If you haven’t yet, it’s time to sit down with your kids to talk about alcohol and drug abuse, because your support is essential for them to find the inner strength to resist life-damaging experimentation with addictive substances.
When families sit down together around a dinner table magic happens. According to a Safeway Foundation report sponsored in part by the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, frequent family dining is associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, illegal drug use, and prescription drug abuse.
Compared to teens who eat dinner frequently with their families, those who have infrequent family dinners are:
• Three and a half times more likely to have abused prescription drugs
• Three and a half times more likely to have used an illegal drug other than marijuana or prescription drugs
• Three times more likely to have used marijuana
• More than two and a half times more likely to have used tobacco
• One and a half times more likely to have used alcohol
Alcohol is the most widely used and abused substance among youngsters. Binge drinking in particular is linked to risky behaviors such as unprotected sex and smoking, injuries, motor vehicle accidents, impaired cognitive functioning, poor academic performance, physical violence, and suicide attempts.
Opioid misuse among kids ages 15-19 is a problem: The rate of opioid-related overdose death tripled between 1999 and 2015, from 0.8 to 2.4 per 100,000.
And the Monitoring the Future Study asked more than 46,000 teens about their experience: 13 percent of 8th graders, 30 percent of 10th graders, and 40 percent of 12th graders said they had used a drug at least once in the past year.
Tell your kids their voice is an important part of the conversation about avoiding alcohol and drug abuse. You want to hear what they have to say about what goes on around them — they don't have to name names and can make up hypothetical situations — and what they are concerned with.
Then just listen; don't judge or scold or interrupt. This dinnertime conversation is a first step, and you want to keep the door open for future discussions.