As a parent of a teenager, drugs can feel like a daunting topic to discuss. What is peer pressure? What motivates teenagers to avoid drugs, and what is really going on right now? We spoke to Associate Professor Cath Chapman and Associate Professor Nicola Newton of the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use to learn as much as we could about the best ways for parents to handle the issue. You can watch the video above.

Video highlights

One of the issues parents are most concerned about is when to initiate the first conversation about drugs with their teenager. Associate Professor Cath Chapman recommends talking about this with your child as soon as possible.

"In the work we do with parents, we have a lot of parents who say to us, "I'm not really confident on this topic. I don't really know how to start the conversation, but it's a way off yet. I'm not worried about it yet"," she says. "I would say that's actually when you need to start having those conversations, because research has shown that prevention is effective with adolescents well before they're exposed to drugs and alcohol. We need to start having those sorts of conversations earlier than we might feel comfortable with," Cath adds.

The good news is that youth drug use has been on the decline for a while. "One of the things we've found is that despite what we might read in the media, rates of alcohol use and drug use have actually decreased among young people in Australia over the last decade," Cath told us. "If they're choosing not to use drugs, or if they're choosing not to drink alcohol, then [your teenager is] joining a growing number of Australians who are making the same choices."

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