Should you talk to your teen about drugs? Yes. How? That’s more complicated.
According to recent research in the Journal of Adolescent Health by Chaplin, T. M., Hansen, A., Simmons, J., Mayes, L. C., Hommer, R. E., & Crowley, M. J. (2014) the way parents speak to their children may have a significant effect on later drug use.
These researchers asked 58 teens and their caregivers to speak to about alcohol and drug use for 10 minutes, while the teens where hooked-up to sensors to measure blood pressure, heart-rate, and stress-hormone cortisol levels. When the caregivers were rule-based, threatening, or negative and critical adolescents showed greater levels of arousal and a greater likelihood of later substance abuse. In contrast, discussions that were warm, information-based, and educational tended to be related to lower levels of stress in the teens and correlated with reduced chances of substance use later on.
This stands in the face of “Scared Straight” style drug education efforts. Instead, empathy and access to information appear to be more effective.
Though the researchers do not offer an explanation as to why this might be the case, one might speculate that as greater levels of stress (i.e., higher blood pressure, more cortisol, faster heart rate) may be quite overwhelming and attempts to decrease this stress might come in the form of drugs or alcohol.
If you’re worried about your son or daughter using drugs and want help, contact me. I can help.