Keeping a Sober and Drug-Free Home

Happy sober family.

What do you think would be easier or would take less effort invested and time committed—helping someone kick an addiction, or preventing someone from ever falling prey to a substance abuse habit in the first place? Prevention is the clear winner. It’s much easier to prevent someone from falling victim to a substance abuse habit than it is to help get them off it when they are already hooked.

This is true in a lot of areas. We have the old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Prevention is often a universal solution to many crises which haven’t happened yet. Addiction is no different. Much like fighting forest fires, it’s much easier to prevent the addiction emergency from happening than it is to address it once it’s started. So how can families take it upon themselves to prevent drug abuse or alcohol misuse from ever becoming an issue in their households? How can moms and dads ensure that their kids never experiment with drugs or alcohol?

By following a few simple tips and strategies, parents can do much toward creating a safe, sober, and drug-free environment. This is helpful not only for their kids but for them, too.

Keep Prescription Drugs Secure

Prescription drugs.

Keep prescriptions drugs secure, or if possible, don’t keep potentially addictive prescription drugs in the home at all. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health by way of Express Scripts, more than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs. Much of that drug use starts at home. About 70% of prescription drug abuse begins with a hapless individual who got pills from a family member or loved one or a medicine cabinet, not a drug dealer.

One of the first things you can do to secure your home against substance abuse is to make sure that no potentially addictive prescription drugs are stored in the house. If it’s vital to have such drugs under your roof, keep them under lock and key. A medicine cabinet is no longer a safe place for such drugs, if it ever was.

Remove Addictive Substances from the Home

This strategy ties in with the one above. Why stop with keeping addictive pharmaceuticals out of the home? Better yet, remove all addictive substances from the house, or keep them under lock and key. You don’t want your kids (no matter their age) getting their hands on any alcohol, cigarettes, cigars, cough medicine, and so on that might be left out and within easy reach.

Also, beware of high alcohol content mouthwashes and inhalants such as aerosol cans, paints and glues.

Educate the Entire Family on the Risks of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Education is probably the best tool that we have in prevention. When our family members know the risks and dangers attendant with experimenting with drugs and alcohol, they are far less likely to experiment with such substances.

A problem in the drug crisis is that not enough parents are talking to their kids about the risks and dangers of drug and alcohol use. So kids listen to their peers instead, and their peers encourage them to experiment with substances. We should have more peer pressure to not use drugs, but stay sober.

Keeping a sober and drug-free household starts with everyone in the household understanding why they should keep a sober, drug-free home to begin with. Just conversing with other family members about drugs and their attendant dangers from time to time is usually enough to keep everyone thinking with the data of why they should not experiment with such substances.

How to Handle Peer Pressure

Once kids (and adults) understand the true dangers and risks in taking drugs, it’s important to know how to say no. How does one handle peer pressure or walk away from tricky situations where drugs or alcohol are involved? This is a life skill that needs to be learned and practiced—it just may save a life.

Go over real-life scenarios where drug or alcohol use can come up with friends or different social settings. Discuss and rehearse how each can be dealt with without jeopardizing their sobriety or caving in to pressure to use or experiment with drugs or alcohol.

Spend Time Together

Dancing family.

Families that spend time together stay sober together. The American Academy of Pediatrics gives three excellent strategies for preventing drug use in the home. One is to provide guidance, advice, and clear rules to one’s kids about not using drugs or alcohol. We discussed this one in the above section. Another one from the academy is not to use drugs or alcohol yourself, which is implied of course. And last but not least, the academy recommends that parents spend time with their children.

We wouldn’t normally associate spending time with our family as being an activity that would contribute to keeping our family sober, but it’s true. When a family spends time together, and when each member of the family is actively involved in each other’s lives, they are less likely to go off on their own or with friends and misuse drugs and alcohol. There’s also a camaraderie in a family that is further strengthened when the family is spending time together. Such a fellowship inspires sobriety, creating a condition where the individual family members are not so motivated to use drugs.

Get Involved in the Activities of Other Family Members

A family is not going to spend all of their time together. And drug abuse does not have to begin in the home for drug abuse to occur among family members. Drug abuse can occur outside of the house first. This happens when a spouse, a sibling, a son or daughter, or a parent starts experimenting with drugs and alcohol after work or school with friends, coworkers, classmates, etc., in some social setting outside of the home. When you make a more concerted effort at being involved in your family members’ social lives, drug and alcohol use is less likely to occur.

This strategy works particularly well for parents who keep close tabs on their kids’ social lives. Parents who teach their kids about self-worth, about how to say, “No!” and about how to spot and avoid peer pressure, are parents who can keep a drug-free home. Parents should even make an effort to have some say in the kinds of social environments that their kids get involved in, but they should do so in a way that is not authoritative or commanding. The moral of the story is that the more active and involved parents are in their kids’ lives, the less likely their kids are to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

Get Involved in Community Action for Reducing Substance Abuse

Community meeting.

Our homes are not islands of safety in seas of turmoil. They can't be, at least not forever. If drug experimentation is occurring within the community, it can eventually find its way into your home. This is why maintaining a sober and drug-free household requires more of you than just safeguarding your home and the people in it. You have to take some responsibility for the community too.

You can do this by getting involved in community events and programs that inspire a safe and happy community. You can interact with non-profit groups, contribute at fundraisers, march in awareness rallies, spread the word through school or church groups, hold bake sales to support treatment centers, show your support for law enforcement, and so on. All of these efforts lead to fewer incidences of drug use within your community. That’s a good thing, not only for your community, but for you and your family too.

A Sober Home Is a Happy Home

Implementing the above strategies and reinforcing them may seem like a lot to add to your already busy schedule. That’s the number one objection to prevention efforts. You’re trying to stop a problem before it happens. The only measure for success is the fact that drug abuse is not a problem for you or your family. But the immediate question that follows is, “Did I need to do all of that just to keep a drug-free home?”

The honest answer is, maybe not, but is it worth the risk?

Just look at how terrible drug abuse and alcoholism is. Would you want even the slightest chance of this becoming an issue for your family members and loved ones?

When the alternative is so dire and terrible, doesn’t it make sense to do everything in your power to prevent that from ever happening?


Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.