Addiction Inoculation with Jessica Lahey

Can you prevent addiction? Or alcoholism? 

After all, no one dreams of taking their son to rehab. Or arguing with him, repeatedly, about his use of pot, alcohol or meth.

When our babies are little, we tell ourselves that if we do everything right, our sons can avoid alcoholism and addiction. But that’s simply not true. 

24% of 8th graders have had at least 1 drink by 8th grade. — and about 50% of those drink heavily. Boys may be particularly at risk: according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, children who struggle in school when they are between ages 7-9 are more likely to be using addictive substances by age 14 or 15.  

Genetics account for approximately 50-60% of an individual’s risk of developing a substance use disorder. But no matter your sons’ genetic legacy, the positive parenting strategies you use to help your son thrive can also protect him from substance use disorder.

“Genetics is not destiny,” says Jessica Lahey, author of The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence . “What I want people to understand is that if we know the risks, and are really clear-eyed about the risks, we can more specifically target our prevention.”

Inoculation theory, Jessica says, tells us that teaching our kids, empowering them, and building their self-efficacy skills can effectively decrease their chances of succumbing to peer pressure — especially if we also teach them “scripts” they can use to gracefully decline substances.

Photo of Jennifer L.W. Fink, Janet Allison & Jessica Leahy. Jennifer & Janet are holding hard-cover copies of the book, The Addition Inoculation

In this episode, Jen, Janet & Jessica discuss:
  • Risk for factors of addiction and substance use disorders
  • Balancing a child’s risk of developing substance use disorder with protective factor
  • The role of silence and dishonestly is perpetuating substance use disorders
  • How (or IF) to talk about your use drug or substance use
  • The link between trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and addiction
  • How to talk about substance use with kids of all ages
  • Helping your child resist peer pressure & say no
  • Explaining the difference between adult alcohol and substance use and child/adolescent use
  • How teens weigh risk (Spoiler: they weigh the possible positive consequences of substance use more heavily than the possible negative consequences)
  • How puberty, drugs, & alcohol affect kids’ brain chemistry
  • Why saying “yes” to novel or risky activities may decrease the chances of your boys using substances
  • Should you let kids drink with the family?
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence, by Jessica Lahey

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Can Learn to Let Go So Their Children Success — Jessica’s 2016 New York Times best-selling book — Jessica’s website; includes links to to her upcoming (virtual) speaking gigs

CDC info on ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) — discussed at 9:40

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, by Nadine Burke Harris (mentioned at 10:40)

To Raise a Boy (w Emma Brown) — ON BOYS episode (mentioned at 12:35)

Boys & Sex (w Peggy Orenstein) — ON BOYS episode (mentioned at 18:23)