The Basics: Overview
Talk to your child about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Knowing the facts will help your child make healthy choices.
What do I need to say?
When you talk about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs:
- Teach your child the facts.
- Give your child clear rules.
- Find out what your child already knows.
- Be prepared to answer your child’s questions.
- Talk with your child about how to say “no.”
The Basics: When to Start
When should I start talking with my child?
Start early. By preschool, most children have seen adults smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, either in real life, on TV, or online.
Make sure your child knows right from the start that you think it’s important to stay safe and avoid drugs.
Here are more reasons to start the conversation early:
- Almost 9 out of 10 smokers start smoking before they turn 18.
- Many kids start using tobacco by age 11 and are addicted by age 14.
- By the time they are in 8th grade, most children think that using alcohol is okay.
- At age 12 or 13, some kids are already using drugs like marijuana or prescription pain relievers.
What if my child is older?
It’s never too late to start the conversation about avoiding drugs. Even if your teen may have tried tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, you can still talk about making healthy choices and how to say “no” next time.
Get more tips to help your teen stay away from drugs.
The Basics: Medicine Abuse
What do I need to know about prescriptions and other medicines?
When you talk to your child about the dangers of drugs, don’t forget about drugs that may already be in your home. Prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused substances by teens age 14 and older (after marijuana and alcohol).
Prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drug abuse is when a person:
- Takes too much of a prescription or OTC drug
- Takes a prescription drug prescribed to someone else
- Uses a prescription or OTC drug to get high
When not taken safely, prescription and OTC medicines can be just as addictive and dangerous as other drugs.
Commonly abused prescription or OTC drugs include:
- Pain killers, like Vicodin, OxyContin, or codeine
- Medicines used for anxiety or sleep problems, like Valium or Xanax
- Medicines that treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), like Adderall or Ritalin
Make sure to talk to your kids about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Share this website about prescription and OTC drug abuse with them.
Set a good example for your kids – never take someone else’s prescription medicine or give yours to anyone else. Keep track of the medicines in your home and store them in a locked cabinet.
The Basics: Why It Matters
Why do I need to talk to my child?
Research shows that kids do listen to their parents. Children who learn about drug risks from their parents are less likely to start using drugs.
When kids choose not to use alcohol or drugs, they are also less likely to:
- Have serious trouble in school
- Get hurt in a car accident
- Be a victim of crime
- Have a problem with addiction as an adult
If you don't talk about it, your child may think it’s okay to use alcohol and other drugs.