Just Don’t Do It Doesn’t Work…How Do We Tell Young People About The Dangers Of Addiction?

March 26, 2010 — 3 Comments

After reading a post over at TDA about Lame PSA’s Blamed For Drug Use, I got to thinking about how we tell young people about the dangers of addiction.

The answer…we don’t really do that at all. We tell them that if they use too many drugs they will lose their personality. We tell them not to drink and drive. We tell them that Oxycontin ruined our lives.

We even go so far as to tell them that if they smoke pot while babysitting the child will drown in the pool (seriously, have you seen this one?).

What we don’t do is explain the true reasons why for some people drinking and drugging becomes an addiction that can take over their entire life and sometimes lead them so far down that they never come back up.

But how do you explain the dangers and warning signs of addiction to young people?

I have a five year old boy and I often wonder what I’m going to say about drugs and alcohol. He already sees the PSA’s on TV and he has absorbed the message that using drugs is bad.

But we all know that once you get a little older you start questioning this view. You decide that you want to see first hand just what is so “bad” about drugs. I guess that is a normal and kind of healthy response right? After all, you can’t believe everything you hear right? Some things you need to find out on your own.

In my experience, I absorbed the same type of message in my childhood and once I got older and started questioning the blanket statement about drugs being bad I tried them. And you know what happened…I didn’t die, no one that was with me died, I didn’t rob a bank and my body wasn’t automatically addicted after one use.

That experience led me to believe that what they were saying about drugs was not true. So if it wasn’t true, then there must not be anything wrong with me using drugs/alcohol every once in a while.

Instead of explaining to young children that drugs are “bad”, we need to be explaining to them the real reasons why drug/alcohol use can mess up your life in the long run.

This explanation needs to include some things to look out for in themselves that would indicate that they are looking towards drugs and alcohol as a quick fix to change the way they are feeling inside instead of properly dealing with their emotions.

We need to explain that when we begin relying on drugs and alcohol to change the way we feel at a young age, we are really stunting our development of coping skills. As we go on in life we will find that we don’t know how to deal with life without the drugs or alcohol.

Now, I know just as good as anyone else that kids are not usually concerned with their future. They are in the here and now. I get that…I was the queen of live for today.

That does not mean that they can’t understand this type of thinking. In my case, I think it’s a little easier to teach my child about the dangers of addiction because I have experienced it first hand.

I am able to say this is real, this happened to me. This is exactly how it started, this is when it progressed, this is when it seemed fun, this is when it got scary, these are some of the reasons I used drugs and this is the struggle that it took for me to get where I am today.

So for me, with my child, I’m hoping that my knowledge and honesty on the subject of addiction can give him a heads up in life. But what about all the other children?

3 responses to Just Don’t Do It Doesn’t Work…How Do We Tell Young People About The Dangers Of Addiction?

  1. I really do not have an answer to this question or whether or not it is easier to tell a child about drugs if you have been there. I spoke pretty open to my sons about drugs and alcohol and its effects. They even witnessed first hand how it took the life of my younger brother. But in the end, my son still used. Still got addicted. Still went to hell and back and to hell again. I would like a magic answer so I could prevent this from happening with my grandchildren when they reach adulthood.

  2. I’m just hoping that since I know a lot of the reasons that I used drugs I could have my son be on the look out for those same type of things.

    I didn’t use to get over some traumatic upbringing or anything like that. I feel like I started to use to deal with everyday type feelings that teenagers have and then I just never really learned how to actually deal with those situations. Therefor, I got into the habit of reaching for a substance whenever I would feel anything and well…I ended up here.

    I’m just hoping that I can teach my child to deal with life a little better than I did.

  3. Addiction runs in the families of both me and my husband. We told our children from an early age to be careful…two of the three (at the ages of 17 and 16) have been in treatment for addiction. One has not (he’s now 23).

    Unfortunately, you don’t have a say in whether your children fall victim to the same disease you have. I believe there is a genetic predisposition to drug/alcohol addiction. I have heard many young adults who are in recovery say that “they fell in love” the first time they used drugs…it made them feel complete.

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