Preventing Teen Substance Use Through the Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us here in Maine, which means snow days with friends, warm evenings by the fire with family, and much anticipated celebrations.

Seasonal gatherings provide teens with an essential break to unwind and opportunities to enjoy time with friends, while social commitments and planning for relatives can make connecting with teens a difficult task for parents. However, parents and caregivers can turn the holidays into teachable moments surrounding alcohol and other substance use prevention.

Data gathered from the Maine Integrated Health Youth Survey indicate that 23% of high school students reported drinking alcohol at least once in the past 30 days, while 19% reported using marijuana at least once in the past 30 days.[1]  Alcohol use and rates of binge drinking increase during this time of year, resulting in a heightened risk of harming others and ourselves.[2]  Research also tells us that teens are twice as likely to drink if they do not believe their parents think it is wrong, and nearly five times as likely to drink if they do not think their parents will find out. A recent study also concludes that parental marijuana use was associated with increased risk of substance use among adolescents living in the same household.[3]

Make the most of the holidays by reinforcing values around alcohol and other substance use while practicing positive role modeling. The Journal of Alcohol and Drugs found that 76% of youth ages 8 to 17 said parents were a leading influence in their decision about whether to drink alcohol.[4] Research demonstrates that teens are more likely to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs if their parents have driven under the influence. For example, although you only had one beer and waited two hours before you drove, your teen sees that you drink and drive. Be conscious of how your teen is observing you and have a conversation about it.


Here are some helpful tips to be in-sync with your teen this winter:

• Talk with Other Parents & Share Information: If you hear about a holiday party at your teen’s friend’s house, check in with the hosting parents about the presence of alcohol, marijuana, and supervision. Contact other parents with concerns or questions; invite them to do the same.

Monitor & Secure: Monitoring your teen around the holidays is especially important. Keep track of any alcohol or other substances at your holiday parties by knowing how much you have, putting it away and ideally locked after use.

Be Up & Ready: Even for the holidays, set an alarm for curfew time to check in with your teen as they return home.

• Have a Plan: If you are drinking or using marijuana, set a good example by organizing a responsible designated driver for your teen. If your teen finds themselves in a risky situation, educate your teen on local resources.

Etip2 is a completely anonymous tip line that allows anyone to report underage substance use and other concerns that endanger youth.

Text 847411 with your anonymous tip, always start your message with the word eTip2. Etip2 is a great tool to keep your teen and their friends safe this season.


The Etip2 App is available through Apple and Android:

Android –

Apple –