Ask an Expert – What can my teen say when she is offered drugs or alcohol?

My 15-year-old daughter has started socialising with teens who are drinking and smoking weed. She admits to sipping on beer at parties and says she’s feeling the pressure to smoke just to fit in. I want to know what she can say when offered drugs and alcohol. She says when she says no, she feels very embarrassed and lame. I want to know from the experts if there are any good white lies or clever outs?

At one time or another we all need assistance dealing with social pressure. Even as adults we occasionally ask people to help us in this area. Rather than simply turning around and saying that we would rather not do something, we often use excuses, developed over time, to use as an ‘out’. Teenagers sometimes need these ‘outs’ as well, particularly when attempting to deal with social pressure. Here are just a selection of some of the ‘outs’ that I have collected from teenagers over the years. Not all of them are great but they cover a range of different ways of saying ‘no’, including excuses (often using information they have picked up in drug education lessons at school) and delaying or putting off the situation.

  • “I am allergic to alcohol.”
  • “The medication I’m on at the moment doesn’t mix well with alcohol.”
  • “I’d love to smoke but I have an uncle with a mental health problem.” (a very popular one for getting out of smoking cannabis.)
  • “I got really drunk last week and I’m trying to have a few weeks off.”
  • “Dad found out I was drinking last weekend and I’ll be grounded if I get caught again.”
  • “We’ve got a big game next week and I’m trying to be prepared as possible.”
  • “Mum’s picking me up this evening and she always checks my breath when I get in the car.”

It is important to remember that not all teenagers need an out. Some young people are simply strong and confident enough to simply ‘say no’, if that is indeed what they want to do. We can provide young people skills in how to ‘say no’ but for many this can be extremely difficult to put into practice, particularly in regards to alcohol use, and it is important that they have some other sort of strategy in place to assist them when they find themselves in difficult situations.

The best way to do this is to find the right time to approach your child. Ask your child if they have ever been in a situation with their friends which they found difficult or uncomfortable. Offer them an example from your life, making it clear that adults experience this problem as well as teenagers. Talk about peer and social pressure and maybe discuss some of the things that you do to help you through difficult situations. Offer them your help in coming up with practical strategies to assist them in these situations. If now is not the ‘right time’, let them know that they can come to you at any time and you will try and help them. Working together to come up with an out strategy has worked for many parents and their teenage children.

Paul Dillon, Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia (DARTA),

Our Ask an Expert Week panelists are all qualified professionals in their field. However, advice given on The Kids Are All Right website is not a substitute for direct, personal, professional counselling or psychological care, medical care and diagnosis.

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  1. Thanks Paul, I have used a few of these strategies myself in the past. Sadly in my teenagers case, they really do have an uncle with schizophrenia, probably drug-induced, and very severe. It’s a terrible thing and I hope that the kids will steer clear of drugs at least until out of their teens.

    I found it very hard to say no to alcohol and cigarettes, I so longed to be in with the in crowd. Am hoping my kids have more inner fortitude than I did.
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