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Problem parents contribute to teen drug use

August 14, 2008 | 11:25 am

Pot250 A survey on substance abuse among teens was released this morning that really lowers the boom on parents. The annual survey from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University calls out parents for contributing to drug and alcohol use among kids ages 12 to 17. Some parents fail to monitor their children's activities, do not safeguard medications at home that can be used for abuse, and do not set good examples for their kids, the report said. Almost half of the teens surveyed -- a nationally representative sample of 1,002 teens and 312 of their parents -- said they leave the house to hang out with friends on school nights. Among those teens, half who come home after 10 p.m. said they had been drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana or doing other drugs. Just under 30% of those who come home between 8 and 10 p.m. said they had been drinking or using drugs. In contrast, only 14% of the parents said their teens leave the house to hang out with friends on school nights.

Who is telling the truth? The report suggests that parents are pretty clueless about their kids' schedules and how they spend their free time.

"Every mother and father should look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are doing the parenting essential to help their child negotiate the difficult teen years free of tobacco, alcohol and drugs," said Elizabeth Planet, CASA's director of special projects.

CASA president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano said this:

"Preventing substance abuse among teens is primarily a mom and pop operation. It is inexcusable that so many parents fail to appropriately monitor their children, fail to keep dangerous prescription drugs out of the reach of their children and tolerate drug infected schools. The parents who smoke marijuana with children should be considered child abusers. By identifying the characteristics of problem parents we seek to identify the actions that parents can take -- and avoid -- in order to become part of the solution and raise healthy, drug-free children."

No one said parenting was easy, and parents in the survey said overwhelmingly that it's harder today to keep kids safe and raise them with good moral character than it was in previous generations. Resources to help and support parents are available, such as those that can be found on the CASA website. Also, try the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Youth Anti-Drug media campaign for more resources.

It would probably be helpful for all of us who are parents to get our heads out of the sand. Times change, and the culture kids are growing up in today is different from back in our day. For example, the survey also found these hair-raising trends:

  • For the first time in the survey's 13-year history, more teens said prescription drugs were easier to buy than beer.
  • 42% of the teens said they can buy marijuana in a day or less.
  • One-quarter of teens said they know a parent of a classmate or friend who uses marijuana and 10% of those teens said this parent smokes marijuana with teens.
  • Half of the teens ages 16 and 17 said that among their age group smoking marijuana is more common than smoking cigarettes.
  • Of the teens who drink, almost 30% said their drink of choice was hard liquor mixed with soda or something sweet compared with 16% who said they prefer beer.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Gary Freidman / Los Angeles Times

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