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It’s normal for teens to have questions about substances, from alcohol to ADHD meds and more. Connect. Guide. Empower. helps you start a judgment-free conversation with your teen about the risks and how they can stay safe.


With tips, facts, and resources, this site helps you connect with your teen about substances, guide them toward the facts, and empower them to make safe decisions for themselves.

Drug 411
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What YOU should know


1. Marijuana is only legal in New Jersey for those 21 and older. But people under 21 are exposed to a lot of information about marijuana through friends, social media, and other sources, and it can be hard for them to know what’s true and what’s not.


2. About a third of New Jersey students have ever tried marijuana, and about one in five students currently use it—only slightly lower than the number of students who currently drink alcohol.


3. The majority of New Jersey high school students think using marijuana once or twice a week has either no risk of harm or just a slight risk. But marijuana use, especially in younger years can harm the developing brain and lead to problems with memory, attention, learning, decision-making, and school. It has also been linked to anxiety, depression, and even self-harm, especially for teens with a family history of mental illness.


4. About 30 percent of people who use marijuana may have some form of addiction to marijuana. The risk of developing marijuana use disorder increases for people who begin using marijuana before 18 and who use it daily or near daily.

What YOU should know


1. All opioids are addictive. Whether it’s prescription painkillers like hydrocodone (Vicodin) or illegal substances like fentanyl or heroin, they all work in the body the same way. Opioid dependence can happen in just five days.


2. Fentanyl is an extremely potent opioid (10 to 50 times stronger than morphine), and it has led to increases in opioid overdoses and deaths across the country. It has also become increasingly common for fentanyl to be found hidden in other types of drugs without a person’s knowledge, making any opioid (or other drug) use even riskier if it's not from a legitimate pharmacy.


3. About a third of U.S. youths think opioids are easy to acquire; the most common way that high school students in New Jersey get prescription opioids is from friends or family members. About 1/3 of New Jersey student-athletes who misused prescription painkillers got them from their own prescription.


4. One way to keep your teen safe from opioids is to practice safe storage and disposal of prescription medications in your home. Keep opioids in a secure place that others can’t easily access, and always properly dispose of unused prescriptions. This site can help you find a convenient drop-off location


Lead With Empathy

What YOU should know


1. Stimulants are a class of substances that includes things like cocaine, methamphetamine, and ADHD medications—all substances that speed up communication between the brain and the rest of the body. ADHD meds include Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta, and you may hear young people call them “Addy” or “study buddies.”


2. Some teens will turn to ADHD meds to try to stay awake or focus. But they can actually make it harder to study and make teens feel anxious, panicky, or sick if the meds weren’t actually prescribed to them to manage ADHD.


3. Most teens who misuse prescription stimulants say they get them from someone they know.


4. Anything that didn’t come directly from the pharmacy is risky. It is possible that counterfeit pills masquerading as Adderall could actually be laced with dangerous other substances like fentanyl.


What YOU should know


1. Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among young people in the U.S., and teens who drink alcohol are more likely to experience a range of negative outcomes, including injuries such as burns, falls, or drowning; unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity; problems in school, memory problems, and misuse of other substances.


2. In general, the risk of teens experiencing these negative outcomes is greater for those who binge drink than for those who do not binge drink. But in New Jersey, about a quarter of teens think weekly binge drinking doesn’t carry risk


Talking to your teen

Tips for Talking to Teens

Between school, sports, part-time jobs, and chores, there’s a lot on teens’ plates. And, let’s face it, talking about drugs at the dinner table can be awkward and unproductive. The most important thing you can do is let your teen know that the door is open when they have questions. Make sure they know you won’t judge them or punish them for being curious—because you know curiosity is normal.

Below are tips for connecting with teens in conversations about substance use, including what teens have said they wish the adults in their lives understood


Lead with Empathy


There’s a lot of pressure on young people these days, and the world they’re growing up in is different from what you experienced as a teen. Teens want their parents to know that they’re super stressed and how that can connect to substance use. And we don’t always give young people the credit they deserve: They’re smart and want to be empowered to make their own decisions.


Don't Judge


You know your kid best. But the default language a lot of parents use can come off as judgmental or accusatory—even if that’s unintentional.

If your teen does use substances, there is always risk of addiction, with the level of risk depending a lot on the substance. But it’s important to lay a stigma-free foundation when it comes to talking about addiction. Addiction is a treatable medical condition, but stigma can lead to feelings of shame or the need to hide, and it makes it really hard for teens to ask for help.


Leave the Door Open


Normalize these types of conversation so that it feels less awkward (for both of you!). That lets your teen know that they can come to you with questions and you won’t jump to conclusions about why they’re asking.

Not sure how to start? Look for mentions about substances in TV shows or movies or in the news. That can help set up the conversation so that it seems less out of the blue. And never imply that you think they are making bad decisions with substances


Be Specific

Not all substances are created equal. While some parents would prefer that their teens don’t taste a drop of alcohol until their 21st birthday, that’s not the reality for many. But wine and opioids have very different risks, so grouping them together can seem extreme and out of touch and make teens less likely to ask questions if they think that’s your perspective.



Build Two-Way Trust


Adolescence is a tricky time to navigate: They’re not a kid, but they’re also not an adult yet. Teens want to feel like they have autonomy over their actions; they want to feel like you trust them and are there for them, no matter what. The more your teen feels like you trust them, the more they will trust you as a place to turn to with questions.

Local Resurces

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Are you an organization or parent wanting to share these facts with others? Share the facts about substances with your community with these easy-to-use assets. Just [instructions about downloading and sharing these assets to your social media pages] to connect with, guide, and empower parents and teens.


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