Keeping our Teens Drug and Alcohol Free

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Parent Resource Guide

Community—The Anti-Drug

The Coalition is a volunteer-led organization which strives to build and sustain a safe and drug-free community in which our youth feel protected, confident and empowered to make healthy choices. We bring together input and contributions from all sections of the community—schools, parents, youth, government, healthcare, faith, law enforcement, youth-serving organizations and more—to transform the environment around our youth so that the drug-free choice is the easy choice. We regularly identify and implement best practices, strategies, and solutions that are proven to be effective in accomplishing our mission.

Mission Statement

The mission of Community—The Anti-Drug is to reduce the use and abuse of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs among youth in Bannockburn, Deerfield, Highland Park, Highwood and Riverwoods.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Community—The Anti-Drug Coalition please contact us at or 224-765-2823.

Funding provided by Healthcare Foundation of Highland Park and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant #SP021482. This brochure was developed in part under grant #SP021482 from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The views, opinions, and content of this publication are those of the authors and contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or policies of ONDCP, SAMHSA, or HHS, and should not be construed as such.

5 Conversation Goals

It’s not one 60-minute conversation. It’s 60 one-minute conversations.

  1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking. Over 80% of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not to drink. So they really are listening, and it’s important that you send a clear and strong message.
  1. Show you care about your child’s happiness and well-being. Young people are more likely to listen when they know you’re on their side. Try to reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink- not just because you say so, but because you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go a lot better if you’re working with, and not against, your child.
  1. Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol. You want your child to be making informed decisions about drinking, with reliable information about its dangers. You don’t want your child to be learning about alcohol from friends, the internet, or the media—you want to establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information.
  1. Show you’re paying attention and you’ll notice if your child drinks. You want to show you’re keeping an eye on your child, because young people are more likely to drink when they think no one will notice. There are many subtle ways to do this without prying.
  1. Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking. Even if your child doesn’t want to drink, peer pressure is a powerful thing. It could be tempting to drink just to avoid looking uncool. To prepare your child to resist peer pressure, you’ll need to build skills and practice them.

Talking with Elementary School Students

Children are very perceptive and anxious to learn. This is a good time to introduce more detail into your conversations about drugs, especially what they are and the consequences of using them. Explain the concept of addiction—that some people may not understand how harmful drugs are or that some people try drugs and then have a hard time quitting.

  • Good drugs and bad drugs: Kids in this age group may ask why some drugs are good for you and others aren’t. With the rise in prescription drug abuse, this is a good time to explain to them that prescription medication should be taken only when a doctor tells you to and only when administered by an adult.
  • Honesty and praise: Explain in more detail how dangerous it is for children to drink alcohol and how harmful it is to their developing brain and body.
  • When they ask: As children begin to spend more time at school and with peers, they collect information from lots of new places like the media and popular culture. When children in this age group ask questions, it’s often because of something they have seen or heard, and it’s important to know where they are getting their information. Your child may ask, “What is pot?” First, clarify that your child means marijuana by asking where your child learned about it and what exactly was heard, read, or seen.
  • Build trust: Be open to questions and concerns your child may have regarding alcohol and drugs. Build trust with your child, so they feel comfortable coming to you with problems at later ages.
  • Encourage healthy choices and smart decision-making: Talk to your kids often about making good choices and about healthy living and smart goal setting. Let them make age-appropriate decisions, and reward them when they do well. Doing so empowers them and gives them confidence in their decision-making skills.

Talking with Middle School Students

Your child’s transition to middle school calls for special vigilance. Children this age are capable of engaging in more in-depth conversations about why people use drugs, the potential dangers (such as addiction or fatal overdose), and the consequences for the user and his or her family.

  • Take the lead: Your child may not initiate as many conversations about drugs and alcohol with you as before. If that’s the case, it’s important for you to take the lead and engage your child in discussions at every opportunity by using real-life events in the news or in your own lives. Explain to your child the importance of not riding in a car with someone who is using alcohol or drugs, and explain what to do in that situation.
  • Self-image: In this age range, preteens begin going through physical changes, and they start to care more about their self-image. Some pay more attention to hair and fashion. As you notice this happening, initiate conversations with your child about how he or she looks. Point out that smoking marijuana has obvious downsides, such as bad breath and stinky hair/clothes. You might even expand that into talking about the long-term risks, such as cancer.
  • Friends and their parents: Friends become extremely important during this transition. Kids want to fit in or feel normal around older teens who may expose them to alcohol, tobacco or drugs. So in addition to talking to your own child, get to know your children’s friends. If you are giving a group of kids a ride to the mall, for example, make small talk with the friends by asking about their interests, their families, what music or television shows they like, etc. Also get to know the parents of your child’s friends and share with them your desires to raise a drug-free child. You may find some who do not share your attitude and beliefs about drugs and underage alcohol use. But think of it this way: if they do agree and your child regularly hangs out with the same five friends, you could have as many as 10 extra parents keeping their eyes and ears on your child’s activities!

Source: Growing Up Drug Free, A Parent’s Guide To Prevention. U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Department of Education. October 2012.

Talking with Middle School Students continued

  • Encourage healthy growth: Conversations with your child should also include talking about his interests. Involvement in activities such as youth groups, arts, music, sports, community service and academic clubs keep children occupied, develop teambuilding skills, provide a sense of discipline, and sometimes help kids discover talents they didn’t realize they had. Encourage your children to share their dreams—at the very least, ask what types of activities they enjoy, and then find a way to nurture those interests in positive ways.
  • Practice makes perfect: Your ongoing conversations with your children should include how to respond if someone offers them drugs or alcohol. Let your child practice his or her answers. Assure your children that you will come get them any time — without scolding — if they need to leave a place where alcohol or drugs are being used. If you can’t be available, find a responsible adult who will go in your place.
  • Asking and listening: Remember, your role as a parent (or caregiver) isn’t just to talk, but also to listen. Since your child may not ask as many questions at this age, it’s up to YOU to ask open-ended questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Conversation starters can come from the media (advertising, song lyrics, movies and TV shows).
  • Your role as a teacher: You must also take the role of an educator. For example, young teens may think it’s okay if they “only” drink but stay away from drugs. You need to tell them the real risks of all kinds of substance abuse—including the risks they may not have heard or thought about—or teach them how to find credible information on websites like, which was developed for teens and young adults.
  • What do they think?: Continue to teach your children to be critical of how drugs and alcohol are portrayed in videos, movies, and television shows. Do they think engaging in promiscuous behavior after drinking too much is attractive or disgusting? Does a video that shows drugs make them curious enough to want to try them? Continue to talk to your kids often about making good choices and about healthy living and goal setting.

Talking with High School Students

By the time teens enter high school, they have likely had opportunities to try drugs, alcohol, and/or tobacco. You can’t choose your teen’s friends, but you can encourage them to develop friendships with kids who do not smoke, drink or do drugs.

  • What they’re thinking: During the last few years of high school, teens are thinking about what their future holds, so this is a great time to keep reminding them that substance use can ruin their chances of getting into college, being accepted by the military or being hired for jobs.
  • Debating what’s legal: An important issue to discuss with your teenager is the debate over medical marijuana. Make sure your child knows that smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science—it is not medicine and it is not safe. Marijuana is harmful and it is illegal.
  • Granting independencewith love: Children this age want independence, but you need to set limits. Set curfews and other expectations for your child’s behavior, establish appropriate consequences for breaking the rules, and consistently follow through with enforcement. Show them they are important to you by regularly spending one-on-one time. Developing this strong bond will make your teen more likely to come to you with questions or concerns about drugs, alcohol, or other sensitive issues. Even as children are pushing for independence, they need someone they love and respect to be involved. They need YOU!
  • Continue to praise and encourage teenagers for the things they do well and positive choices they make: Knowing you are proud of them can motivate them to maintain a drug-free lifestyle and to serve as a positive role model for younger siblings.

Source: Growing Up Drug Free, A Parent’s Guide To Prevention. U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Department of Education. October 2012.

Understanding the Teen Brain

“Adolescence is the most important period of life for learning. It’s not the time to block the ability of the brain to change with experience – and that’s exactly what alcohol does,” Dr. Aaron White, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Research has shown that brain development continues into the twenties—a time that encompasses many important developmental and social changes in a young person’s life. This growth is characterized by dramatic changes to the brain’s structure, neuron connectivity (i.e., “wiring”), and physiology. When a brain is developing it is much more vulnerable to the toxic effects of drugs and alcohol. Studies have shown that adding alcohol and marijuana to the developing teen brain can ALTER the development of the brain, often permanently. Alcohol has shown to cause problems with important cognitive skills in teens, such as attention, learning and memory.

“The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family,” Professor John Csernansky, Northwestern University, co-leader of study of marijuana effect on teenage brains.

“Exposure to cannabinoids during critical stages of development can change both the function and structure of the brain, possibly forever,” Dr. John Knight, MD, Director of Boston’s Children’s Hospital’s Clinic for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research.

Risks of Underage Drinking

The impairments from alcohol create a false sense of security and feelings of invincibility. Consider these facts:

  • Teens who drink are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors and physical violence.
  • Teens who drink are 7.5 times more likely to use any illicit drug, more than 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine. Source:
  • Alcohol is involved in 37% of all traffic deaths among persons ages 16 to 20. Source:
  • Youth who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21. Source:
  • Most kids have not yet developed the “cut-off” switch that makes them go to sleep or pass out from too much drinking. They can consume dangerous amounts of alcohol before they realize it’s too late. This can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can cause difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, and death.

Marijuana Risks

Legalization of marijuana for adults with certain medical conditions and/or for recreational use in some states has created a perception among kids (and adults) that it is not harmful. It is important that parents keep talking to their kids about the harmful effects.

  • Marijuana is illegal for all minors.
  • Marijuana potency has increased significantly since the 1970s, putting people at great risk for both addiction and adverse effects.
  • It is estimated that nine percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it. The number goes up to about 17% in those who start using in their teens and 20-25% among daily users.
  • Associations have been found between marijuana use and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and schizophrenia.
  • Short-term effects of marijuana include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch), trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor coordination, increased heart rate. Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Prescription Medications

Prescription drug misuse has become a dangerous health issue in our country. Many youth assume that just because it is medicine, prescription drugs are safe. However, we know that this is not the case. When anyone takes prescription medicine that was not prescribed to them, the medicine can affect the brain and body in ways similar to illicit drugs. Most alarming is that many of the prescription drugs abused by teens are highly addictive and often lead to the use of addictive illicit drugs, such as heroin. It is important to talk to your teen often about the real harm associated with taking medication not prescribed to them. Also, ensure your teen understands that sharing prescription medication is illegal and practice ways they can refuse sharing.

Many teens obtain prescription drugs from friends or family members often without the person knowing. Help reduce youth access to prescription drugs by properly disposing of your unused human or pet medications by taking them to one of the several drop box locations in our community (listed below). For a complete list and map of prescription drop box locations in our county, visit

Prescription Drug Drop Box Locations in our community:

  • Deerfield Police Department, 850 Waukegan Rd., Deerfield
  • Highland Park Police Department, 677 Old Deerfield Rd., Highland Park
  • Walgreens, 780 Waukegan Rd., Deerfield

When to be Concerned

The difference between normal adolescent behavior and behavior that may indicate potential problems is sometimes a matter of degree and consistency. Look for a series of changes, not an isolated single behavior. As a parent, you have to act on your own knowledge of normal behaviors and your own sixth sense. Ignoring suspicious behavior will not make it go away and may harm your teen. For example, if your teen begins to fail at school, withdraws from the family, or displays drastic mood swings, these changes could lead to other more serious problems requiring professional help.

The following might be indicators that an adolescent is experiencing problems:

  • Increased tardiness and/or absences from school
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Grades begin to slide downward
  • Change in attention span, ability to concentrate
  • Social withdrawal/increased isolation from others
  • Change in personal appearance
  • Change in type of friends
  • Sudden increase or decrease in weight
  • Alcohol and/or other drug use
  • Change in language used
  • Contrast of personal values or beliefs
  • Increase in impulsive/bizarre behavior
  • Increase in detentions/suspensions from school
  • Stealing and/or vandalis

For a more extensive list of warning signs visit:

When to Intervene

If you’ve discovered that your child is drinking or doing drugs, the first thing you need to do is take a breath. You are not in this alone—there are many people who can and will help you. Start by talking with people you know, such as family members, friends, teachers, school counselors, sports team coaches, clergy, and your doctor. All of these people, along with many others, can help you get focused and determine what to do.

You can never be too safe or intervene too early—even if you believe your teen is just “experimenting”. Casual or experimental use can quickly turn into abuse, dependence, or addiction, which can lead to accidents, legal trouble, and serious health problems. If you are at all concerned about your child, you can and should intervene.

You may also choose to talk directly with your teen about the changes you have observed. Talking with your teen in a caring, concerned way often begins the process of reaching out for help. You may find the following “formula” helpful in planning what you will say and how you will present your concerns:

I care…    (a statement of your care and concern)

I see…    (talk about the behaviors you have witnessed)

I feel…    (feeling words—how the behaviors impact you)

I want…    (the behavior you desire from your child)

I will…    (how you are willing to help)

Visit for a parent child checklist to guide you through the steps above.

Youth and Family Resources

Faith Organizations and Schools

All of our local schools and many of our local faith organizations have trained staff to assist with prevention or behavioral health needs.

Local Hospitals, Social Service and Treatment Agencies

Amita Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health
Family Service of Lake 847-432-4981
NorthShore Health Systems—Highland Park Hospitalnorthshore.org847-432-8000
Lake County Health Department & Community Health
Northwest Community Healthcarench.org847-618-1000
Nuestro Centerfamservice.org847-681-0208
OMNI Youth Servicesomniyouth.org847-353-1500
Symetria Recovery symetriarecovery.com888-347-7079
SunCloud Health suncloudhealth.com866-729-1012

Police Departments – For Questions and Information

Bannockburn Police
Deerfield Police
Highland Park Police
Highwood Police Departmentcityofhighwood.com847-604-8992
Riverwoods Police Departmentriverwoods-il.net847-945-1820

Text-A-Tip (Brief Intervention Counseling)

Teens can text 224HELP/224AYUDAME to 844-823-5323 or search Lake County Help in the app store for an immediate response from a trained, professional counselor 24 hours a day. All texts are secure and anonymous so teens can reach out for themselves or a friend without fear.

A Way Out (Diversion Program)

“A Way Out” is a Lake County law enforcement assisted diversion pilot program designed to fast-track users to substance abuse programs and services. This program is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at participating police departments across Lake County and ensures no criminal charges will be sought for those who may be in possession of narcotics or paraphernalia. Anyone in need of treatment can walk into a local police department and tell the clerk they’d like “A Way Out.” A trained staff member will assist them in finding the appropriate level of treatment needed, regardless of insurance. Visit for a list of participating police departments.

Community/County Coalitions

Community—The Anti-Drug Coalitioncommunitytheantidrug.org224-765-2823
Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Forcedrugfreelakecounty.org224-545-3798

Other Resources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Partnership for Drug-Free
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

*The information contained within this handbook is current as of the printing date but should not be considered to be complete. It is not intended to be a substitute for seeking help or advice from a mental health, substance abuse, medical or legal professional. All information and graphics are for educational purposes only. It should be used as an aid in understanding current knowledge in the field. You should confer with and seek the advice of the appropriate professional with regard to your own well-being or the well-being of another.