EARLY YEARS: Author and mom says it’s about facts, not just feelings, when talking to kids about drugs

Jessica Lahey shares her own experience with the cycle of substance use disorder in her book, “The Addiction Inoculation”
Author Jessica Lahey shares her experience in her book, "The Addiction Inoculation"
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 5:42 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - ”So, I was raised by someone with substance use disorder. One of my parents was raised by someone with substance use disorder, and on and on and on. And I swore I would never,” says author and education journalist Jessica Lahey.

But as often is the case, she did. In her late 30s and early ‘40s, Jessica Lahey struggled with alcoholism.

She got sober in 2013, thanks largely to her father.

“I had gotten blackout drunk at my mom’s birthday party the night before, and it was humiliating and horrible, and right on time, frankly. And my dad essentially came upstairs and said you need help,” says Lahey.

As the mom of two, Lahey worried her children would go down the same road.

“My very first thought was how do I make this end with me? Because it’s on my husband’s side of the family, as well. So, I’m thinking oh my gosh, what’s up with the genetics? Are my kids doomed?”

While most experts agree prevention works, Lahey says she wondered what prevention actually means.

Her book, “The Addiction Inoculation,” features her own research, with the goal of helping parents talk to their kids effectively about substance use disorder. Lahey says it’s not enough to just tell your kids not to do drugs.

“The whole ‘I don’t want you to,’ that’s got no evidence behind it, that’s just feelings. But if we give kids really good information, which is the point of my sort of dissecting all of the research and laying it out there. The more kids know about the fact that substance use in adolescents is a completely different thing than substance use in adulthood,” she says.

Lahey stresses teens’ brains are still developing, and substances can cause a lot of damage during adolescence. Presenting the facts, not just the feelings, she says, is key.

“It can’t just be about ‘I don’t want you to.’ It has to be about ‘here’s the information. I trust you to make good decisions, and here’s what our family culture is and why,’” says Lahey.

“So, my kids kind of can’t get away from the fact that they know a lot. And if that harshes their buzz, I’m perfectly fine with that,” says Lahey.

To listen to our podcast with Jessica Lahey: