and decisions matter. As a parent, despite what you may think, you have a significant influence over your children and how they may view substance use. When kids don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents they will go elsewhere for answers, whether the sources are reliable or not. Kids who aren’t armed with good information are at greater risk for engaging in unsafe behaviors and experimenting with drugs. Therefore, as role model for your kids, you need to be well informed.
You May Not Be Able to Stop Your Kids from Experimenting with Drugs, But…
You can help to make your kids competent and resilient. Make them aware of the risks and consequences of drug and alcohol use. Telling them that all drugs are bad and evil while they see their friends or peers using them and (seemingly) having a good time isn’t going to work. Instead, by talking to them you will have given them sufficient confidence, self-respect, values, and purpose so that they will have the tools they’ll need to protect themselves. This is not drug prevention so much as harm reduction and, most importantly, addiction prevention.
Drug use is not necessarily drug abuse.
Who Is Most Likely to Use Substances?
- As was said above, if you have an addict or alcoholic in the family, the risk for children goes up, way up – 45 to 79 percent more likely than the general population.2 But it’s not just genetics: Environmental factors also play a role.
- Mental disorders or illnesses – bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression, anxiety, or other illnesses – make substance abuse more likely. Drugs and alcohol can help to stabilize moods. A sufferer of bipolar disorder, as an example, may feel that their substance use is helping, instead it is making their condition worse.
- According to research, people with high IQs are more likely use marijuana, consume alcohol, and take other illegal drugs compared to those who score lower on intelligence tests.3 Why? Social isolation and boredom have been offered as potential reasons.
- The young in general (aged 18 – 24) and white people in particular are those most likely to use – also, young men over women. While young black people are arrested for drug crimes at much higher rates than whites, whites are more likely to abuse drugs. For substance abuse disorders, Native American youths have the highest likelihood.4
- Children with a high potential to become addicts often have an associated collection of identifiable personality traits. Those with a natural compulsivity toward negative or dark emotions, AKA negative emotionality or negative affectivity, have higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse. Children who are outliers, for various reasons, tend to be at high risk. Those who are antisocial and callous, or those who are overly moralistic and sensitive; those who are impulsive and eager to try new things as well as those who are compulsive and fear novelty are at the highest risk; and those are overly anxious, uptight, and lacking in social skills. Drugs can be used as a means to “self-medicate” these painful feelings.
Risk and Protection
So, while these can be risk factors for a child to use and abuse drugs and alcohol, they are not destiny. These factors simply put them at a higher risk. Even for kids in this highest risk categories, up to 70 percent do not become substance abusers.5 And by building on their strengths, they can prevent the negative factors from taking over their lives.
How to build on these strengths? A strong relationship with an adult, confidence-building experiences at school, work, or other extracurricular activities can help. These things can build self-esteem, a sense of personal control, and a desire to be healthy – all values to create a strong will for a good life.
Keep in mind your habits matter too: If you smoke, or drink excessively, etc., this sends a message of disrespect for health or moderation.
The large majority of people, adolescents included, who try drugs do not fall into addiction or even regular users or abusers. This doesn’t mean as a parent you shouldn’t be aware and involved. Ask them about their thoughts on sensible drinking, smoking marijuana or tobacco. Or how they feel when they see their friends or peers using, especially illegal substances. Listen to what your child is saying and consider this and not what you want them to say, or, what you fear they might be saying. Listen to them without moral judging (yes, it can be hard). Your child’s opinions and decisions matter. Let them know you believe that.
Through these discussions, your child will understand the principles of healthy behavior. Remember, drugs on their own don’t cause addiction; they are an expression of a problem, not the source. The reasons for addiction can be complex and the result of many factors. Your job as a parent is to help your child navigate through those factors as best you can.
If you or a loved one have an addiction to alcohol, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery within 30 days.
- Werner (1986) “Resilient Offspring of Alcoholics: A Longitudinal Study from Birth to Age 18” Journal on Studies on Alcohol 47(1): 34-40; J.H. Brown and J. Horowitz (1993) “Deviance and Deviants: Why Adolescent Substance Use Prevention Programs Do Not Work” Evaluation Review 17(5): 529-555.