Parents Who Use Marijuana Set Teens Up for Substance Abuse

Teenagers with a parent or parent-like authority figure who uses marijuana have increased chances of both using marijuana and drinking heavily, a new study from the RAND Corporation has found.

Teen Substance Use

An annual project called Monitoring the Future, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tracks the amount and types of substances consumed by American teenagers enrolled in 12th grade, 10th grade and eighth grade. Results from the 2013 version of Monitoring the Future indicate that roughly half (50.4 percent) of all 12th graders have used/abused marijuana or some other illicit drug or medication. The lifetime rate of illicit drug/medication intake among 10th graders is approximately 38.8 percent; roughly 20 percent of all eighth graders have illicitly consumed a drug or medication. Marijuana consumption occurs more often than any other form of drug or medication abuse in all three grades.

The 2013 Monitoring the Future results indicate that approximately 68 percent of all American 12th graders have consumed alcohol. The lifetime rate for alcohol consumption among 10th graders is roughly 52 percent; nearly 28 percent of all eighth graders have taken a drink. Alcohol consumption rates in all three grades is falling, while drug/medication consumption rates are rising. Increased intake of marijuana and other forms of cannabis largely accounts for the overall rise in drug/medication intake.

Impact of Parental Substance Use

Parental involvement in dysfunctional patterns of substance use can seriously impact the health and well-being of teenagers in several ways. For example, a parent dealing with substance abuse/addiction may fail to provide the type of supervision necessary to protect teenagers from their own tendency toward impulsive and uninformed decision-making. Teens with substance-abusing parents may also feel the need to take on a parenting role themselves in order to make up for a lack of oversight in the household. The stigma associated with abuse/addiction may drive a wedge between the bonds that normally connect parent and child. In addition, a teenager who grows up with a parent with diagnosable substance problems (i.e., substance use disorder) has a statistically higher chance of developing his or her own diagnosable problems at some later point in time.

How Do Parental Influences Affect the Risks?

In the study published in February 2015 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, the RAND researchers used data gathered from a group of 193 teenagers to assess the impact that parental substance use and other parent-related factors have on the chances that a teenager will develop a problematic pattern of substance intake. All of the study participants were enrolled in a California program designed for teens who first encounter the criminal justice system as a result of heavy alcohol consumption and marijuana use. The researchers asked each participant whether he or she consumed alcohol in the month prior to the start of study, whether he or she drank heavily in the month prior to the start of the study and whether he or she used marijuana in the month prior to the start of the study. They also asked each participant to detail patterns of parental substance use and describe the structure of the family unit and the types of values maintained in the family unit.

The researchers concluded that teenagers with a parent or authority figure who consumes marijuana have increased chances of drinking alcohol on any given day, increased chances of drinking in excessive amounts and increased chances of using marijuana. They also concluded that lack of a strong family structure increases the chances that an adolescent will use alcohol in any amount or drink excessively. In addition, the researchers concluded that two factors — living in a two-parent home and living in a family that places the values of the unit above the individual — make it less likely that a teenager who tries alcohol will continue to drink.

The study’s authors note that an increase in family-centered values over time leads to a decline in teen alcohol intake over time. They believe that intervention approaches centered on parent- and family-related issues relevant to each individual may significantly decrease the odds that an adolescent will fall into problematic substance use.

Posted on March 3rd, 2015

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