Preventing Abuse in the First Place
Of course, preventing the use of marijuana really means preventing the abuse of any drug. Parents have a big task in front of them, steering children away from cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs—the drugs most youth start with.
Drug use often starts early, so explaining the dangers, in its simplest terms, must start even earlier, before the teenage years. If your child is already in his teens, start anyway! It is never too late to improve the situation through education.
In contemporary society, it is certain that your child will be offered drugs. He will also find himself (or herself) in the company of people who are drinking when they are underage or using other drugs. He must know to expect this, he must expect his peers to ridicule him if he refuses the offer to join in and he must know in his heart that he must walk out of this environment if he is to stay sober. He must truly understand the damage that can occur if drugs are abused, all the way up to and including overdose and addiction. Obviously, this information must be shared with him on a gentle, introductory basis in the early years. (“Scare tactics” are to be avoided—Starting off a drug prevention family conversation with “drugs will kill you!” not only turns off the kids, who have seen too many people smoking pot and ‘not dying,’ but may even provoke a stimulus-response curiosity).
One of the essential messages to send is that both the child’s parents are united in their opposition to any kind of substance use, including alcohol, until after the child is 21 years of age. This is an important message whether the family all lives in the same household or not. According to the National Center on Drug Addiction and Substance Abuse: If a person can avoid drinking or using drugs until after he turns 21, he is virtually certain to never develop a serious problem with substance abuse.
Parents must set their own personal good example of sobriety as well. If a parent says that drug abuse is not acceptable, but then drinks excessively or uses abuses prescription drugs, this mixed message will undermine the parent’s desire to keep the child sober.
Of course, if the parent is using illicit drugs or abusing prescription drugs or alcohol, the best thing he could do to keep the child sober is to get himself or herself cleaned up. Then follow that up with honest education about drugs.