How to Talk to Your Teen about Substance Abuse

It is a heart-wrenching experience to watch your child developing a substance abuse. There is no magic word or mantra that would change everything, but here is what we know so far:

  • Maintaining connection is crucial
  • Teens know that drugs and alcohol can be dangerous; and scaring them with statistics does not work well
  • Parents need to work hard, be patient and consistent to help their kids with substance abuse
  • You can use all the help you can get
  • You need to start somewhere; and the first step is to start a conversation and listen.

These are few tips that can help you start the conversation about substance abuse. This article is the courtesy of, a top-ranked web resource provided by Advanced Recovery Systems. And their mission is to equip patients and families with the best information, resources, and tools to overcome addiction and lead a lifelong recovery.


By Tyler Bohlman

How to Talk to Your Teen about Substance Abuse

If you think your teen has a problem with substance abuse, the first step is to talk with them about it. But this task is much easier said than done. How do you know what to say? How do you start? Here are a few steps you can take to have the best conversation you can about drugs.

Confront, Don’t Accuse

The most important part of this conversation is your attitude toward it. You are confronting your teen about their problem with drugs, but the last thing you want to do is make an already difficult conversation worse. You don’t want to come at them like a tornado, yelling about how disappointed you are in them, how they let you down, etc. Instead, come at them with a firm, concerned tone. This allows you to maintain a presence with them as the adult, but it doesn’t immediately put them on the defensive. Remember, this conversation needs to be about them, not you. Let them know any past actions are forgiven; you are only looking forward from here.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions or Solutions

Fight the temptation to immediately play the blame game. Blaming their friends or important figures in their life will only anger your teen. This conversation may finally give them the opportunity to speak their mind to you about the hardships in their life; listen to what they have to say. Don’t hear a problem and immediately jump in with a solution, let them vent and ask follow-up questions and give them a chance to figure out the solution themselves. Even if the solution is obvious to you, it may not be to them.

Listen to What They Say

Rarely do teens abuse substances without an underlying cause behind it. So when you’re told the reason behind your teen’s drug use, you need to listen — even if the problem is you. No matter what the problem is, or how silly it may seem to you, it’s very real for them and finding the root cause of the drug problem is the first step to solving it.

Find a Good Time and Place to Talk

It may feel like no time is the right time to confront your teen about their drug use, but the sooner you have this conversation, the sooner you can fix the problem. It’s up to you to decide the perfect time to talk with your teen, but here are some tips to finding the right time and place to talk:

  • Make sure they aren’t using at the time: Figure out when your teen uses their substance and work the conversation around that. This will make them more honest with you and cause them to face their problem without the crutch of their substance of choice.
  • Don’t set a time limit: A busy schedule can kill this concept pretty quickly, so try to have this talk when everybody is in once place for an extended period of time. The last thing you want to do is rush the conversation and not hit on all the topics that are needed to make it worthwhile.
  • Find an appropriate place to talk: A conversation as serious as this should happen privately, but this doesn’t mean you have to talk at home. Many parents feel a car ride to school or home from the mall is an appropriate time to talk. If you do choose your home, the dinner table, living room, basement or even their bedroom will work.

The First Conversation Isn’t Necessarily the Last

It would be great to say that if you follow these tips your conversation will happen wonderfully; your teen will open up to you, spill their hearts, and immediately give up drugs. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually the case. Your teen’s first reaction will be to deny their drug use, but don’t let this discourage you! If they are showing signs of anger, or beginning to shut down, end the conversation. Tell them that you are bringing this up because you love them, and you are ready to talk whenever they are. This lets them know you care, and you are planting seeds for future conversations.

There is no right way to have a conversation with your teen about their drug or alcohol use. The best you can do is figure the most effective ways to communicate with your teen and get your teen to respond to you the best. Pair these tips with your own communication techniques to start your teen on the road to recovery.


Cigna. (n.d.). Straight Talk with Teens Conversations: What to Say. Retrieved from
Healthy Children. (2015, November 21). Talk to Your Teen About Drugs – And Keep Talking. Retrieved from
Hiatt, K. (2010, December 17). Talking to Teens About Marijuana – 9 Do’s and Don’ts. Retrieved from
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. (n.d.). 8 Ways to Talk With Your Teen about Drugs and Alcohol. Retrieved from

About NG

Educational Consultant at Changing Tide Associates: Educational and Therapeutic Advisors
This entry was posted in adolescent problems, changing bad habbits, drugs and teens, parenting struggling teen, programs, self-help, teen drug rehab, teens and drugs. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How to Talk to Your Teen about Substance Abuse

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