Dangers of Teen Smoking and What Parents Can Do to Intervene

According to the 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report on Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Smoking, tobacco use is accountable for the death of approximately 6 million people across the world each year. This figure includes the estimated 600,000 people who are also likely to die from the ill effects caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

Cigarette smoking poses serious health risks, as attested by several studies. Among these risks are certain cancers like mouth, throat, larynx, lungs; coronary heart disease; and respiratory ailments.

The onset of medical conditions related to tobacco use is affected by the duration of exposure to its dangers. The earlier in age the smoking begun, the sooner the health complications develop. Medical research shows that those who started tobacco use in their teens are more likely to develop nicotine addiction and become heavy users upon reaching adulthood. The longer the use, the more challenging it is to quit.

This is why teen smoking is a grave public health threat. However, adolescents continue to stubbornly ignore the statistics and the health warnings. For instance, in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collated data show that more than 3,200 teens ages 18 and below have been initiated to cigarette smoking.

These figures show that despite pervasive health education, prevention propaganda, and government bans, smoking remains tremendously popular among young people.

It is worth noting that the term “tobacco use” is not limited to cigarettes but includes other tobacco-related products such as e-cigarettes, hookahs, cigars and low-tar products. Use of multiple tobacco products is also common among teens. According to the information gathered from the CDC surveys on Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School from 2011 to 2015, an average of 3.3% of middle school children and 13% of high school students admitted to use two or more tobacco products in the past 30 days.

cigarette smoking

Why Teenagers Smoke

There are several factors that affect a teenager’s decision to begin smoking. Among the major contributing elements are the following:

Media and advertising campaigns

Because surveys show that heavy smokers begin the habit between their pre-teen to teenage years, tobacco manufacturers have devised strategies to redesign their advertising to target this particular age group. A popular example is the marketing strategy of Camel cigarettes in the late 80’s which utilized the cartoon character Joe Camel. The marketing strategy was so effective that it significantly increased the sales of Camel cigarettes in the United States to about $466 million in 1992.

Similar promotional tactics – which include hiring famous celebrities to endorse cigarette smoking – are being used by other leading tobacco companies to portray smoking as “cool,” “hip,” “romantic,” and “pleasurable.” Some of these ads also associate smoking with independence, rebellion, glamor and popularity.

In addition, the proliferation of film, television, music videos and magazines that feature teenage characters who smoke sends out the message that this is a good trend to engage in. These entice the young generation to light up and smoke their first cigarette.

Familial exposure

Children who are exposed to parents, family members or guardians who smoke are also likely to take up the deadly habit. Kids look up to their parents and elders as primary role models and mimic their behaviour. Failure by the parents to emphasize the harmful effects of smoking creates the perception that it is “normal” or “acceptable” and lessens the impact of health advisories.

Peer pressure

Peer pressure is also a major contributing factor. During their adolescent years, children feel a compelling need to belong and to be accepted by social circles. Smoking may provide as avenues for developing friendships or strengthening bonds among peers.

It is during these formative years that teenagers struggle for a sense of self-identify and independence apart from their parents. It is a crucial phase and their coping mechanisms will determine whether or not they will succumb to the societal pressure to light and smoke their first cigarette. Parental absence or neglect coupled with lack effective school regulations of cigarette use on school campuses will negatively impact their decisions.

teen woman smokingRebellion or social image

Teenagers also go through the transition period from being a child to an adult and during this stage, they experiment with their choices. This is also the time when several differences between the parents and the teenagers arise. This can spark defiance and rebellion, which are also motivating factors for teens to pick up smoking as a habit, either to deliberately challenge their parents or to seek much-wanted attention.

They may also be driven by the desire to build an image of being independent, cool, gothic or bad as when they identify with a character from a movie or an anime cartoon and they start practicing the bad habits portrayed in the film.

Sense of invincibility

In a certain way, most adolescents feel immortal and invincible. In their teenage years, they view life ahead as a series of never-ending adventures that would somehow stretch on through eternity. For them, the concepts of aging, sickness and health are so far off in the future. Thus, public health warnings on the perilous effects of smoking are easily ignored. Besides, they always tell themselves the biggest lie that most smokers believe – that they can quit anytime.

Dangers of Teen Smoking

The younger a person is initiated to tobacco use, the more likely he is to develop nicotine addiction in his adult years. Nicotine poisons the body over time and dependence on the substance places a smoker at a greater risk for developing serious health problems at an earlier age. Among these are: coronary heart diseases; stroke; emphysema; several cancers; lung diseases; respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia; osteoporosis; decreased fertility and impotence.

Smoking in teenage years causes reduced lung growth. As a result, the lungs are undeveloped and become incapable of functioning properly. Thus, teenage smokers are most likely to have respiratory illnesses throughout their lives.

Nicotine addiction occurs hastily in adolescents, making cessation and withdrawal more challenging.

Tobacco use doesn’t only impact the health of the smoker. It is equally dangerous to those who are exposed to second-hand smoke which contains several chemicals proven to be carcinogenic. Prolonged exposure can trigger conditions such as asthma, allergies, heart disease. In worse cases, it may even cause lung cancer.

smoking

Warning Signs

It is important to know the warning signs of teen smoking. Spotting them early on allows for an opportunity for timely intervention that can delay the occurrence of nicotine dependence. Here are some warning signs that parents should watch out for:

Smoke smell

This is one of the most telling signs that a teenager is smoking. It is also easy to detect because the strong smell of cigarette smoke attaches to clothing items and even to the skin.

Use of cologne sprays or air fresheners

Sudden or increased use of cologne sprays or body mists could indicate that the teenager is attempting to conceal or obscure the scent of cigarette smoke on his clothing. The same goes for sudden use of air fresheners or incense in his bedroom especially if he has not used these items in the past.

Lighters and matches

Parents should watch out for unnecessary acquisition of lighters and matches by their teenage children. There may be several lighters or matchboxes hidden in their desk drawers, backpacks, purses or clothing pockets and these are strong indicators that they are smoking.

Breath mints or breath fresheners

Another sign of teen smoking is the sudden or increased use of breath fresheners, mints, chewing gums, candies or mouthwash. The teenager could be using these products in attempts to camouflage the smell of tobacco on his breath.

Disappearances from the house

If the teenager is frequently leaving the house on short notice or suddenly goes out without seeking prior permission, for no valid reasons, it could be that he is sneaking off somewhere to smoke a cigarette. These instances of his disappearances, especially when under questionable circumstances as when they occur at night, should be investigated and addressed promptly.

If these signs or behavioral changes are noticed, it may be time to for the parents or other family members to intervene. It is imperative that tobacco use is stopped immediately in order to diminish its chances of progressing to nicotine addiction.

How Parents Can Intervene

Be a positive role model

The best way for parents to keep children away from smoking is for them to set good examples. They are the most influential people in their children’s lives. Their employed parenting techniques will reflect on their kids’ choices.

There should be open discussion in the home as to the negative impacts of smoking followed by a firm stand against it. It should be discouraged. If parents are themselves, struggling with tobacco use, they should seek professional help and cessation programs.

Take active roles in their lives

Smoking is only one of the many vices teenagers may take up as a result of parental neglect. Parents should keep open channels of communication with their children and be take active roles in their lives. For instance, show genuine interest in their hobbies, encourage family activities, and get to know their friends. Children who feel emotionally secure in the home and who know they can turn to their parents for advice and guidance are less likely to cave into peer pressure.

Be patient, not judgmental

Should parents find that despite all their efforts, their kids have started smoking anyway, they should sit down to dialogue and to listen. It is important that teenagers don’t feel attacked or cornered. Rather, they need to be assured that their parents are coming from a place of concern and affection. Parents should avoid issuing threats or imposing punishment outright. On the contrary, they should strive to listen and to understand the reasons why their children started smoking.

The addictive nature of nicotine will make quitting very difficult and confusing for teenagers. They will need their parents’ support, motivation and encouragement especially during the rough periods of withdrawal.

parent intervention teens

Encourage sports and physical activities

According to several studies in the past, there is evidence that physical activities can delay smoking initiation among the youth. Team sports and aerobic activities are also recommended as part of smoking cessation programs, to help distract both the mind and body from the cravings for tobacco use.

Counselling intervention

It will definitely help to seek professional medical advice and enroll the teenage smoker in individual counselling or support group therapy. A report by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) supports the position that counselling is especially effective for adolescent smokers as it doubles long-term abstinence rates compared to other approaches that do not involve behavioural treatment.

Parents may also encourage their children to register for smoking cessation programs whether at school clinics, treatment facilities, or community health centers.

The harmful and life-threatening effects of teen smoking, as well as the adverse implications of the relevant statistical data, are widely known. While prevention of cigarette initiation appears to be the best solution to this public health issue, timely intervention methods are likewise effective alternatives. The importance of intervening early and swiftly as soon as the issue is discovered cannot be sufficiently underscored.


Whatever factors compel teenagers to begin this addictive pattern, all hopes to salvage their future are not entirely lost. They must have the resolve to begin the journey towards recovery, through the guidance and support of family and friends. Clearly, overcoming tobacco use or dependence is a battle that no ordinary adolescent can win alone.

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Mobile Apps To Help In Drug Addiction Recovery

Recovery from addiction can be a difficult process. It would need a lot of support, encouragement and even technology to help the recovering individual become successful with drug addiction recovery. In this article, we will look at some mobile apps that help in drug addiction recovery.

Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of health-related apps. Nowadays, you can find apps for breaking habits, for tracking goals, and drug addiction recovery. Technology has given recovering addicts convenient and practical tools to help them walk away from addiction. From tracking sober time, managing triggers and emotions, and finding and sharing meetings, apps for addiction recovery are aplenty whether you are using an iPhone or an Android.

mobile apps for drug addiction recovery

Today’s youth just cannot live by without their smartphones. They post and check their Facebook timelines, play games, catch up on the latest news, and send messages to friends using their smartphones. For this reason, an app that can help them recover from drug addiction can make sense.

Here are some smartphone apps that can help with addiction recovery:

Sober Grid

SoberGrid uses geo-location features to help users connect with other people who are close by. The aim of the app is to help recovering addicts strengthen their recovery networks. It also serves as a platform for users to get support when they have a feeling that they might relapse.

SoberGrid also allows users to post their pictures on their Facebook newsfeed as well as block someone from using the app. Android phone users can download the app here.

iHeal

For people who have just left a rehabilitation or recovery center, a relapse is still possible. They would need a tool that can help tell if such relapse is likely. To address this, software developers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created an app for achieving such goal.

iHeal comes with a device that is worn on the user’s arm. This gadget is designed to monitor bodily indicators such as body movement, skin temperature, and heart rate. The device also warns users if they are in the “danger zone” and adjusts itself accordingly depending on the situation.

Twelve Steps – The Companion

There are many 12-step based apps to choose from but Twelve Steps – The Companion is unlike the rest. It is both comprehensive and fun to use. It is also one of the first recovery apps that became available and has undergone several updates already.

The app’s home screen provides the user with their sobriety stats which are displayed in years, months, and years. It also has a “one day at a time” world that counts down the days of recovery until 1,000, which makes the recovery process fun and uplifting.

The app also includes the entire “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous. This feature comes in handy for traveling alcoholics who cannot carry the book all the time wherever they go. The app can be downloaded in the Apple Store as well as in Google Play.

For Android users, you can download here.

Field Guide To Life Pro

Field Guide to Life Pro is an award winning app from Betty Ford Foundation. It comes with a year’s worth of addiction recovery support. Among its main features include daily guidance, reminders and inspirations. It also includes a sober counter, a personal progress monitor, community support, and relapse prevention tools.

The app provides access to several video clips of recovery experts and people saying positive and encouraging messages to the recovering addict. App developer Hazelden was the recipient of The White House Behavioral Health Patient Empowerment Challenge Award for offering crucial first year support to recovering addicts.

For Android users, download the Field Guide to Life app here.

A-Chess

A-Chess is an acronym for Addiction – Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support system. The app comes with inputs from treatment providers, clients, family members, primary care providers, and technology experts. It comes with a bevy of features for predicting, detecting, and preventing relapse. With the app, users can connect with other members for support. It also provides the recovering addict with a platform to engage in discussion groups, and have video chat sessions with counselors.

The GPS technology that comes with the app alerts the user when they are near a high-risk location such as a liquor store. One of its most outstanding features is the panic button, which sends a text message to support prompting a response for assistance. While waiting for a response, the app will send helpful features such as relaxation guides, discussion boards, and even a recording of their own motivational recovery story. When they are in a high-risk location, the app will cause the phone to ring, and several recommended coping strategies will be displayed.

A-Chess works on smartphones running on Google Android 2.3 or higher. You can download the app here.

Friend of Bill

A simple sobriety counter can already do wonders to any recovering addict, but this easy-to-use app presents the duration of staying sober from years to as detailed as minutes. You have the option to change how this app displays the time of your sobriety. In addition, each significant statistic related to sobriety comes with a slogan to motivate you to go on.

Friend of Bill is available in iOS.

One Day At A Time

Carry the famous Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous on your mobile device. One Day At A Time contains everything that you will enjoy from the book. It contains built-in features such as keyword search, access to Daily Meditations, integration of sobriety dates of your fellow recovering addicts, and easy connection to emergency contacts.

Download this app for iOS and Android.

Ascent

One effective method of avoiding relapse is by connecting with peer-recovery experts who can guide people towards full recovery. This is where the Ascent app can provide assistance, by giving users round-the-clock access to coaches who can help them get back on track in case of a potential relapse.

Unlike other downloadable apps, Ascent comes with a package that includes a connection to a coach and a support team. Users of the app can add notes for personal motivation, play videos about recovery, and track progress. It also provides opportunities to learn more about addiction recovery through the community messaging system.

Check this download page for Ascent.


 

No Replacement For Actual Intervention

It is worth noting that these apps can never replace face-to-face interaction or counseling. According to Nancy Bartnett, an Associate Professor at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, one of the drawbacks of these technological developments is if they could really treat a serious alcoholic. “It’s not the same as going into treatment or meeting with a counselor or getting medication,” Barnett said in a news release.

Meanwhile, Mary Andres, Associate Professor of Clinical Education at the USC Rossier School of Education, explained that these apps can never replace the real thing. “You can’t replace the value of face-to-face identification and the phenomena that happens in group.” Andres said.

Nevertheless, Bartnett believes that mobile apps can serve as bridges or as an adjunctive kind of help. “They can help people to get to treatment, help people to stay in treatment, and get them thinking about treatment,” Barnett explained.

Whether you are already in recovery or thinking about walking away from your addiction, these mobile apps may help you get to the right path and become successful with your goal of becoming finally free from drugs.

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What Is Kratom And Why Is It Dangerous?

Kratom is on the spotlight these days when it comes to alternative medicine. This plant has been touted to possess many health benefits, but some studies say that it’s harmful to human health.

kratom leavesKratom (scientific name Mitragyna speciosa) is a large tree grown in South East Asian countries. Its popularity rose when it was discovered that its leaves can be chewed or made into a tea and utilized for healing purposes. Some variants of Kratom are available in concentrated extract with synthetic chemicals incorporated to it.

Advocates of Kratom claim that it cures stress, anxiety, pain, and depression. The alkanoids contained in Kratom give stimulating, depressing and intoxicating effects. Here are some of the reported benefits of using Kratom in moderate amounts:

  • When taken in moderation, users of Kratom become more talkative, alert and energetic.
  • In tropical forest areas where they are grown, Kratom has been attested by locals to restore vigor.
  • Its leaves can alleviate diarrhea and stabilize hypertension.
  • The drug is also found to be effective in losing weight as it suppresses appetite.
  • People who are exposed to the sun can derive good protection from Kratom as it enhances production of melanin.
  • When consumed more, it creates a euphoric feeling, giving a sense of relaxation and inner calmness.

Some books mention that Kratom is less destructive than morphine and cocaine. However, claims like these on alternative medicine have not yet been proven because no extensive studies have been conducted, despite having many people attesting to its health advantages.

Below are some unwelcome consequences when a person uses Kratom. Some of these effects manifest right away and may last up to seven hours (longer if taken in high doses).

  • Nausea (can be severe and prolonged)
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Itching
  • Increased urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors and jerking
  • Episodes of panic
  • Sudden swings of mood
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia

Kratom may be helpful physically and psychologically. However, quitting the use of Kratom may lead a person to experience typical withdrawal symptoms such as muscle pains, jerky limbs, runny nose, and even as far as being violent.

There are a number of new age alternative medicines popping up as of late. Many people want to stay away from synthetic medication and shift towards herbal and natural alternatives. With all that has been said about Kratom, studying about the plant can significantly contribute to the world of wellness. In fact, experts in the field of health and drug industry are spending time and money to conduct extensive studies for such a potential breakthrough in the medical arena.

[Image from ThorPorre via Wikimedia Creative Commons]

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Three Best Hollywood Films About Drug Addiction

Much has been depicted on the silver screen about drugs – its abuse, addiction, manufacturing and distribution. Hollywood remains tactful in touching issues about drugs because there is very little difference between glamorizing a drug and communicating the moral and legal consequences of being hooked to it.

Drug-themed movies have come out simply because of the many angles in bringing the topic into life, despite the challenge to create a film that will capture the interest of a particular audience.

Below are some outstanding Hollywood films about drugs, the wild imagery of its turbulent world, and the thrilling adventure of being involved in this illicit trade.

traffic movie posterTraffic

Traffic is hailed as one of the most excellent films about drugs. It tackles the substance (pun intended) in different angles from the source, supporters, high risks and the battle against it. It is a modern-day suspense story set in the world of drug trafficking, bringing to mind the dangers of the trade.

Practical scenarios depicted in the story expose truths such as the influence of people in public positions who support the trade. Their awareness of drug laws does not hinder them from using drugs as a lucrative source of money. The movie perfectly captures the spirit of the drug problem as a punching bag: No matter how hard you hit, it will always be there, hanging and unchanged.

Limitless

limitless movie posterThe story revolves around a wonder drug called NZT, which is said to boost the brain to perform to its full capacity as opposed to the myth that an individual can only use 10 to 20 percent of the brain’s power. Amazingly, instead of distorting thoughts, it enables the user to remember whatever he has seen and read like a reliable storage device.

An exciting and thrilling movie, Limitless is about a writer who has low self esteem after being rejected by his girlfriend who thinks that he has no future. He proves her wrong when one day he comes across NZT through a friend. His life turns right side up when a business tycoon takes notice of him because of his cleverness. The two pair up to make billions, but the protagonist faces a disturbing reality: he is running out of NZT.

Thrill and adventure emerges as he struggles to cope with withdrawal symptoms and run away from hit men who threaten to eliminate him in line with the wonder drug trade.

Pineapple Express

pineapple express movie posterNamed after a special variety of marijuana, Pineapple Express is all about a process server who witnesses a murder involving the most treacherous drug lord in the city. The state of shock in seeing the crime unfold makes him drop his stash of marijuana in the crime scene. Too disturbed that his joint of Pineapple Express is rare enough to be traced back to him, he and his two friends try to escape the bad guys who are out to kill them.

Pineapple Express is a hilarious film about the perils of drug industry.

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You might also want to read our earlier recommendations on drug-themed movies from the classics, the 1980s, and the 1990s.

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Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse in Your Children

In this age of multi-tasking and multiple jobs, parents cannot spend enough time with children to be able to monitor their activities. As a result, it has become acceptable for socially active teens to be away from home and with their friends. Because of this, parents find it difficult to know the exposure of their children to alcohol, and especially in terms of whether their drinking habits are crossing way beyond the line.

Alcohol abuse can be attributed to a number of factors, some of which include genetic predisposition, family relationships, exposure to peers and the environment, and emotional health. Drinking can rise in a lot of occasions, and the effects may vary from person to person.

beer teen drinking

It is always best for parents to be aware of the signs of alcohol abuse before it leads to dependence or addiction. “Parents are usually the first to sense a problem, even if they don’t know what it is. If you see signs, seek the help of a professional,” said Leslie Adair in a news release. Adair works at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Adolescent and Young Adult Services program as director of Mental Health and Family Services.

Here are some of the telltale signs that your kids may be dangling on excessive alcohol consumption:

Personal Appearance

Teens who engage in alcohol abuse have a higher likelihood to be unmindful of their physical appearance. They may dress lousily, and beg off from taking a shower. Their focus is shifted towards alcohol rather than proper hygiene.

  • Messy, shows lack of caring for appearance
  • Poor hygiene
  • Red, flushed cheeks or face

Personal Habits or Actions

teen alcohol abuseYou may notice sudden changes in the usual things that your children do. Dishonesty may set in as your teenage children try to cover up lies. It may even come a point when things in your house start to disappear, only to find out that your child has put them up for sale in order to earn something to purchase alcohol. They may also withdraw themselves from family gathering and dinners to evade questions and confrontations.

  • Clenching teeth
  • Smell of smoke or other unusual odors on breath or on clothes
  • Chewing gum or mints to cover up breath
  • Frequently breaking curfew
  • Cash flow problems
  • Locked doors
  • Secret phone calls/conversations

Health Concerns

Growing teens may experience several physical changes as part of their natural growth to adulthood. However, some of these health-related concerns may also reveal abuse of alcohol.

  • Nosebleeds
  • Runny nose, not caused by allergies or a cold
  • Frequent sickness
  • Sores
  • Vomiting
  • Wetting lips or excessive thirst (known as “cotton mouth”)
  • Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain

What to do upon discovery

Realizing that your child may be drinking will probably cause you panic, confusion, and anger. In dealing with the issue, it is always best to be composed and non-emotional when confronting your teen. Clarify the matter with love will make them feel that you are concerned for their welfare and willing to support them in any way that you can.

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Five Tips In Teaching Kids To Say No To Drugs

Drug use is considered an epidemic by world governments, and it has become one of the leading health and social problems of this generation. Parents find it extremely difficult to reach out to their children and lead them way from drugs, because chances are they will listen to their friends more than their own mothers and fathers. As a result, kids these days adopt the bad habits of their peers, and parents seem helpless to veer them away from drug abuse.

If you want your kids to stay away from drugs, you should start them early. By teaching them to refuse anyone who offers them drugs, you could help them live better lives in the future.

family drug abuse prevention

Here are five tips that you can use in teaching your own children how to say no to drugs:

1. Set ground rules

As the parent, you need to establish rules that your kids need to follow. Some of the rules that will help them stay away from drugs include setting curfews on weekdays, and requiring them to inform you of their whereabouts after school. Conduct the proper discipline and punishment if they disobey. These guidelines will firmly establish the fact that children should obey their parents, who shouldn’t forget to inject love in these rules.

2. Use role-playing to reenact a potential scenario

This works effectively for children who are still too young to make firm decisions, because parents can teach them the correct way to respond to drug offers. Ask your kids to reenact a potentially real scenario in their everyday life, and play the role of someone who offers them alcoholic beverages or a joint. If they have difficulty responding, guide them to possible replies. Make sure that you teach them strong but friendly answers.

3. Learn about your child’s world.

One of the reasons why kids can’t relate to their parents is because they live in a different world. Try to understand what your children are going through on a daily basis by entering their world without being nosy or intrusive. Ask them about their day, their future plans, their interests, and their social circles.

drug abuse prevention family enjoy kids skating

Best of all, get to know their friends. This is a great way to not only understand your children’s social interaction but also learn if their peers have a good influence on your kids.

4. Take pride in their achievements

Aside from telling them how proud you are of their academic and extra-curricular triumphs, make sure that you give them words of encouragement whenever they share about an experience where they said no to drugs. Refusing peers who offer them alcohol or drugs is a pretty huge decision for your kids, and so make sure that you let them know how you appreciate what they did.

5. Educate them, but don’t forbid them

Much like how children should learn about sex from their parents, teaching them about drugs is an effective way to lead them away from these harmful substances. This might need you to study up on the most commonly abused drugs and their effects on human health.

With that being said, it might not be a good idea to tell them “don’t do drugs”. Teenagers usually respond negatively to reprimands — sometimes to the point of rebellion. In other words, they might do exactly the opposite of what you just told them. Instead of enforcing them to stay away from drugs, teach them what these substances will do to their bodies. Let them decide for themselves — based on your inputs and guidance — to say no to drugs.

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