Too Many Parents Believe They Have ‘Little Influence’ Over Teen Drug Use

Too Many Parents Believe They Have ‘Little Influence’ Over Teen Drug Use

Too Many Parents Believe They Have ‘Little Influence’ Over Teen Drug Use

Too Many Parents Believe They Have ‘Little Influence’ Over Teen Drug UseThe 2012 Monitoring the Future study shows that teens use both illicit and prescription medicines to get high, and that marijuana—the most popular illicit drug—has been used by more than a third of high school seniors. Although your teen’s friends are important influencers when it comes to the likelihood of him or her using drugs, new research suggests that more than one in five parents believes that what he or she says has “little influence” over the teen’s behavior. This statistic is shocking, and underlines the importance of educating parents regarding teen drug use and how to prevent it.

The Statistics

The new report comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and is based on data from parents of kids 12 to 17 years old, gathered from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. A whopping 22.3 percent thought what they said had little influence over their teen’s behavior, and almost one in 10 (9.1 percent) hadn’t said anything to their teens about the dangers of drugs or alcohol in the previous year. The data does show that a majority of parents regularly talk to their teens about drugs and believe what they say has an influence, but the amount who don’t is still troubling.

Who Else Is Going to Do It?

The importance of talking to your teen about the dangers of using illicit drugs, prescription medicines and alcohol is summed up by one simple question: Who else is going to do it? You might assume that school lectures or TV programs will convey the risks of drugs and alcohol—but do you think that they’ll believe what they hear from those sources?

The truth is that in the absence of positive parental influence, teens are more likely to use drugs – and the company they keep is important. Research has shown that positive parenting has a “protective” effect, making it less likely that teens will have large numbers of substance abusing friends or take drugs themselves. When teens didn’t think that parents would disapprove of drug use or find out about it, they made more drug abusing friends and were more likely to take drugs. Basically, if teens aren’t regularly steered in the right direction regarding drug and alcohol use, they’ll find out about them from their drug-using friends.

Unless your teen’s friends happen to be incredibly responsible and well-versed in the dangers of substance abuse, he or she will probably wind up with some questionable information. If the first thing your teen hears about pot is that it helps you relax and has no risks, do you really think he’ll have a problem with smoking it? However, if his friend tells him the same thing after you’ve explained the risks of smoking pot, the increased chance of schizophrenia and the negative effects on mental development, he’ll know to question the story he got from his friends. Informing your teens protects them against misinformation from their peers.

Keep On Top of the Issue

The best advice is to talk to your teens about drugs regularly. For younger children, basic information is sufficient—that drugs are dangerous, you can become addicted to them and they ruin people’s lives. As they get older, it’s important to offer more detailed information; to update your advice. You can explain that alcohol and prescription drugs carry significant risks, even though they’re legal, go into more detail about the physical health effects of illicit and legal drugs and explain the additional risks of things like drugged or drunk driving.

The important things to remember are to take your teen’s age into account and to regularly have talks. You don’t have to be constantly riding them about it — just take an interest in their friends, what they do in their spare time, and how they’re doing. If you’re more aware of what’s going on in their life, you’re more likely to notice a change in friend groups or activities.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

The one in five parents who think what they say to their teens has “little influence” on their behavior are very wrong, but there is a grain of truth in the belief. Teens are influenced by what you say, but they’re also influenced by what you do. If you tell your teens that alcohol is not a good way to deal with stress, but regularly turn to the bottle after a tough day, you’re giving them mixed messages. On one hand, you tell them about the dangers of addiction, but you’re also relying on addictive substances in your times of stress.

It isn’t easy, but along with talking to your teens about drugs and alcohol, you also have to manage your own use. Even a parent quitting smoking can convey to a teen how difficult it is to overcome addiction and make them think again about getting caught up in illegal drugs. Make sure your teens know about the dangers of drug abuse, and if you’re struggling yourself, admit it to them and show them that you’re trying to do something about it.

Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.

Call our experts today.