Ask the Expert

Karen WalshKaren is a renowned South Florida substance abuse treatment professional and owner/co-founder of Inspirations for Youth and Families, the most prominent teen addiction treatment center in the nation. Karen has appeared as a guest speak on several talk shows, launched her own radio show focusing on drug abuse issues and treatment, and contributes to charitable organizations assisting in fund raising and prevention efforts for drug abuse and addiction. She has developed a nationally acclaimed treatment program for adolescents across the country, who have been afflicted with drug and alcohol addiction and mental behavioral issues in various forms.

Question: “My teen is beginning the school year and I wanted to know how I can prevent and/or monitor his potential drug and alcohol use.”

Karen: There is no doubt that drug use among high school students is an issue. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), illicit drug use among teenagers remains high, largely due to increasing popularity of marijuana and prescription drugs like adderall.

But as parents, your teens do not have to be a statistic. There is a lot you can do to prevent or reduce their drug or alcohol use.

Here are my five tried and true tips:

1.  Surf the Web

Become an expert on teen and alcohol abuse by going online and reading drug and alcohol addiction blogs, government awareness web sites like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and don’t be afraid to go dark and learn the street slang for currently abused drugs and the concerns surrounding drug and alcohol trends like Percocet is sometimes called the blues, marijuana is referred to as tree, and synthetic marijuana can be called K2 or spice. You can find all this info and more by going to the web site:

2. Establish ground rules

Today, so many parents want to be their teens best friend first rather than their guardian. Summer is over and being a student is tantamount to having a full-time job. Parents have to hold their teens accountable for his or her actions and they can start in the classroom. This means wandering around on the streets on school nights should not be acceptable and should be a ground rule set in stone.

But, if you want to give your teen a little wiggle room once in a while, then at least make sure if they do go out, they have finished their homework and they return home at a reasonable hour.

3. Take a part in their life

If they are interested in a certain type of music or movie genre then try to show some interest even if it is painful to watch or listen. This shows that you care about them and their life. If they are on a sports team, leave work a little early on occasion to see them compete in a game or event.

4. Set a planned and mandatory dinner time for the whole family

Set structure by having a family dinner at least two times per week (preferably every night). This way your teen knows that he or she has to be home every night of the week to attend the family dinner. There you can use this time to catch up on family matters, needs and actually know what is going on in their life, whether it is good or bad.

5. Attend your pre-teen and teenagers “Back-to-School” event

Make it a point to attend all teen’s parental school events. By meeting with teachers, administrators, and other parents, you will receive valuable intel that you would not have access to by simply asking your teen how their day was and receiving one word answers.

Also, by attending these events, you’re sending your children a powerful message that you are engaged with his or her academic performance. Find the time to share with the child what you learned. You may get the roll of the eyes and “Yea, yea,” but it’s worth the effort, and it’s easy to do.

6. Seek help

Do not hesitate to seek help (therapeutic or intervention) when behavioral and/or substance abuse issues become too challenging or combative.

Additional parental tips include: monitoring (without being intrusive) their email and social media profiles and activity, blocking them from certain sites with parental controls, and participating in car pools that puts you in the know.

For more information, call Karen’s teen drug rehab and speak to a live agent who can answer any questions you may have at (877) 791-1885 or go to the treatment center’s web site at, which has a treasure trove of information.