Home Page of the DPNA Website Learn about the Drug Prevention Network of the Americas, its history, principles, members, supporters, and board Looking for information about drug prevention?  Check out our web page links, books, presentations, position papers, and brochures Want to connect with national, regional or international drug prevention sites?  Visit our extensive Links section. Keep up with the latest drug prevention news and events. Ready to become a part of the Drug Prevention Network of the Americas?  Sign up on line.

WWW DPNA News and Updates
Drug Research
Drug Effects
Drug Information
Drug Trends
Best Practices
Drug Legalization
Drug Policy
Books and Guides
Funding Sources

There's 'prevention power' in early education

If you're a parent, you've likely worried -- or may someday worry -- that your children will use drugs. You may even hope against hope they don't start.

But hope alone can't ease that concern. Talking can.

Right now is a good time to take up the topic and start your kids on the road to some good decision-making. Parents have more influence than they realize over whether or not their kids will use drugs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, children who learn about the risks of drug abuse from their parents or caregivers are 36 percent less likely to smoke marijuana, 50 percent less likely to use inhalants, and 56 percent less likely to use cocaine.

So how do you start the conversation? Parents may be cautious about not pestering their children. But educating your children about drugs and alcohol is not pestering -- it is parenting.

First, consider the timing. What is the appropriate age to introduce the topic of drugs and abuse? It may surprise parents that discussions probably should start as early as elementary school. Kids get information early and often from many sources. They also repeat what they see and hear. Your own use of tobacco, drugs and alcohol will not go unnoticed.

And one discussion is not sufficient. Keep the topic on your kids' minds -- all the time. Ongoing discussion from elementary school all the way up to high school graduation and beyond is optimal.

Second, keep the facts handy. Children need to know what's true and what's myth about drugs. For example, the physical effects of inhalants can include hearing loss and damage to the central nervous system, brain, liver and kidneys.

When it comes to alcohol, consider this: alcohol is the leading cause of depression. It can also increase risk of heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure and many other medical problems -- even cirrhosis of the liver. And mixing can be harmful -- even fatal. More than 150 medications can interact harmfully with alcohol.

Third, remember that talking alone is not enough. Be involved with your children's lives. Praise good behavior and let your children know how much they are loved and valued. Set limits with clear rules and consequences for their actions.

Know what your children are doing, get to know their friends and be aware of how they are spending their time. Even if your children do not like you keeping close tabs on their activities, do it anyway. It is merely good parenting.

Children are more likely to be tempted to use drugs and alcohol when they are not feeling good about themselves. Be alert to how your children's moods and keep communication lines open at all times. If you notice any changes in your child's behavior, choice of friends or a downward trend in their grades, take action. Question your children about what is going on. Talk to their school counselor and other adults who have contact with them such as a youth group leader or soccer coach. If a drug problem is established, get professional help as soon as possible.

While nothing is foolproof, talking with your kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse can go a long way toward helping them make good decisions. It also arms them with information they can pass along to their friends, too.