Do You Really Know Your Teens?

Substance abuse underestimate by most parents

(RxWiki News) Most parents believe the best in their children even when it comes to alcohol and drugs, but peer pressure and curiosity may be more powerful than some parents want to believe.

Even though some parents are aware that other teens drink alcohol and do drugs, they don’t believe that their own children are doing so. Researchers suggest tips that might help parents see the truth and provide statistics on how many teens are smoking or drinking.

"Educate your kids about drugs before it’s too late."

Bernard Biermann, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and the medical director of the Child/Adolescent Inpatient Unit at the University of Michigan, says there is a clear mismatch between what parents believe and what teens are actually reporting.

One in ten parents believe their teens between the ages of 13 and 17 drank alcohol in the past year and even fewer parents, 5 percent, believe their teens smoked marijuana in the past year. In actuality, 52 percent of teens in 10th grade reported drinking alcohol in the past year and 28 percent admitted using marijuana.

This huge difference in parental perception shows just how important awareness and communication are needed regarding teenage substance use, Biermann says. Parents need to acknowledge the possibility that their kids are experimenting or falling for peer pressure, he adds, if parents know then they can start talking to their teens and maybe even provide some guidance.

The researchers used a nationally representative household survey that was conducted by Knowledge Networks, Inc. The surveys were administered in May 2011 to parents who were 18 and older with children between the ages of 13 and 17. There was a 54 percent completion rate among parents.

It's known that many parents are worried about drug and alcohol abuse as major health concerns for children, so it’s important that educational campaigns about teen substance use reach out to both teens and parents, says Matthew Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health and associate professor in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Biermann provides some tips on how to handle teen substance use:

  • Talk to your teenager in a non-threatening manner
  • Look for any signs of substance use in teens
  • Try not to overreact to a single instance of substance use – instead listen and be available as a resource for resisting peer pressure
  • Talk with your teens’ friends and friends parents – they may know more than you
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse has information that can educate you on signs and symptoms of substance abuse

This observational study from Ann Arbor, Michigan was published on September 12, 2011 in the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Review Date: 
September 12, 2011