Advice for teenagers to stay sober and never get addicted to drugs

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released a report in July, 2012 reporting on the 2011 Monitoring the Future survey regarding drug and alcohol trends with youth. This survey found that “illicit drug use among teenagers has been rising, largely due to increasing popularity of marijuana.” This is partly due to the changing views in our society about the risks of marijuana as well as the increase attraction to synthetic marijuana. When perception of risk for use of a drug decreases, it’s not uncommon for drug use to increase. In addition to increased marijuana use, there is also a growing concern of increased use of prescription and OTC medications with youth. While this information is alarming, there are positive indicators that alcohol use has decreased with youth as well as inhalants, cocaine/crack, and nicotine.

Based upon this survey, it’s important to provide teens with information to help them identify their own reasons to stay away from drugs and alcohol. Identifying their motivation to be drug/alcohol free can be a powerful key in decreasing teen substance use. Below are some tips that teens can incorporate in their lives to lessen their chances of forging that absolutely destructive path with mind altering substances.

If you’re a teen, then read away. If you’re an adult, then sit down with that teen in your life and have a crucial conversation using these tips as a talking piece.


Cartoon with check mark

  • discover a passion
  • stay busy
  • choose friends wisely
  • communicate how you feel
  • pay attention to you

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  • think you’re invincible
  • ignore the signs
  • avoid responsibility
  • expect anyone to change
  • go through life alone

Super Star‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do discover a passion

When you feel good, what is it that you are doing? Is there something that makes you want to get out of bed without hesitation because you can’t wait to do that special thing? For some it could be painting or writing or designing or practicing to become skilled in a particular sport. When you find something you enjoy doing, continue to pursue it because you never know where it may take you in life. Maybe into a career or at the least a hobby you’d enjoy. And if you haven’t yet found something that brings you a sense of joy in doing it, keep exploring new things because you will find something to do that brings you pride and a sense of accomplishment. Having a healthy activity to participate in will help you feel good about yourself; and if you feel good about yourself you will be less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol.

Do stay busy

The expression ‘idle hands are the devils workshop’ couldn’t be truer than for the teen culture where there is a drive to be stimulated in a variety of ways. Boredom can lead one to wander quickly to destructive behaviors. Staying busy with healthy outlets allows one to keep a focus on the moment; thus not feeling bored. The activities that we pursue can allow us to spend our time on things we enjoy. So by staying busy with life we greatly reduce our risks of becoming dependent on drugs and/or alcohol.

Do choose friends wisely

Show me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are. Choosing friends that have good values and set goals can be one of our most influential tools. We tend to look to those we associate with as our role models. Success leaves clues behind so if you have a friend who seems to be doing well in a particular subject or has a special knack for dealing with creative situations then we can learn from their actions and apply those skills to our own life. Choosing friends who don’t drink or party can keep you on the fast track towards living a life that is not only drug free, but you will discover even more of yourself by learning from the healthy patterns of others.

Do communicate how you feel

We all have emotions. We will experience a variety of emotions throughout the day. Identifying what we are feeling is only information about a situation or experience. Learning how to respond to emotions in a healthy way, including talking to someone about what you are feeling, is a responsible thing to do. When we don’t face our emotions, we typically will bury them within and may become depressed or act them out possibly through anger; both of these only result in hurting ourselves or another. People in recovery from addiction oftentimes find that part of what led them to the alcohol/drugs was an inability or lack of skill to face what they were experiencing. So if you are faced with a situation that seems complex or confusing, ask someone for help and support. Build a circle of at least five people you can turn to at any given moment to help you through a challenging time. Doing this has the potential to not only shift how you handle your emotions, but can also steer you away from self-destructive behaviors.

Do pay attention to you

Being angry, lonely or tired can induce feelings of low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and lead to self-destructive thoughts. It’s important to check in with yourself on a daily basis to see where you are at emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s about being aware of what you’re feeling, how you are taking care of your body, how you are using your mind and what you give meaning to in your life. Eating right, getting enough sleep, and working out are great ways to stay alert and help you stay in tune, which leads to better decision making.

Super Star‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not think you’re invincible

As I visit with students all across the country the number one pattern I have seen develop is the mentality of invincibility. All of us are made up of the same genetic material. So by acknowledging that our bodies are as fragile as the person next to us, it can help remind you that we aren’t in fact invincible, we are human beings whose bodies, if put under enough stress, can weaken to a point that can have physical consequences.

Do not ignore the signs

There are some common sense signs that if ignored can lead to a life of substance abuse. If you experience feelings of inadequacy or depression or anger, then that can be a sign to reach out to anyone and everyone you can for help. Signs of distress and unhappiness are actually gifts, meaning that when we see the signs, it’s an opportunity to take a look at the things in your world that may be causing you discontent. Don’t ignore the signs; they are there to direct you into safe haven.

Do not avoid responsibility

There is positive power in taking responsibility for your actions. Placing blame and avoiding personal responsibility is a trap door that leads to excuses that can then lead you to making irresponsible choices. The underlying mentality about irresponsibility is ultimately a lack of integrity for oneself. Having integrity provides anyone with enough confidence to take ownership of actions and less likely to look to drugs and alcohol as a means to deal with life issues.

Do not expect anyone to change

Placing expectations upon others or judging them is not only unfair, it is a red flag as it may reflect our own feelings of superiority. Criticizing another who doesn’t share our beliefs or values or doesn’t look like us isn’t productive. If you find yourself having negative thoughts about another person, then take a look within and see what it is that is really bothering you. It’s important to know what your own beliefs are and what it is that you value while realizing those are only your own and are not to be pressed upon another. Trying to influence another to be like you is controlling and unhealthy. If you want to change another, realize that the only one in life you can be guaranteed to change is yourself.

Do not go through life alone

Sometimes we feel that we are alone and that there is no place or no one where we can get support and love from. And sometimes we realize that we can’t count on our family or those closest to us. We are human beings and thrive with interactions from others. So if you feel you are alone, then take a step each day to build a healthy network; a network of people who will be there for you when times are tough as well as during the times of celebrations. If you lack support in your family, look at those people in life like at school, or church, or maybe a coach, or neighbor or friend’s parent. Find someone who you look up to and reach out to them. Soon you will find you are not alone.


The above tips of what to do and not to do are just a scratch on the surface to a complex issue regarding teen substance use and abuse. There are other factors that come in to the equation such as genetic predisposition, but ultimately any teen who has enough reasons to never pick up and use drugs and/or alcohol in the first place has a 100% chance to not become addicted to them. Research shows that the later in life a person first uses drugs or alcohol significantly decreases the risk for addiction.

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