Focus on the Family

Battling Drug and Alcohol Abuse

from Focus on the Family

Stage One: Experimentation

Parents may notice:

Stage Two: Regular Drug and/or Alcohol Use

Parents may notice:

Stage Three: In the Mire of Addiction

Parents may notice the behaviors listed above, plus:

Stage Four: Drowning in Addiction

Parents are likely to be dealing with:

If You Love an Alcoholic

How can you help the person you love who is struggling with alcoholism?

by Lisa Brock

Do you know an alcoholic? Studies show that nearly everyone in the United States has a friend or family member who struggles with alcohol addiction. About 10 percent of Americans are alcoholics and each of those 20 million people directly affects the lives of at least six others. So how can you help the person you love who is struggling with alcoholism?

Then based on what you’re learning in your support group or counseling:

Drug-Proofing Your Home

Here are some proactive steps you can take to reduce your child’s chance of using drugs.

by Focus on the Family

Drug abuse is so widespread in our culture that you cannot expect to isolate your child from exposure to it. You can, however, take specific steps to reduce the likelihood of contact with drugs and build your child's immunity to using them. These measures should be ongoing, deliberate and proactive.

Model Good Behavior

When it comes to drugs, two adages are worth noting: "Children learn what they live" and "What parents allow in moderation their children will do in excess." While not absolute truths, these maxims reflect the reality that kids look to their parents for cues as to what is acceptable behavior while at the same time they are developing the discernment required to understand moderation. If you smoke, your offspring will probably do likewise. But it's never too late to quit, and your decision to give up cigarettes will make an important statement to all the members of your family.

If you consume alcohol at home, what role does it play in your life? Do you need to drink to unwind at the end of the day? Is it a necessary ingredient at every party or family get-together? If so, your children will get the picture that alcohol is a tension reliever and the life of the party, and they will likely use it in a similar fashion.

If you drink modestly — an occasional glass of wine with dinner or a beer every other week — think carefully about alcohol's role in your family. Many parents decide to abstain while rearing their children in order to send an unambiguous message to steer clear of it. Others feel that modeling modest, non-intoxicated use of alcohol equips children and teenagers to make sensible decisions later in life. Each family must weigh the options carefully and set its own standards.

What about the medicine cabinet? If you are stressed, upset or uncomfortable, are drugs the way you spell relief? Have you accumulated prescription narcotics and tranquilizers that you use freely when the going gets tough? Kids aren't blind. If they see the adults around them frequently taking "legitimate" drugs to dull their pain, why won't they use their own drugs of choice to do the same?

Build Drug-Resistant Attitudes

This is an ongoing project, beginning during the first years of your child's life. Specifically:

Begin Talking Early

Because experimentation with drugs and alcohol commonly begins during the grade-school years, start appropriate countermeasures in very young children. A 5-year-old boy may not be ready for a lecture about the physiology of cocaine addiction, but you should be ready to offer commentary when you and your child see someone smoking or drinking, whether in real life or a movie.

Keep Talking

Make an effort to stay one step ahead of your child's knowledge of the drug scene. If you hear about an athlete, rock star or celebrity who uses drugs, be certain that everyone in the family understands that no amount of fame or fortune excuses this behavior.

Be aware of current trends in your community and look for local meetings or lectures where abuse problems are being discussed. Find out what's going on — not only from the experts but from your kids and their friends.

All this assumes that you are available to have these conversations. Be careful, because the time when you may be the busiest with career or other responsibilities may also be the time your adolescents at home most need your input.

Find Trustworthy Adults

Don't blindly assume that the presence of a grown-up guarantees a safe environment. Get to know the parents of your kids' friends. Make certain your child knows you will pick him up anytime, anywhere — no questions asked — if he finds himself in a situation where drugs or alcohol are being used. And be sure to praise him for a wise decision if he does so.

Courage to Confront

The epidemic of drug abuse spreads from person to person. Whether a recent acquaintance or a long-term friend, if one (or more) of your teenager's friends is known to be actively using alcohol and/or drugs, you must put restrictions on the relationship.

Even with these limits in place, you will need to keep track of who is influencing whom. If your family is reaching out to a troubled adolescent and helping to move him toward healthier decisions, keep up the good work. But if there is any sign that the drug-using friend is pulling your teenager toward his lifestyle, declare quarantine immediately.

Create Consequences

Teenagers may not be scared off by facts, figures and gory details. Even the most ominous warnings may not override an adolescent's belief in his or her own immortality, especially when other compelling emotions — such as the need for peer acceptance — are operating at full throttle.

You may improve the odds by making it clear that you consider the use of cigarettes, alcohol or illegal drugs a very serious matter. If your adolescent confesses that he tried a cigarette or a beer at a party and expresses an appropriate resolve to avoid a repeat performance, a heart-to-heart conversation would be more appropriate than grounding him for six months.

But if your warnings repeatedly go unheeded, you will need to establish and enforce some meaningful consequences. Loss of driving, dating or even phone privileges for an extended period of time may be in order.

Pre-Existing Problems

Even in families that hold strong values and practice ongoing drug-proofing, there are no guarantees that substance abuse won't affect one or more of your children. As you begin to cope with the chemical intruder(s) in your home, keep the following principles in mind:

Parental Involvement Leads to a Decline in Drug Use

New study shows drops in usage of nearly all substances.


A new survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows a significant decline in the use of cigarettes, alcohol, steroids, cocaine, heroin, LSD and methamphetamine. The only bad news in the five-year trend is an increase in the use of cough and cold medicines to get high.

Lloyd Johnston, lead researcher from the University of Michigan, said the drug-use increase of the 1990s is on the decline.

"In some sense the epidemic itself carried the seeds of its own destruction," he explained, "because it started to call attention to the hazards of drugs."

That increased attention has resulted in 840,000 fewer kids doing drugs. John Walters, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said several factors played a part.

"Congratulations are in order," he told Family News in Focus, "to a lot of people who have worked very hard, quietly in their homes, in faith communities and schools and community organizations to help kids get on track in greater numbers."

Walters also lauded President Bush for paying attention to the growing problem and encouraging others to as well.

"The president, both as a parent and as a governor, knew a lot about this and made it his priority to use what we know more aggressively," he noted. "This survey shows that he was right and the country is going in a better direction because we’re using that knowledge."

Jim Copple, executive director of the International Institute for Alcohol Awareness, said it proves moms and dads really are the anti-drug.

"Parents, if they’re consistent and persistent in their messaging," he said, "can counter that influence and have a significant role."

This was the first year the survey asked students about the abuse of cough and cold medicines. As a precaution, parents should take inventory of their medicine cabinet and get rid of anything they aren’t taking anymore.

Substance Abuse

A continued list of helpful resources, links and organizations.

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