Educating young people about the dangers of substance use can prevent a lifetime of addiction and this National Substance Abuse Prevention Month is the perfect opportunity for parents, guardians, and community organizations to learn how.

Studies show that the younger a person starts smoking, drinking, or using other drugs, the greater the likelihood of developing addiction. In fact, 9 out of 10 people who abuse or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs began using these substances before they turned 18. People who begin using addictive substances before their 15th birthday are almost 7 times more likely to develop a substance problem than those who wait until they are 21 or older. Every year that substance use is delayed during the period of adolescent brain development, the risk of addiction and substance abuse decreases.

Talking about drugs and alcohol with a teen can be a difficult, yet worthwhile task and should be handled carefully. Young people do not know as much about substance addiction as you may think, so don’t assume they’ve already heard everything you have to say. Here are some tips to help you have a conversation with your teen.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to discuss substance abuse with your teen and make sure everyone is entering the discussion with an open mind.
  • Instead of lecturing, ask the young person about their views on substance abuse and listen to their opinions and any questions they have.
  • Let your teen know what you expect from them when it comes to substance use. Make it clear that abusing drugs, nicotine, or alcohol at a young age can harm their brain and could negatively impact things they care about like sports and relationships with their friends.
  • Work with your teen to brainstorm ways to resist peer pressure. Most experts agree that role-playing peer-pressure situations is one of the most effective tools you can give your child to avoid using harmful substances.

Partnership Douglas County (PDC) works with area schools and organizations to educate young people on the dangers and consequences of substance use and offers prevention and cessation resources. PDC also hosts Empower YOUth, an organization of students committed to addressing public health issues that impact middle and high school teens. Students in Empower YOUth have the opportunity to learn about the dangerous effects and consequences of drugs, nicotine, and alcohol and teach their peers, younger students, and community groups what they have learned.

For cessation resources or more information on Empower YOUth, please send an email to

Click here to view resources for young people in and around Douglas County.