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Helping Your Child Avoid Tobacco, Drugs, and Alcohol

Table of Contents

Topic Overview

The best thing parents can do to help prevent drug and alcohol use by their children is to get involved before a problem begins. Starting when your child is age 5 or 6, talk with him or her about how these substances are harmful to kids.1 Talk honestly and openly about all kinds of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol as well as other things kids may do to cope with stress in their lives. Using any kind of substance is just one way that children try to deal with things that bother them.

Focus on the positive

Explain the dangers and consequences of tobacco, drug, or alcohol use

Talk with your child about the dangers of misusing prescription medicines, such as using ADHD medicines to concentrate better or stay up later to study. Misusing these medicines can cause heart problems and psychological effects such as anxiety, mood swings, paranoia, seeing or hearing things that are not present (hallucinations), and believing things that are not true (delusions). If your child takes these medicines for ADHD, talk with him or her about using them as prescribed and never giving or selling them to other children.

Be aware that some adolescents and teens try to get a rush by cutting off oxygen to the brain, such as through choking or strangling each other. Talk to your child about these dangerous behaviors. Explain that they can result in lifelong problems or even death.

Peer pressure

Many adolescents feel pressured to use alcohol or drugs because some of their friends are using them. Here are some tips to teach your child on how to deal with peer pressure.

Encourage your child to:

Look for a peer-led prevention program in your area to help reinforce what you are teaching.



  1. American Cancer Society (2012). Child and teen tobacco use. Available online:
  2. DiFranza JR, et al. (2007). Symptoms of tobacco dependence after brief intermittent use: The development and assessment of nicotine dependence in youth-2 study. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 161(7): 704–710.
  3. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Substance-related and addictive disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed., pp. 481–589. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Credits for Helping Your Child Avoid Tobacco, Drugs, and Alcohol

Current as of: August 31, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine

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