Summer Series: Eps 196, Kids, Drugs and my Conversation with Liz Blackwell-Moore

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Today I am bringing back my conversation with Liz Blackwell-Moore from episode 128. Liz and I go deep into the conversation of substance use and abuse and how to be in relationship with our kids while also navigating the very real decisions they may or may not decide to make. I know, this topic is tough. We all want our kid to be safe and healthy…. And we all feel the fear around the very real risks some of them take. This conversation is powerful and left me feeling more grounded about this super intense part of the parenting teens journey. Check it out.

Alright - My guest today is Liz Blackwell-Moore. I connected with Liz through my friend, and one of your fave podcast guests, Julietta Skoog from I am so excited to have Liz on today to talk about an incredibly relevant topic – kids and drugs. GAH. I know. No one really WANTS to talk about this, but we have to.

Liz has been working in the field of substance use since 2000. Her current work involves working with community coalitions and organizations to provide training on prevention strategies as well as technical assistance to translate public health research into practice and implement a restorative trauma-informed approach to addressing public health problems.

So basically, Liz is going to break it all down for us in a way that is helpful.  She lives in Portland, Maine with her wife, two happy kids, and a puppy.


  • Liz shares about her early work with people involved with substance abuse and was drawn to exploring prevention work

  • How can we make “systems” (including the family) better for young people, with more support in their lives?

  • What the “risk taking years” feels like, according to Casey

  • Liz shares her moms’ analogy of the two boats

  • Adolescent brain development

    • It’s like a house being build bottom up

    • Built through interactions and the environment kids experience

    • Reward center develops first – ready to go, “volume turned up”

    • Front, logical part of brain not fully developed, and not integrated

    • W/o the desire to try new things, how would they ever leave home??

  • The perception and science of marijuana and adolescence

    • National Academy of Sciences – research on the research

      • Young people using

        • Impacts learning and memory

        • Significant effects on mental health

          • “Regular use” – once every 30 days

          • 2xs more likely to become depressed

          • 3xs more likely to have suicidal thoughts

          • Kids with MH issues are more likely to use/self-medicate

        • Initially make people feel calm/relaxed

          • Brain likes to do what’s easy so eventually wants more

        • What about vaping

          • Tobacco companies are SO LAME – trying to suck in kids

          • Some kids just the flavoring

            • Not regulated – we don’t know what is in it

          • Lots of kids ARE putting nicotine and weed into the vape

        • All drugs impact the reward center of the brain – putting young people at a greater risk of addiction later in life

          • Rewires/primes the brain for addiction

        • How do we get them to wait????

        • Relationship is the most powerful tool we have… Share our values… AND – THEY HAVE CRAZY REWARD CENTERS!!! GAH!!!

          • Be present, listen, develop a strong relationship

          • Set clear expectations – bring it up in a variety of ways

          • Continue to bring it back to what their goals are, how might risky behavior get in the way?

          • Help them to “see” the bigger picture

          • Restorative practices: Hold them accountable while offering support

            • What are you getting out of this?

            • What were you thinking?

            • How else can you get thrills?

            • Social connection?

            • Is this a mental health issue?

          • Having these conversations REQUIRES the adults to be in solid relationship with their kids

          • Also, our stuff shows up and gets in the way – fear, rigidity

          • Ok to say, “this is disappointing” “this is hard for me” – they need to know how they are impacting their parents

          • Teens aren’t great with nuance

          • SLEEP MATTERS!!

          • Natural consequences are powerful

          • Boundaries are MESSY

          • How do we balance nurture and structure?? It’s a dance

          • How do we know when it really is a problem?

            • Major changes in physical appearance

            • Personality

            • Participation

            • Peer group changes

            • Public image has changed

          • org – online resources

          • 20-minute guide – helping parents use motivational interviewing

          • Find your people!

          • There is uncertainty and change AND we all have flexible, learning brains – we can be resilient!!

What does Joyful Courage mean to you?

For me it means trying to see those amazing things that are happening as you move through adolescence – having the courage to stick with your values and follow our instincts…


Good reading on the teen brain:
Dan Siegel Brainstorm
Francis Jensen The Teenage Brain

Links for young people:
*This is National Institute of Drug Abuse website for teens
*This is a website out of Colorado for young people specifically about marijuana use

Where to find Liz: (under-construction)
Linked in


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