Talking about addiction can open channels of communication, prevent drug use and put a stop to developing problems. Addiction is a surprisingly common problem among teens, but many parents wait until it can no longer be ignored before having a conversation. While it is never too late to start talking about addiction to morphine and other opiates, it is also never too early.
Teen drug use should not be ignored. Drug use, drinking and partying are sometimes seen as harmless or acceptable rites of passage or acts of youthful rebellion, and this view leads some parents to avoid talking with teens about their drug use. Others choose not to have a conversation because they are afraid such a conversation would be awkward or unwelcome. There are many reasons to put off talking about drug use and addiction, but ignoring substance use does not make it go away. CBS News shares, “Teens who know their parents disapprove of drug use are less likely to use…It’s best to let your kids know how you feel about drugs before they hit their teenage years.” Don’t stay silent about addiction. Vocalizing facts about addiction and disapproval of drug use lets teens know where you stand and where they should too. If you see or suspect a problem has already developed, communicate about this as well.
Addiction in teens is as tragic and life altering as it is for adults. One way to talk to your teen about addiction is to discuss the differences in how drug use affects teens versus adults. Addiction is often seen as a less serious problem in teens than in adults, and teens typically see it as no problem at all, but the opposite is true. NPR explains, “Addiction is more efficient in the adolescent brain. That is an important fact for an adolescent to know about themselves — that they can get addicted faster.” Not only does addiction develop more “efficiently” in teens, it does more damage while it occurs and is also harder, although entirely possible, to treat. NPR elaborates on this as well: “The effects of substances are more permanent on the teen brain. They have more deleterious effects and can be more toxic to the teen than the adult. Binge drinking can actually kill brain cells in the adolescent brain where it does not to the same extent in the adult brain…You can actually have brain damage — permanent brain damage — in an adolescent for the same blood alcohol level that may cause bad sedation in the adult, but not actual brain damage.” Talk to your teen about the likelihood of quicker, easier addiction development and the more serious and more permanent adverse effects of drug use in teens.
Your first approach to talking to your teen about addiction should involve a calm conversation. Yelling, lecturing, bringing down harsh consequences and other negative communication tactics can leave teens feeling more rebellious and isolated than before. CBS News urges, “Try not to be judgmental or to jump to conclusions. Do all you can to make your child feel comfortable about coming to you for help, if it’s needed.” When your child knows he or she can expect a calm, reasonable conversation and can share concerns without be judged or punished, he or she is more likely to ask for or be open to suggestions about getting help.
The best way to talk to your teen about addiction is to listen. Drugfree.org explains the importance of having conversations about drug use and emphasizes that “In a conversation, two people have a dialogue, and each side listens to the other.” Do not simply lecture, even if you are doing so in a calm, non-judgmental way. Let your child talk, and actually listen to what he or she has to say. This listening may involve more than hearing words, as addiction is often built on lies, but do not interrupt your child to point out untruths. Instead pay attention to his body language, consider what and why he is telling lies, and consider the truths that may hide behind them.
If you are concerned that your child might be using morphine or other opiates, starting a conversation about addiction can be simple with the right help and guidelines. Call our toll-free helpline to learn about talking with your teen about his or her addiction and about the options available for you, your child and your family as a whole. Addiction is a family disease, and there is family treatment. Our caring, confidential admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day, so there is no wrong time to call and begin talking about addiction.