Most teens try alcohol and marijuana before they graduate from high school and it’s very rarely a sign of addiction. Maia Szalavitz is a well-known writer at Time magazine who has written books and articles about young people and how to deal with their problems.

She urges parents to try to put things in context and not over-react. Szalavitz points out that “it’s one thing if your daughter stays out past curfew and comes home appearing drunk once or twice yet has high grades and a generally good attitude, but quite another if she stays out later and later each week and her grades are plummeting.”

Szalavitz urges that whenever we consider taking any action to change our teens’ drinking and drugging behahvior that we “always consider not only what will happen if they comply, but what will happen if they don’t and whether those consequences are more likely to hinder or help them in the long run.”

This is excellent advice. For example, if you are considering having your teen arrested for alcohol or drug use to “wake him up” or to “teach her a lesson,” consider the possible long term consequences of that action. An arrest record could affect you child’s chance to obtain federal or state loans for education, lower the chances for admission to college, and prohibit entrance into the fields of education, criminal justice, law, social work, and other professions. In addition to all that, the arrest may be counterproductive in that graduation from college is associated with a lower risk of addiction.

And don’t send them to an alcohol or drug rehab. That’s like sending a child to federal prison for skipping a few days of school. Rehabs teach people that they suffer from an incurable disease of addiction, that they must submit to a Higher Power, that they suffer “loss of control” and are powerless over alcohol and drugs, that they will be addicts for the rest of their lives, that they must live in constant fear of relapse, that they must stay in treatment until they die, and other disproven theories.

In short, alcohol and drug rehabs create more problems than they solve.

About Maia Szalavitz

Maia Szalavitz is a neuroscience journalist. She is the author of the book “Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids” (Riverhead, 2006), which is the first book-length exposé of the “tough love” business. In addition to her other books, she has published in the New York Times, Scientific American Mind, the Washington Post, New Scientist, and Psychology Today, among many others. Szalavitz has been honored with receipt of the American Psychological Association’s Division 50 Award for Contributions to the Addictions and the Media Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.