For Parents

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If you have general questions about alcohol, tobacco or other drugs or would like to talk with someone about a loved one or friend who may need help, our office is open Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 5 PM.  Our phone number is 317-254-2815.  You may also contact us via email at:

If you need immediate assistance for a young person or someone else, you may contact the 24-hour Crisis Line at 317-251-7575.

To learn more about Drug Free Marion County’s program to address underage and binge drinking in Indianapolis, and for fact sheets about underage and binge drinking in Marion County,click here.

Problem Signs of Drug and Alcohol Usage

Our process

Should You Be Concerned?

Most parents of substance abusing teens report that they were unaware of the behavior for at least two years.

Open Minds See the Signs
If you answer yes to any of the questions below, your child may be at risk of becoming harmfully involved in drugs and alcohol, if they are not already actively using. For more information on teenage substance abuse and treatment, please contact a treatment provider

Is Your Child…
Frequently tardy or truant from school?
Losing motivation, energy, and self-discipline?
Losing interest in activities and hobbies?
Increasingly forgetful – short or long term?
Having trouble paying attention and concentrating?
Expressing anger, hostility or irritability?
Sullen with uncaring attitudes and behavior?
Argumentative with you and/or siblings?
Unable to explain extra money or “new” items they have?
Experiencing unusual mood swings?
Dropping old friends and secretive about new ones?
Unhealthy in appearance, e.g. bloodshot eyes?
Inattentive about personal grooming?
In trouble with the law, in or out of school?
Eating much more or much less than usual?
Occupied with drug-related graphics and slogans?
In possession of pipes, small boxes, baggies, rolling papers, empty aerosol cans, etc?

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How Can You Help?

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Our achievements

  • Talk to the young person about what you have seen and what concerns you have. Try and avoid direct accusations. Do not do this when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. (It could be a matter of life or death.)
  • Approach them in a calm and rational manner. Ask what is going on in their life.
  • Discuss ways to avoid using drugs or alcohol in the future.
  • If you feel that you can’t handle talking to the young person directly, ask for help.
  • Remember to reinforce the no drug use policy during your conversation.
  • Discipline must be firm and consistent. Make sure to discuss ways they can earn back trust.
  • Denial is part of using behaviors. If you have strong evidence that a young person is lying, as a parent, you may want to have him/her evaluated by a health professional experienced in helping adolescents with alcohol and drug-related problems. If you are a health professional, you may want to encourage parents to face their denial and seek support.
  • Drug addiction is now understood to be a chronic, relapsing disease. It may require a number of attempts before a young person can remain drug or alcohol free.
    Information provided by Fairbanks

Start Talking

Our goals

Check out our booklet entitled Parents’ Field Guide to Raising Drug Free Kids.  This booklet is all about how to talk to your kids about drugs and things that YOU as a parent should be aware of.

A Spanish version of this booklet is available through our offices.

To receive copies for your information, call us at 317-254-2815 or email us.


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Parent Tips

Parenting Skills: 21 Tips & Ideas

What’s the biggest deterrent to your kids’ using drugs and alcohol? It’s you.

Look at the facts: Kids who learn from their parents or caregivers about the risks of drugs are 36% less likely to smoke marijuana than kids who don’t. 50% less likely to use inhalants. 56% less likely to use cocaine. 65% less likely to use LSD.

Still think there’s not much you can say or do? You are the most powerful influence in your child’s daily life. But anti-drug parenting strategies rarely are instinctive, even for the best of parents. The 21 tips that follow can help you turn your child away from the drugs that seem almost inevitable nowadays. You can do something. And you can start right now.

Barry R. McCaffrey
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Content provided by the Office of National Drug Control Policy

Get Involved
Kids who are close to their parents are least likely to engage in risky behaviors. The more involved you are in your children’s lives, the more valued they’ll feel, and the more likely they’ll be to respond to you.

  • Establish “together time.” Establish a regular weekly routine for doing something special with your child – even something as simple as going out for ice cream.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask where your kids are going, who they’ll be with and what they’ll be doing. Get to know your kid’s friends – and their parents – so you’re familiar with their activities.
  • Try to be there after school when your child gets home. The “danger zone” for drug use is between 4 and 6 pm, when no one’s around; arrange flexible time at work if you possibly can. If your child will be with friends, ideally they have adult supervision – not just an older sibling. 
  • Eat together as often as you can. Meals are a great opportunity to talk about the day’s events, to unwind, reinforce, bond. Studies show that kids whose families eat together at least 5 times a week are less likely to be involved with drugs or alcohol.


Learn to Communicate

Do you know your kids’ favorite music group? What’s cool at school? The more you communicate, the more at ease your child will feel about discussing drugs and other sensitive issues with you.


  • Be absolutely clear with your kids that you don’t want them using drugs. Ever. Anywhere. Don’t leave room for interpretation. And talk often about the dangers and results of drug and alcohol abuse. Once or twice a year won’t do it. 
  • Be a better listener. Ask questions – and encourage them. Paraphrase what your child says to you. Ask for their input about family decisions. Showing your willingness to listen will make your child feel more comfortable about opening up to you.
  • Give honest answers. Don’t make up what you don’t know; offer to find out. If asked whether you’ve ever taken drugs, let them know what’s important: that you don’t want them using drugs.
  • Use TV reports, anti-drug commercials, news or school discussions about drugs to help you introduce the subject in a natural, unforced way.
  • Don’t react in a way that will cut off further discussion. If your child makes statements that challenge or shock you, turn them into a calm discussion of why your child thinks people use drugs, or whether the effect is worth the risk.
  • Role play with your child and practice ways to refuse drugs and alcohol in different situations. Acknowledge how tough these moments can be.


Walk the Walk

Be a role model; the person you want your kid to be. What stronger anti-drug message is there?


  • Be a living, day-to-day example of your value system. Show the compassion, honesty, generosity and openness you want your child to have. 
  • Know that there is no such thing as “do as I say, not as I do” when it comes to drugs. If you take drugs, you can’t expect your child to take your advice. Seek professional help if necessary.
  • Examine your own behavior. If you abuse drugs or alcohol, know that your kids are inevitably going to pick up on it. Or if you laugh uproariously at a movie when someone is drunk or stoned, what message does that send to your child?


Lay Down the Law

Kids between 11-13 – ages highly at risk for drug experimentation – are increasingly independent. Despite their protests, they still crave structure and guidance; they want you to show them you car enough to set limits.


  • Create rules – and discuss in advance the consequences of breaking them. Make your expectations clear. Don’t make empty threats or let the rule-breaker off the hook. Don’t impose harsh or unexpected new punishments. 
  • Set a curfew. And enforce it strictly. Be prepared to negotiate for special occasions.
  • Have kids check in at regular times. Give them a phone card, change or even a pager, with clear rules for using it. (Remember, pagers are not allowed in some schools.)
  • Call parents whose home is to be used for a party. On party night, don’t be afraid to stop in to say hello (and make sure that adult supervision is in place).
  • Make it easy to leave a party where drugs are being used. Discuss in advance how you or another designated adult will come to pick your child up the moment he or she feels uncomfortable. Later, be prepared to talk about what happened.
  • Listen to your instincts. Don’t be afraid to intervene if your gut reaction tells you that something is wrong.

Praise and Reward
What encourages a kid more than his or her parents’ approval? The right word at the right time can strengthen the bond that helps keep your child away from drugs.


  • Reward good behavior consistently and immediately. Expressions of love, appreciation and thanks go a long way. Even kids who think themselves too old for hugs will appreciate a pat on the back or a special treat. 
  • Accentuate the positive. Emphasize the things your kid does right. Restrain the urge to be critical. Affection and respect – making your child feel good about himself – will reinforce good (and change bad) behavior far more successfully than embarrassment or uneasiness.
Helpful Links – Parents, the Anti-drug. En Espanol – National Youth Anti-drug Media Campaign – The Partnership for a Drug Free America – National Inhalant Prevention Coalition – Join Together Online – National Institute on Drug Abuse – Information on Marijuana – local “Treatment Directory”

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