Having open and honest conversations early on in your kids’ lives can promote continued trust as they get older.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “parents who do not discourage underage drinking may have an indirect influence on their children’s alcohol use.”

If you talk to your kids directly and honestly, they are more likely to respect your rules and advice about alcohol and drugs. Angelica J. Brown, director of clinical services at Pinnacle Pointe Behavioral Healthcare, gives these pointers for talking to youth in different age ranges about drugs, alcohol and other substance abuse.

For more resources on drug addiction and use, visit the SAMHSA website for free downloads and conversation starters.

Ages 5-10

Tell kids how drugs are used to help them get well and to not any drug take unless given by a trusted adult.

Keep any prescription medications in the house locked or out of reach. If a child ingests a drug or medication, contact Poison Control at 800-222-1222.

Share information about grownup choices and being an adult in relation to the use of nicotine and alcohol.

Teach kids the dangers of overuse and the importance of following labels on medication bottles.

Ages 11-14

Tell your child that drugs are mind altering substances that are illegal. Use TV and radio commercials to start conversations about drugs, alcohol, and reasons to not use.

Have a conversation about what the consequences of using illegal drugs can be as they may be tempted to experiment at this age.

Kids should understand that they do not need to use anything given to them that they are told will “make them feel better” or “get high.”

Ages 15-18

Have discussions with teens about the serious nature of drugs and alcohol use.

Talk about the legal and physical consequences of drug use.

Explain what prolonged use of drugs leads to as an adult. Showing your teens images of drug users before and after they began using drugs can make a visual impact.

Be open to being the safe person they can call if they get into trouble, are mind altered and not safe to remain in a situation.

If your teen is using drugs, contact a professional for help and appropriate treatment for addiction.



of youth ages 12-17 in Arkansas reported a substance use disorder in the last year.1



of teens have misused drugs

(prescription or illicit) at least

once in their life.2


of youth ages 12-17 in Arkansas used

a tobacco product in the past month.3

Sources: 1Mental Health America’s “The State of Mental Health in America” 2019 Report, 2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 3SAMHSA, National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2018