Kids Health

Teens more likely to use drugs and alcohol if parents do

From the September 2009 edition
Compared to teens who have not seen their parent(s) drunk, those who have are more than twice as likely to get drunk in a typical month, and three times more likely to use marijuana and smoke cigarettes, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIV: Teens and Parents, the 14th annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

The CASA survey found that 51 percent of 17-year-olds have seen one or both of their parents drunk and 34 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have seen one or both of their parents drunk.
Teen drinking behavior is strongly associated with how teens believe their fathers feel about their drinking. Compared to teens who believe their father is against their drinking, teens who believe their father is okay with their drinking are two and a half times more likely to get drunk in a typical month.

The survey found that five percent of 12- to 15-year-old girls and nine percent of 12- to 15-year-old boys say their fathers are okay with their drinking. Thirteen percent of 16- and 17-year-old girls and 20 percent of 16- and 17-year-old boys say their fathers are okay with their drinking.
"Some moms' and dads' behavior and attitudes make them parent enablers-parents who send their 12- to 17-year-olds a message that it's okay to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs like marijuana," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA's chairman and founder and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. "Teens' behavior is strongly associated with their parents' behavior and expectations, so parents who expect their children to drink and use drugs will have children who drink and use drugs."

Prescription drugs readily available
For the first time this year, the survey asked 12- to 17-year-olds how fast they can get prescription drugs to get high within a day. Nearly one in five teens (4.7 million) can get them within an hour.

When teens were asked where they would get prescription drugs, the most common sources were home, parents, other family members and friends. For the second year in a row more teens said prescription drugs were easier to buy than beer.

Drinking, drugging and sex
This year the CASA survey took a close look at teen drinking and discovered that 65 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds who drink monthly report that they get drunk at least once in a typical month. Eighty-five percent of 17-year-old drinkers get drunk at least once in a typical month.

The survey found that one third of teen drinkers usually drink with the intention to get drunk. Eighty-five percent of teen drinkers who say that when they drink they usually drink to get drunk do so at least once a month. Of those teens who do NOT set out to get drunk, 33 percent find themselves drunk at least once a month.

Compared to teens who have never tried alcohol, teens who get drunk monthly are:
  •     18 times more likely to have tried marijuana;
  •     Four times more likely to be able to get marijuana in an hour;
  •     Almost four times more likely to know someone their age who abuses prescription drugs;
  •     More than three times likelier to have friends who use marijuana; and
  •     More than twice as likely to know someone their age who uses meth, ecstasy, or other drugs such as cocaine, heroin or LSD.

Compared to teens who have never tried alcohol, those who get drunk at least once a month are:
  •     Twice as likely to know a girl who was forced to do something sexual she didn't want to do; and
  •     Nearly four times likelier to know a guy who uses drugs or alcohol to hook up.

"The message for parents is loud and clear. If your teen is drinking, the odds are your teen is getting drunk. And teens who get drunk are much likelier to try marijuana and hang out with friends who are abusing prescription drugs and illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin," said Elizabeth Planet, CASA's Vice President and Director of Special Projects. "Parents who think their kids are just having an occasional drink each month need to wake up and smell the beer and pot."

Marijuana availability up sharply
Between 2007 and 2009 there was a 37 percent increase in the percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds who say marijuana is easier to buy than cigarettes, beer or prescription drugs (19 percent to 26 percent).

Forty percent of teens (10 million) can get marijuana within a day; nearly one-quarter of teens (5.7 million) can get it in an hour.

Teens who say that the decision to use marijuana by someone their age is not a big deal are four times more likely to use it compared to teens who say this decision is a big deal. Teens whose parents believe the decision to use marijuana is not a big deal are almost twice as likely to use the drug, compared to teens whose parents say this decision is a big deal.

Most teens who smoke cigarettes (56 percent) say the decision to use marijuana is not a big deal.

Other notable findings
    Two-thirds of high school students say that drugs are used, kept or sold at their school. Sixty percent of parents say that their child's school is not drug free. Of parents who say their teen's school is not drug free, almost half think there is nothing they can do about it, and less than a quarter have even tried.

"Parents are the key to raising drug-free kids and they have the power to do it if they send their children the clear message to choose not to use and demand that the schools their children attend be drug free," noted Califano whose book How to Raise a Drug Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents, was published this month by Simon & Schuster's Touchstone/Fireside Division.
QEV Analytics conducted The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIV: Teens and Parents from March 2 to April 5, 2009 (teens) and March 21 to April 10, 2009 (parents).

The firm interviewed at home by telephone a national random sample of 1,000 12- to 17-year- olds (509 boys, 491 girls) and 452 of their parents. Sampling error is +/- 3.1 percent for teens and +/- 4.6 percent for parents.

CASA is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA and its staff of more than 50 professionals has issued 68 reports and white papers, published one book, conducted demonstration programs focused on children, families and schools at 238 sites in 91 cities and counties in 35 states, Washington, DC and two Native American reservations, held 17 conferences attended by professionals and others from 49 states, and has been evaluating the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment in a variety of programs and drug courts. CASA is the creator of the nationwide initiative Family Day-A Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children the fourth Monday in September-the 28th in 2009-that promotes parental engagement as a simple and effective way to reduce children's risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs.

In May 2007, CASA's Chairman Joseph A. Califano, Jr., called for a fundamental shift in the nation's attitude about substance abuse and addiction with publication of his book, HIGH SOCIETY: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What to Do About It. For more information visit www.casacolumbia.org.