Michele Borba Blog: Teen Drinking and Substance Abuse Up – 4 Key Parenting Lessons

by | Mar 21, 2010 | Uncategorized

After almost a decade of a decline in teen drug abuse, a new survey out this month shows a marked and troubling upswing in youth substance abuse. While there are some encouraging stats, the overall findings should make every parent keep an even closer eye on their child and not only in our own homes. Case in point, this little factoid: The study found that the place where teens are most likely to encounter drugs is at parties and other social situations. While that may not seem shocking, what concerns me is that kids tell us that many parties are not adult supervised and in some cases it’s the adults who are the suppliers.

The survey was done by The Partnership for a Drug-Free America and called the “MetLife Foundation Attitude Tracking Study.” involving hundreds of Americans teens. Here are highlights that every parent should know:

Alcohol, ecstasy, and marijuana use are increasing:

  • Number of teens in grades 9-12 that used alcohol in the past month has grown by 11 percent, (from 35 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2009)
  • Ecstasy use over the past year shows a 67 percent increase (from 6 percent in 2008 to 10 percent in 2009)
  • Marijuana use shows a 19 percent increase (from 32 percent in 2008 to 38 percent in 2009)

Teen attitudes about substance abuse are also changing. Read these comments carefully:

  • Percentage of teens agreeing that “being high feels good” increased significantly from 45 percent in 2008 to 51 percent in 2009.
  • Teens agreeing with the statement that “friends usually get high at parties” increased from 69 percent to 75 percent over the same time period.

Teen prescription medication abuse findings are still high but stable:

  • Teen abuse of Rx medicines has remained stable with about 1 in 5 teens in grades 9-12 (20 percent) or 3.2 million reporting abuse of a prescription medication at least once in their lives.
  • 1 in 7 teens (15 percent) o reporting abuse of a prescription pain reliever in the past year
  • Eight percent or 1.3 million teens reported OTC cough medicine abuse in the past year

The national study also stressed the need for parents to step up to the plate and take action ASAP as more teens are using alcohol, Ecstasy and marijuana. I couldn’t agree more. The most disturbing finding (for me anyway) was this: “Of those parents of teens who have used, nearly half (47 percent) either waited to take action or took no action at all.”  And if you do suspect substance abuse, do not wait. Immediate intervention is critical for success. Delaying help is not only dangerous, but can have tragic results.

Let’s keep a little perspective here. Parents are the best anti-drug. Always have been and always will be—that is if we choose to use our influence, stay connected with our kids and keep educated about reports such as these. Research shows that parental monitoring, setting clear curfews, knowing your children’s friends, and being a hands-on parent can dramatically reduce the risk of your teen’s substance abuse.

There are also parenting lessons from the study are obvious but sometimes easily overlooked. Here are my four take-aways:

  • Parenting Lesson 1: “Don’t make any assumptions about your teen and don’t take the, ‘Not My Kid View.'” Peer pressure is huge. Kids do want to fit in. Alcohol is easily accessible (so teens say). And adolescence is a time of experimentation and when that “if-then” part of their pre-frontal lobe doesn’t always work to put on the brake system.
  • Parenting Lesson 2: “Know the parents of your teen’s friends.” Stay connected with other parents. Pledge to supervise and monitor each other’s kids and pledge that there will be no unsupervised parties. Keep your house open and kid-friendly.
  • Parenting Lesson 3: “Know where your teen is at all times.” Monitor! Monitor! Monitor! Don’t overlook those after school hours. The times our kids are most likely to get into trouble: three to six o’clock in the afternoon.

For specific ways to talk to your kids about alcohol refer to: Michele Borba Blog: “Why we must talk to our kids about drinking sooner than later, and how to do so.”