Just Say No to Sharing Drug Stories With Your Kids

By McCarton Ackerman 02/22/13

New research suggests using your own past drug stories as a warning is not effective.

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No need to mention that time you tried
cocaine in college.
Photo via

Note to parents: regaling your kids with horror stories about college benders, horrible hangovers and humiliating drug mishaps could do more harm than good. A new survey of 561 middle school students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that children were less likely to think "drugs are bad" if their parents admitted their own previous drug use—even if it was meant as a warning. Kids expressed a less favorable attitude towards substances if their parents stuck to the old "just say no" method and discouraged drug use entirely. “Parents should really hit on what are the bad things that can happen, health-wise, from using drugs,” says Jennifer Kam, one of the study authors. ”Also, give them strategies to avoid use or decline use in a way that makes them look cool.” However, Kam urges parents not to straight out lie to their kids. “I wouldn’t volunteer the information, but if a child asks, and a parent lies, it could impact the relationship later on," she says. A guide from The Partnership for a Drug Free America offers similar advice, advising parents: "You don’t have to tell [your kid] all the details. Find out why she's asking about your history, and then tell her what she wants to know—nothing more."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.