Why Some Kids Take Drugs—and Others Don’t

Not all kids take drugs. So why do some do–while others don’t? Researchers have found a number of differences from eating together as a family to having a lot of the 40 Developmental Assets.

• Build the 40 Developmental Assets. Researchers have found that the more assets kids have, the less likely they are to use drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.

• As a family, keep connecting. Even though kids go through phases where they want more privacy, continue to stay engaged and involved in their lives. Know who their friends are. Take interest in what your kids are doing. Work at building a relationship with your child, even if it feels like your child isn’t interested in a relationship with you.

• Eat meals together as often as possible. Researchers have found that kids are less likely to take drugs when they eat meals with their family on a regular basis 1. If you have a day where it’s impossible to eat together, find another way to spend time with your family.

• Get together with other people who are drug free. Talk about why it’s important to stay drug free. If you know anyone who regrets getting involved in drugs (and is now drug free), get to know that person as well. Positive role models can make a strong case for not using drugs.

• Talk about and model positive ways to cope with difficult situations. If you’re grabbing a beer after work to take the edge off of a hard day, your kids begin to think that alcohol, drugs, and other substances are helpful during hard times. Kids who don’t take drugs tend to have parents and family members who cope in positive ways, such as exercising, hitting a pillow, or talking through a difficult situation with a friend.

• Know your family history. Addictions tend to have a genetic component. Even if you’re drug free, your kids could be susceptible to drug addiction if you’ve had a family member who has struggled with addiction. Once you know your family history, talk about it so that your kids are aware of it.

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1. Peter Benson, E. Roehlkepartain, & A. Sesma, Jr. “Tapping the Power of Community: The Potential of Asset Building to Strengthen Substance Abuse Prevention,” Insights & Evidence, (Minneapolis: Search Institute, March 2004).