Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Risk Factors, Prevention, and How to Address Teen Drug Abuse

Helping a child avoid drug and alcohol abuse can feel like a lifelong process for parents, and certainly it’s something that requires effort on the part of caregivers and parents throughout a child’s life.

What should you know? What can you do? How can you help your child avoid or fight substance abuse? Know the risk factors, implement prevention efforts, and if you find that your child is abusing drugs, take action immediately.

Risk Factors

Some children may have a higher risk for developing a drug abuse or dependence problem based on the following risk factors:

  • Early age of first use of drugs or alcohol
  • Certain learning disabilities, mental health disorders, and/or behavioral problems
  • Trauma in early childhood (e.g., the effects of an untreated mental health disorder of a parent or guardian, sexual or physical abuse, loss of a close family member)
  • High stress and/or low self-esteem
  • Permissive parenting that condones drug use and/or the ongoing substance abuse of a parent


Even if your child has one or more of the risk factors above, it is not a guarantee that he will develop a substance abuse problem. Parents have far more of an impact than they may realize on whether or not their children use drugs or alcohol. To help prevent the problem, you are encouraged to:

  • Pay attention to early signs of distress (e.g., anxiety, depression, anger, difficulty dealing with a big life event like a divorce or death of a loved one) and get them the help they need to process the issue.
  • Notice problems within relationships in the family and work to address those issues, making sure that your child feels valued.
  • Maintain an open and communicative relationship with your child.
  • Teach your child about drug use and its effect using facts, not scare tactics.
  • Lead by example.
  • Strongly stand against the use of any illicit substances.
  • Help your children find positive and healthy forms of entertainment.

Helping Your Teen Beat Substance Abuse

If your son is struggling due to use of any illicit substances in any amount—from alcohol and marijuana to prescription pills and street drugs of any kind—you are the only one who can help. You are encouraged to:

  • Consider professional drug testing if you don’t know the specifics of which drugs or how much your son is doing.
  • Get your son into a treatment program immediately.
  • Choose a treatment program that is dedicated to treating only teenagers. Adults have different and mature problems that require different treatment and intervention.
  • Make sure that the program you choose offers treatments based on their efficacy as shown in clinical trials.

Learn more about Muir Wood and our drug rehabilitation program for boys when you contact us at the phone number listed above today.