A significant part of the growing up process involves learning right from wrong, and what is acceptable among one’s family, friends, community and society. In learning these lessons, most individuals find that understanding why certain decisions and actions are right or wrong helps them to make the wisest and best choices possible. Unfortunately, this rule is not always applied to drugs.
“Because I Said So”
Many parents and teachers talk with their children and students about drug substances, telling them that they are dangerous. However, they don’t often tell them why these substances are so dangerous, and how they affect the individual. In some cases, they simply tell adolescents that these substances are “bad”, or attempt to frighten them away from drug use with scare tactics that paint the absolute worst possible pictures, pictures that can seem entirely unreal. Both of these methods can come off more as a “Because I said so,” command, instead of an informative conversation that allows the adolescent to then make the wise choice and abstain.
Health professionals have found that adolescents actually believe that it is appropriate for parents, teachers and health care professional to have open, informed conversations with them about drugs and alcohol. What is most desired is not authoritarian commands to abstain from drug use, scare tactics or even simple requests like “Just Say No”, but rather information about the negative impact that alcohol and drugs can have on their health, relationships and life. Finding so many peers and others in their environment using these substances, apparently without any real ill effects, can make them feel that drug use is relatively harmless, in which case only open, honest communication and facts can help them to see otherwise.
Ideally, the problems of drug abuse and addiction are successfully resolved through prevention, and honestly this is actually a type of intervention. However, when an adolescent has fallen into drug use, abuse or addiction and needs an intervention in order to step onto the path of recovery, the same drug education that works for effective prevention can also work to gain the individual’s agreement for rehabilitation treatment. It is true that many drug abusers or addicts, adult and adolescent alike, have a hard time being confronted by family, friends and professionals as regards their drug use habits. They may feel that they are being attacked, though the intention of the intervention team is to extend to them the help they need, and receiving basic education about drugs and their effects can shift their view so that they recognize they have a choice.
In order for a drug abusing or addicted teenager to truly establish the healthy foundation necessary for a happy, productive future, he will need to be empowered to make his own choices in life, and the first choice he needs to make is to abstain from further drug use. Empowering a teenager to make their own choices in life does not mean that one is making these choices for them, but rather giving them the information they need in order to make these choices. The adolescent may even be able to recognize the fact that they turned to drug substances as a way to deal with some problem they had encountered in their life, but these drug substances failed to actually help them overcome this problem effectively. It may also allow others around the adolescent to recognize the many difficulties that individual is trying to work through on their own, and how simply communicating to them openly and honestly can allow them to see that they have a strong network of supportive friends that are willing and able to help them through these difficulties.