Night of Conversation: Facing Addiction over Dinner

Night of Conversation: Facing Addiction over Dinner

Pull up a chair, Mom and Dad—and speak to your kids about drug and alcohol abuse.

November 15 marked 2018’s Night of Conversation: Facing Addiction over Dinner, when parents sat down together with their children to talk about alcohol and drug abuse. But don’t worry if you missed it—there is always time to have this discussion with your kids. We’d like to give you some info about how to bring your kids to the table, so you can discover the remarkable power of the family to help kids confront and deal with these tough subjects. Why should you do it? Because your support is essential for your kids to find the inner strength to resist life-damaging experimentation with addictive substances.

When families sit down together around a dinner table, magic happens.
According to a Safeway Foundation report sponsored in part by the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Dr. Oz’s Columbia University, frequent family dining is associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse. Compared to teens who eat dinner frequently with their families (five or more family dinners per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are:

  • 3.5 times likelier to have abused prescription drugs
  • 3.5 times likelier to have used an illegal drug other than marijuana or prescription drugs
  • 3 times likelier to have used marijuana
  • More than 1.5 times likelier to have used tobacco
  • 1.5 times likelier to have used alcohol

We can hear you saying, “Whew! Let’s have dinner together!”

But if you’re not saying that . . . listen up!
Alcohol is the most widely used and abused substance among youngsters. Among young adults, binge drinking in particular is linked to risky behaviors such as unprotected sex and smoking, injuries, motor vehicle accidents, impaired cognitive functioning, poor academic performance, physical violence and suicide attempts.

Opioid misuse among kids ages 15 to 19 is a problem: The rate of opioid-related overdose deaths tripled between 1999 and 2015, from 0.8 to 2.4 per 100,000.

And the Monitoring the Future Study asked more than 46,000 teens about their experience: 13 percent of 8th graders, 30 percent of 10th graders and 40 percent of 12th graders said they used a drug at least once in the past year.

So how do you pull off the Night of Conversation?
Let your kids know what you are planning—no “Gotcha!” moments allowed. Tell them their voice is an important part of the conversation about avoiding alcohol and drug abuse. You want to hear what they have to say about what goes on around them—they don’t have to name names and can make up hypothetical situations—and what they are concerned with. Then just listen—don’t judge or scold or interrupt. This dinnertime conversation is a first step and you want to keep the door open for future discussions.

Explore your options
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids offers detailed descriptions of conversations you can have with kids ages 2 to 25. And, yes, even at age 2, a conversation may be necessary if you have an addict in the family. Children need to sort out confusing, scary and emotionally hurtful interactions with adults. And at 25, your son or daughter may find it hard to break out of peer groups that are harmful if they lack help from you.

Download Dr. Oz’s Discussion Guide, which is based on the former Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy’s report, Facing Addiction in America.

Other resources include: Talking to Your Kids About Prescription Drug Abuse Guide from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) at Explore SAMHSA’s tools for talking about alcohol and download their app that lets you practice the conversation.

And if your child is experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol:

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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