Parents, Talk to Kids About Drugs. They Hear You
A new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that when parents talk about drugs, alcohol and tobacco, teens listen. Parents who make known their disapproval of substance use have children who are less likely to use substances.
SAMHSA gathers information through various collection tools, one of which is the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The survey asks individuals about drug use, as well as various other health and lifestyle questions. Its data is often used to detect trends in drug use, but also to find out what factors are associated with a lack of drug use.
The report adds to exiting research that indicates that teens do listen to parents when it comes to using substances. Those who believe that their parents do not approve of substance use are less likely to participate in substance use.
The data from SAMHSA indicates that one in 10 parents are not convinced of the power of their words enough to use them. These parents chose not to discuss with their children about the hazards associated with drug use. In addition, the report finds that 20 percent of parents do not believe that they have any influence over whether their teens use alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
However, the researchers also found that 68 percent of parents who reported not having conversations with their kids about the dangers of drug use believed that their words might make a difference in whether their child used drugs.
Given the pessimism among parents, it may be surprising that the SAMHSA report indicates that those teens that believe their parents would disapprove highly of substance use were not as likely to use drugs, alcohol or tobacco as teens who indicated otherwise.
Supporting this finding was a decreased level of marijuana use among those teens who assumed that their parents would highly disapprove of them using marijuana even only one or two times. Those who indicated an anticipated disapproval from parents had a use rate of 5 percent, versus 32 percent among those who did not believe their parents would strongly disapprove.
SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde explains that teen surveys are repeatedly showing this pattern. Parents can make a significant impact on their child’s perceptions of substance use
While many parents are taking the opportunity to talk with their teens about the dangers of substance use, too many parents are missing out on a chance to help their teen make important decisions. The decisions related to substance use have a major impact on individuals’ short-term and long-term health and well-being, says Hyde.
Hyde suggests that parents engage in conversations about substance use at all stages of development, so that children decide long before they get into their teen years that they will avoid substance use.
Often, parents are helping teens work out these decisions before they are in a situation where they are feeling pressured by peers or other types of social pressure. The decision may be easier because they have already made it.
Parents are also encouraged to maintain an open dialogue about decisions related to alcohol, tobacco and drugs and to watch for signs that teens have begun experimenting with substances. Sudden changes in behavior, including a change in general temperament, might indicate that a teen is experimenting with drugs.