Tips for Helping Teens Stay Sober

A substance abuse expert shares advice for parents on how to keep their teenagers from using alcohol and drugs.

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- Posted on Oct 25, 2019

A group of happy and healthy teens

Navigating the passage to adulthood with health and sobriety can feel like a challenge for teens and their families. Many people assume alcohol and drugs are a harmless, or at least universal, rite of passage.

In fact, research shows that alcohol and drugs can seriously damage young people’s brains. Chemicals in alcohol and drugs alter brain development and increase the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. People who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop a substance use disorder.

Teens often assume everyone in their peer group or school uses drugs or alcohol. Research shows the opposite. Fewer than 30 percent of all American teens report drinking alcohol even once a month. Substance use seems widespread because it gets a lot of attention in popular culture and on social media. Most kids, though, don’t drink or take drugs.

The best way to prevent teen substance abuse is to maintain strong family bonds, set clear expectations and educate kids about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.

Signs of a possible substance use problem include sudden changes in a teen’s friends, grades, activities or attitude. Parents who suspect a problem should not assume they can handle things themselves. Seek advice from school counselors, treatment professionals or trusted online sources. Established treatment organizations such as Caron feature a range of educational materials on their websites.

The transition to college and the freedoms it allows can be challenging for young adults. Some students, especially those who were already using in high school, may find that their substance use increases and so do the consequences.

Behaviors such as drinking to the point of blackout or memory loss, drinking heavily on a regular basis, or drinking or using drugs while alone are red flags for college students and their families.

As with teens, college students can help themselves stay sober by surrounding themselves with sober friends, staying focused on schoolwork and getting involved in campus or community organizations.

Research shows that it’s neither normal nor healthy for teens or young adults to drink or use drugs. Sobriety is an important—and eminently achievable—part of the transition to adulthood.

Christine Storm
Regional Director of Education,
Caron Treatment Centers

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