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Kids & Drugs
Talking To Your Kids About Drugs

From The Office Of National Drug Control Policy's "Parents The Anti-Drug™" Initiative (
Having the "drug talk" with your kids early -- and often -- is the best practice. 
Know Your Influence Matters
Make Your Position On Drugs Clear
Set Ground Rules
Limit Media Access
Address Peer Pressure


Teens who learn anti-drug messages at home are 42 percent less likely to use drugs.

Parents The Anti-Drug™ has published this handbook to help parents raise healthy teens. CLICK HERE to download a copy (PDF).

You as a parent are the first line of defense when it comes to your teen's drug use or drinking. And you do make a difference!

Nearly two-thirds of teenagers see great risk of upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends if they smoke marijuana or use other drugs.

You can influence your teenager's behavior, particularly if you are armed with the facts about drugs. Having a clear understanding about the risks of illicit drugs and knowing the signs to watch for in your teenager are critical first steps.

Know how marijuana interferes with concentrating on schoolwork and their ability to play sports. If you kids don't hear about drugs and alcohol from you, it's a sure thing that they'll hear about them from someone else. Also make certain that they understand the legal trouble and health consequences that they may encounter if they use drugs.


Make your position clear when it comes to dangerous substances like alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Don't assume that your children know where you stand.

Parents Talking To KidsThey want you to talk to them about drugs. State your position clearly; if you're ambiguous, children may be tempted to become involved with tobacco products, alcohol or other drugs.

Tell your children that you forbid them to use alcohol, tobacco and drugs because you love them. (Don't be afraid to pull out all the emotional stops. You can say, "If you took drugs it would break my heart.") Make it clear that this rule holds true even at other people’s houses.

Will your child listen? Most likely. According to research, when a child decides whether or not to use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, a crucial consideration is: What will my parents think?  


Research shows that young people are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs if their parents set clear rules about not doing so. If parents have not previously established rules around more basic activities of daily living, however, they will have little chance of getting their children to obey a rule about not using marijuana, tobacco or other drugs.

Here are some rulemaking tips:

Set clear rules and discuss in advance the consequences of breaking them. Don't make empty threats or let the rule-breaker off the hook. Don't impose harsh or unexpected new punishments.

The rules must be consistently enforced; every time a child breaks the rules the parent should enforce a punishment.

Punishments should involve mild, not severe, negative consequences. Overly severe punishments serve to undermine the quality of the parent-child relationship.

Setting A CurfewSet a curfew. And enforce it strictly. Be prepared to negotiate for special occasions.

Have kids check in at regular times when they’re away from home or school. Give them a cell phone with clear rules for using it. (When I call you, I expect a call back within 15 minutes.)

Call parents whose home is to be used for a party. On party night, don't be afraid to stop in to say hello (and make sure that adult supervision is in place).

Make it easy to leave a party where drugs are being used. Discuss in advance how to signal you or another designated adult who will come to pick your child up the moment he or she feels uncomfortable. Later, be prepared to talk about what happened.

Listen to your instincts. Don't be afraid to intervene if your gut reaction tells you that something is wrong. Review this Action Guide for Parents for more specific suggestions if you suspect or know your teen is using drugs.


Many parents are concerned about pro-drug messages on TV or in movies and music. Some parents choose to restrict their children's access to media content and tell them why.

ParentingA lot of parents don't check their kids' activities on the Internet. If you have a computer at home, it's really important that you let your kids know that you're in charge of their time online. Not only can kids find out about drugs on the Internet (including a lot of pro-drug sites), they can also buy them online. If you are surfing the Net with your child and come across some pro-drug sites or sites with drug content, you could ask questions such as:

"Who are these people trying to sell you on drugs?"

"Do they care about what happens to you while you're on drugs?"

"How would you know what the drugs are made of?"

However, TV and music on the radio can also be a discussion-starter for you and your teen. In fact, research shows that teenagers whose parents are aware of the TV they watch and the music they listen to are less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs.

TV is a good way to look at the negative and positive portrayals we get every day about drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Consider how TV shows, advertisements or music lyrics influence our beliefs about drugs. Most important, it is also a chance to turn the time into a teachable moment. For example, if a character on a TV show is using drugs, you could start a conversation with any one of these opening lines:

"I wonder what his family thinks about him getting high?"

"Where do you think this person would end up in life?"

"What do you think her teachers would think? Her neighbors? Her pastors?"

"Why would he do drugs?"


No matter where children grow up or who their friends are, nearly all of them are confronted at some time or another by friends with bad ideas, ways of testing limits, getting in trouble and doing things they'll regret later.

Peer PressureIt's not so hard saying, "No thanks, I have to go now," to a stranger. But it’s a lot tougher when a child's friend -- especially one whose approval means a lot to him or her -- tries to get that child to do something he or she knows is wrong.

Even good kids occasionally pester their friends into skipping a class or lying about why they were out together so late. But if friends or acquaintances entice your children to try tobacco, alcohol or drugs, the consequences can be more serious.

The best way to prepare children to succeed in these encounters is to role play. Practice similar scenarios in advance. With the right words at the tip of their tongue, children can assert their independence while making it clear that they're rejecting their friends' choices and not the friends themselves.

Setting An Example &
Answering The Toughest Question Your Kid Might Ask


Be a role model of the person you want your kid to be. What stronger anti-drug message is there?

Keep these tips in mind:

Be a living, day-to-day example of your value system. Show the compassion, honesty, generosity and openness you want your child to have.
Know that there is no such thing as "do as I say, not as I do" when it comes to drugs. If you take drugs, you can't expect your child to take your advice. Seek professional help if necessary.
Examine your own behavior. If you abuse drugs or alcohol, your kids are going to pick up on it. Or if you laugh at a drunk or stoned person in a movie, you may be sending the wrong message to your child.  


Among the most common drug-related questions asked of parents is: "Did you ever use drugs?"

Unless the answer is no, it's difficult to know what to say because nearly all parents who used drugs don't want their children to do the same thing. Is this hypocritical?


We all want the best for our children. Today we have more information and we understand the hazards of drug use better than we did when we were their age and thought we were invincible. To guide our children's decisions about drugs, we can now draw on credible real-life examples of friends who had trouble as a result of their drug use: the neighbor who caused a fatal car crash while high; the family member who got addicted; the teen who used marijuana for years, lost interest in school, and never really learned how to deal with adult life and its stresses.

This discussion provides a good opportunity for parents to speak frankly about what attracted them to drugs, why drugs are dangerous, what they know now that they didn't know then, and why they want their children to avoid making the same mistake.


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