By Jordan Galloway
Original Source: nydailynews.com
It’s scary to think, but a third of children as young as 13 in New York State say they’ve already consumed alcohol — and those as young as 12 report having tried marijuana at least once, according to polling by the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NYS OASAS).
It’s a window of time when most teens experience what Lindsey Vuolo, associate director of health and law policy at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (NCASA), calls an “initiation” into substance use.
“Adolescence is really the key period,” Vuolo says. “Nine out of 10 people with addictions started using a substance before the age of 18.”
When you combine that statistic with the fact that 18- to 25-year-olds have the highest drug use rate — especially opioids — right now, it becomes clear that awareness and education need to begin during early childhood development.
While NYS OASAS recommends starting substance abuse prevention measures in preschool, experts also believe parents play a primary role in influencing their child when it comes to making choices about drugs and alcohol.
So how do parents delay this initiation phase — or prevent their kids from experimenting with drugs or alcohol entirely?
“One thing that parents need to do is have conversations with their kids about drug use starting when they’re young,” says Ben Nordstrom, MD, chief clinical officer at Phoenix House, a nationwide holistic drug and alcohol treatment center.
The more parents can make it as everyday a discussion as “How was your day at school?” the better the odds that their children will make smarter choices.
One way to do this is to talk about drug and alcohol use around the dinner table, suggests Vuolo.
“Starting that communication early in a child’s life will make it much more likely that that line of communication remains open, as the child gets older, to talk about things like substance abuse,” Vuolo says.
Whether it’s done over a meal, in the car on the way to school, or any other familiar setting, parents should be direct and factual when discussing drugs and alcohol.
“It’s important that we don’t give kids bad information that’s hyperbolic,” says Dr. Nordstrom.
“Scare tactics can backfire. We really want to make sure kids are getting information that’s true, not overblown, is honest and helps them make informed choices about what they want to do in terms of their own use of substances,” he says.
Parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions — and to be willing to accept that they don’t have all the answers. Relying on expert sources, such as the NYS OASAS Talk2Prevent online portal (talk2prevent.ny.gov), can help mom and dad find answers and figure out ways to keep the conversation flowing.
Continue Reading: nydailynews/teachingkidsaboutdrugs