Teens Using Drugs: What To Know and What To Do








About the Program


About Us


Contact Us


FLIER  (pdf)




Please note: this web site will transition to Dawn Farm’s web site:



About The Program

About the Program

Program History

Why A Program On Teens and Drugs


"Teens Using Drugs: What To Know and What To Do" is a free, ongoing, two-part series targeted to parents and caretakers of teens but also inclusive of other family members, teens, and people who work with teens and families.  It is designed to provide education on how to understand, identify and address adolescent alcohol/other drug use and problems, create a positive attitude towards obtaining help for adolescents with alcohol/other drug problems, and increase participants' readiness and ability to address adolescent alcohol/other drug use. This program has made a difference to families struggling with teen alcohol/other drug use, and to others who want to help.


The program was developed and presented by Ronald E. Harrison until Ron’s death in April 2011. Ron had asked Dawn Farm to continue this program should he ever be unable to teach it himself. Dawn Farm continued this program in the 2011-2012 school-year and is continuing to present it on a regular schedule. Programs will be presented by staff from Dawn Farm and Growth Works (an adolescent treatment program in Plymouth that Ron had a long-standing relationship with.)


The series is held at the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Education Center, 5305 Elliott Drive, Ypsilanti, Michigan; from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm on the 1st (part 1) and 2nd (part 2) Tuesday evenings of October, November, and January through June The part one presentation provides information on how to understand the progression of teen substance abuse problems, recognize signs and patterns of a teen substance abuse problem, and know when a teen's use of alcohol/other drugs requires action. Part one includes a ten-minute video. The part two presentation provides information on what should and should not be done when teen substance abuse is suspected or recognized, and strategies for helping "teens using drugs." Part two includes a recovering young person, who describes his or her experiences - how it was before recovery, what happened, and how it is now. 


All presentations are free and open to all. A certificate of attendance can be provided on request. Free literature and resource information is available. Refreshments are provided. Ample free parking is available. The presenter will stay after the program to talk with people who have further questions or concerns.


The series is co-sponsored by Dawn Farm, the Livingston and Washtenaw Regional Coordinated School Health Program Council, and the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System Greenbrook Recovery Center.    


Program History

The "Teens Using Drugs: What To Know and What To Do" program began with a presentation in March 1999 at Huron High School (a public high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan.) The presentation was organized to coincide with Michigan's annual "Parenting Awareness Month" in March. School faculty suggested organizing a workshop on identifying and intervening with teens experiencing alcohol/other drug problems. Ronald Harrison, a local substance abuse therapist with extensive experience working with substance-involved adolescents and their families, was asked to present the workshop. 100 people attended, and the feedback was extremely positive. Parents and faculty indicated the information was helpful to them, and there were requests to have ongoing presentations. 


Based on this response, regular presentations of the workshops were organized. The Saint Joseph Mercy Health System provided a site. Ron Harrison agreed to continue to present the program as a community service. Initially, the program was a one-part presentation focused on understanding teen substance abuse problems and identifying teens that need professional help for a substance abuse problem. This was presented in October, November and December of 1999. Based on further feedback from participants, a "part two" was developed to help people learn about what to do and what not to do when addressing a teen substance abuse problem. This two-part series has been presented since January 2000.  After Ron Harrison’s death in April 2011, Dawn Farm stepped up to continue the Teens Using Drugs program, and  Dawn Farm and Growth Works therapists have been presenting the series.  The program is presented on the first (part one) and second (part two) Tuesdays of October, November, and January through June.


The sponsors of this program are: Dawn Farm, a continuum of programs for treatment of and recovery from addiction; the Livingston and Washtenaw Regional Coordinated School Health Program Council; and the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System Greenbrook Recovery Center, a department of the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. (Please see "sponsor" section on the "About Us" page for further information about the sponsors.)


Back To The Top Of The Page


Why Have A Program On "Teens Using Drugs?"

In the 1970's, when concern about the escalating prevalence and consequences of substance abuse led to a nationwide effort to produce effective prevention and treatment programs, an estimated ten percent of our population was chemically dependent. Since then, research and experience have provided new information about effective substance abuse prevention and treatment. Many communities have implemented programs that have demonstrated success in preventing and treating alcohol and drug problems. Yet still, today - an estimated ten percent of our population is chemically dependent.


There are parenting techniques, prevention programs and other protective factors that can reduce the risk of young people using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. However, even the most effective prevention programs can not eliminate all substance use by all teens. No adolescent is immune from alcohol and other drug problems; regardless of his or her experiences with alcohol and other drug education; regardless of how involved his or her family may be; regardless of socioeconomic status; and regardless of religious participation, school achievement, extracurricular involvement or other assets and protective factors. Some young people will "experiment" with alcohol and other drugs despite our best prevention efforts. Some of these will continue to use, and some who use will become addicted. Many will experience adverse consequences whether they progress to addiction or not; those who progress to addiction will most likely experience a spectrum of adverse consequences that will be extremely painful to them and to their families. Young people who begin regular use of substances have a significantly increased risk of becoming chemically dependent as compared with young people who delay using substances until they are older.


Alcohol and other drug use is a primary or contributing factor to most of the serious problems faced by adolescents, including the leading causes of adolescent mortality. Too many substance-involved young people suffer serious, sometimes irreversible consequences. Early intervention with substance-involved teens offers hope for preventing irreparable damage and helping substance-involved teens recover their lives and their futures. These young people urgently need help, and helpers need the right knowledge and tools.


Although the initial decision to "try" alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs is a choice, no one chooses to become addicted to these substances. Addiction is a disease that develops in susceptible individuals who begin use of alcohol/other drugs. There is no known absolute way to prevent addiction in a person susceptible to addiction unless alcohol/other drug use is entirely avoided. It is not the”fault” of a person with alcohol or other drug addictions that he/she became addicted.  It is not the fault of the parents, or the school system, or society, or other external factors. Addiction does not happen solely because of the type of drugs used, the amount of drugs used, the manner in which drugs are used, or the personality or social circumstances of the user. Bad parenting doesn’t cause it and good parenting often can’t prevent it.  Substance abuse and addiction can happen to teens from "good" families, to teens from "troubled" families, and to teens with no families; to teens who excel in school and teens who struggle with school; to teens with high self esteem and teens with low self esteem; to teens who are happy and well-adjusted and teens troubled by depression, anxiety, ADHD, adjustment disorders or other problems. Addiction can happen regardless of prior determination about how drugs will and will not be used or the conviction that "it won't happen to me." Addiction is not a moral failing or a lack of willpower or a lack of better things to do. It is a disease, and it is not anyone's fault. We do not know for certain what causes addiction, but we do know how to treat it once it has been identified.


Adolescent alcohol/other drug problems can be difficult to identify and differentiate from other adolescent problems or even from "normal" adolescent behavior, even for loving, attentive, involved parents and caring, experienced professionals.  When a young person experiences alcohol or drug problems, often the LAST thing that parents and other concerned adults see is the alcohol/other drug use. A teen won't usually tell a parent that he was truant from school to smoke weed, or that she performed poorly on her SAT's because she was hung over, or that he dropped sports and music to have more time for getting high, or that the money she saved for college was consumed by her escalating need for heroin, or that he is in love with “ecstasy” to the exclusion of all other interests. Teens hide their alcohol/other drug use from parents and others in authority, and teens with alcohol/other drug problems employ various defense mechanisms to protect their substance use by confusing parents and other caring people and pushing them away.  Parents and others concerned about a young person are often uncertain of what the problem is and of what can be done about it.


However, there are signs and patterns of behaviors that can alert people who care to the possibility that a teen may have an alcohol/other drug problem. We do not have to see a teen using to see a "using" teen. Once diagnosed, teen alcohol and other drug problems are absolutely treatable!


The "Teens Using Drugs: What To Know and What To Do" series was developed in response to the need in our community for an ongoing, easily accessible, free education resource for people struggling with teen substance abuse issues. It can be difficult and painful for family members to explore the possibility that a young person they love may be using alcohol/other drugs or may have an alcohol/other drug problem. Dealing with adolescent substance abuse is often isolating, confusing, polarizing, frightening, and extremely stressful for all involved. This program is designed to help people learn about this issue. The workshops are informal, free, and open to all. There is no registration, commitment or interactive participation required. People can attend to listen, to learn, and to ask questions if they wish to. 


This series provides an access point for information to help family members struggling with teen substance abuse issues; for professionals, students and others seeking to better understand teen substance abuse issues in order to assist affected adolescents and their families; and for teens who would like to learn about adolescent alcohol/other drug problems and solutions to alcohol/other drug problems.


Back To The Top Of The Page



PLEASE NOTE: this site is not a counseling or treatment service. We welcome comments and requests for information about the "Teens Using Drugs: What To Know and What To Do" program and/or about this Web site, but the people who maintain the Web site are not substance abuse professionals and cannot provide advice about substance abuse problems.  Parents, family members, teens, professionals, and concerned community members are all welcome to attend the free "Teens Using Drugs: What To Know and What To Do" program to learn more about adolescent substance abuse problems and what can be done to help adolescents with alcohol/other drug problems. If you are not able to attend this program, you contact Dawn Farm (please see the “contact us” page.)