Common Misconceptions About Teen Addiction and Recovery

There are many misconceptions about teen addiction. There are also many erroneous ideas concerning what is “safe” for teens. Due to the prevalent issue of drug and alcohol use across the country, it’s important to look at the facts to determine what is true and false about teen drug and alcohol use, addiction, and recovery.

Blond teen laying with her legs stretched out outdoors

The 2016 Monitoring the Future Survey found that 40 to 50 percent of adolescents participated in illicit drug usage by the end of their high school education. The 2017 survey showed a slight rise in overall illicit drug usage as marijuana use increased among adolescents. According to data collected between 2006 and 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that alcohol is a factor in 4,358 deaths of people under the age of 21 every year. With statistics like these, it’s important to uncover the truth behind addiction myths and share the facts with your teenage children.

Myth: Marijuana is a Gateway Drug

While complete sobriety is preferred to any inebriant, there are more addictive properties in some drugs than others. In fact, marijuana is less addictive than alcohol. A study from the University of New Hampshire shows that marijuana is not a gateway drug to harder substances for most people. Instead, the study suggests that the situations possibly encountered while smoking marijuana are the gateway to other drugs. Marijuana is not physically addictive, like most drugs, but it can become a habitual addiction.

Myth: My Child Should Drink at Home if They are Going to Drink

While drinking at home is safer than drinking and driving, “social hosting,” or the act of supplying or allowing underage drinking at gatherings, is illegal in many states, including Oklahoma. These events typically lead to binge-drinking or drinking and driving.

Myth: Smoking Cigarettes is Worse than Smoking Marijuana

The safety of marijuana is a commonly debated topic. Many believe that since marijuana has been determined to be a natural remedy for several health conditions, it is safe in all its forms. In actuality, smoking anything can harm your lungs. According to the American Lung Association, smoke from marijuana contains many of the carcinogens and toxins found in cigarette smoke. The health dangers from these chemicals are increased as pot smokers inhale deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs for a longer period of time than cigarette smokers. While there are currently no links between marijuana smoke and lung cancer, the American Lung Association has found evidence that smoking marijuana on a regular basis can lead to chronic bronchitis and an increased risk for lung infections.

Myth: All Addiction Recovery Programs Are the Same

Drug and alcohol recovery programs vary in their philosophies and treatment options. There are inpatient and outpatient programs–each requiring facility treatment visits. Treatment philosophies range from the 12-step method to religion-based treatments to holistic rehabilitation options. Each recovery program offers its own unique environment and treatment method, so you can choose a facility based on your needs.

How Can You Talk to your Teen About the Dangers of Drugs and Alcohol?

Encouraging an open dialogue with your child is important when discussing alcohol and drugs. It’s ideal to have a back-and-forth conversation where you let your child do most of the talking. Interrogation and lectures are not beneficial tactics, especially in the long-run. This dialogue should not be a single occurrence. Instead, continue the conversation throughout their middle and high school years.

Teen girl on her phone on campus in winter

If you prefer to take a more hands-on approach, monitoring your teen’s online behavior can prove beneficial. A survey from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that approximately 45 percent of teens between ages 12 and 17 have seen online photos of their classmates drinking, doing drugs, or passing out. The survey also found 75 percent of these teens said that seeing these pictures of their classmates partying encouraged them to want to take part. Movies and music can also influence your child’s perception of drugs and alcohol as it has become increasingly common for the media to show these substances in an enjoyable light.

Teen boy's soccer team kneeling in a huddle

Encourage your teen to participate in activities that discourage substance abuse, like a sports team, band, or club to keep them engaged after school. Allow them to spend their time with a constructive group of friends and develop a passion for a positive activity. This will help ward off the temptation of drugs and alcohol.

Start having these discussions sooner rather than later. National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week®, NDFAW, is the perfect time to engage in these conversations. The week of January 22-28, 2018 is the national time to discuss the consequences of drugs and alcohol with your children. If you don’t know where to begin, FATE has many resources available to help lead these discussions.