Watch CBS News

Experts: Back to school checklist should include checking in with kids about drugs, alcohol

Talking to kids about drugs and alcohol for back to school
Talking to kids about drugs and alcohol for back to school 02:31

WESTBURY, N.Y. -- Back to school means back to the books for kids. But for parents, experts say this is also a good time to talk to your children about drugs and alcohol.

"Growing up in 2023 is a very different world than when parents grew up in," said Steven Chassman, the executive director of Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD).

Chassman told CBS New York's John Dias social media and modern marketing have changed certain dynamics and is exposing kids to substances earlier. He says parents need to act sooner.

"As early as elementary school, having a conversation about what healthier choices are and not," said Chassman.

LICADD is dedicated to going into schools to teach students about prevention education. The organization gives information that helps kids make the healthiest decisions possible, especially with their mental health.

"Mental health issues for kids has gotten worse, the use has gotten more intense," said Adam Birkenstock, director of programming at LICADD

According to the National Safety Council, children are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a car crash.

Research also shows children begin to face high risks of drug experimentation between 13 and 14 years old. But 16 years old is the believed to be the pivotal year for adolescents, who face increasing peer pressure to experiment.

"What we are seeing is that the age on onset, when the person begins to use, that is getting younger and younger," said Kym Laube, executive director of HUGS Inc., which is a substance abuse prevention agency.

Laube says some kids in elementary school are now reporting cases of drugs, and she believes parents can't leave it up to schools to fix the problem.

"Young people often don't pick up their first substance in English class, it does happen in someone's home," said Laube. "Earlier a young person picks up a substance, the more likely they are to develop disease of addiction."

So what should parents do?

Therapists say to set a healthy family policy early, so it's not a big conversation. Instead, it's just constant reminders.

They also so to make sure you have an open line of communication and if you're able to, be honest about your own experiences.

"When a kid has questions or concerns, it's important they know their parent is a safe place to come to and you can be source of information or comfort and guidance," said Alyssa Mueller, program director and therapist at California Prime Recovery.

Mueller says it's important to also lead by example.

"You're going to be able to give them the most accurate information and be able to protect them," said Mueller. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.