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Is Your Teen Experimenting with Drugs?

Drug use is gaining momentum and popularity, especially among teenagers. Even “good” kids from Christian homes can have a hard time resisting their glamorized allure! In this article, I’ll explain why teens turn to drugs and how parents can help steer them away.


Drugs Are:

(1) Prevalent. Drug use has increased dramatically among young people. A recent study shows drug use among middle school students has increased 61% between 2016 and 2020. By the 12th grade, 50% of teenagers have misused a drug at least once. 43% of college students have used illicit drugs. These are shocking and troubling statistics, but they don’t answer the key question parents must ask: Why?

(2) Permissible. Drug legalization in many states has made marijuana “normal” and “acceptable.” While making a substance legal does not mean it’s good for you, the fact that some drugs are legal, lowers the guard rails for teens.

(3) Promoted. The cultural message about drug use is not the same as it was just a generation ago. You and I may agree that drugs are dangerous and should be avoided, but your teen is hearing mixed messages from society, schools, and parents. Popular culture promotes drug use as fun.


Reasons for Drug Use:

(1) Self-Medication. All the “information” young people can access online is overwhelming them. Society dumping problems in their laps without offering meaningful solutions, purpose, and hope to the next generation. As long as our society is filled with anxiety, depression, and lack of purpose some teens will attempt to self-medicate to find relief. The good news is that a teen who uses drugs to self-medicate is saying, “I want something different out of life.” It means you have an opportunity to help make positive changes.

(2) Acceptance. “Hanging out” with friends has changed. Social acceptance among teens today can involve drug use. Relationships in the teen years among peers aren’t deep. Teens are willing to do anything to be accepted by a group. They are curious. They will even violate their family’s values. They already know you don’t condone drug use. I know you don’t condone drug use. But you need to understand why it’s happening.

(3) Cover up pain. Too many teens are dealing with pain and loss––sometimes simple and sometimes serious. Loss in a teen’s life may not seem significant to an adult––changing schools, changing friends, and breakups are par for the course. But for your teen, these events can feel monumental. Adults also need to remember that their teens are impacted by pain in the family. Loss of a parent, divorce, or other hurts will affect how your teen feels. Bottom line: If it matters to your teen, it should matter to you. Help your teen deal with pain, so they won’t see drugs as a way to escape painful feelings.

(4) Relaxation. Coping with the intensity of the culture takes practice. Dealing with unresolved conflict is a skill. Teens need to learn healthy ways to relax. You can help by making your home a welcome place to go to get away from the pressures of the world. Build healthy habits in your home––exercise, hobbies, family time, etc. Make your home a place of rest away from the world. Sometimes life at home with Mom and Dad is strained. That is when grandparents can step in to provide another much-needed safe place of rest for teens.


What Must a Parent Do?

(1) Determine the reason for use. If you think your teen is experimenting with drugs, determine the reason why. Don’t simply punish your teen for using drugs. You need to push forward to get more information. If you don’t address the core reason why, it’s likely to happen again. Take time to talk to your teen and get to the heart of the matter.

(2) Find out what is being used. Again, get more information. What kinds of drugs is he using? How is he getting drugs? You need to know in order to best determine how to respond.

(3) Have the discussion. No matter how upset, hurt, and frustrated you become with your teen, keep the lines of communication open. I recommend you set a regular time to meet, at least once a week, to check in. Listen and help you teen understand that you understand them. Tell them you love them no matter what, and it’s because you love them that you can’t allow drug use to continue. Talk to them about the steps you will take to oversee their recovery––such as regular drug testing, therapy, and treatment. Your teen needs you to stay connected and involved right now, to help him avoid going down a destructive path.


Hey moms and dads … teens are looking for a sense of relief from the pressures of the culture they live. If they can’t find it at home, they’re going to find it somewhere without thinking of the consequences of their behavior. So if parents don’t work to create an atmosphere of relief and retreat from the pressures of this contrary adolescent culture, they may be on a path to watch their teen violate the rules and principles they’ve been taught. Help your teen to find rest for their battled souls. Counter the pressures of this culture—the one that you’ve said that you’re glad that you don’t have to grow up in—by creating a home that is calmer than the world in which they exist. Can you let up on some rules? Can you loosen up on some restrictions? Can you look at your own life and determine if you’re adding the pressure? These are important questions for wise parents to ask about their homes.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.