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14th Birthday Marks Turning Point in Teen Substance Abuse Risk

Contacts:
Lauren Duran, 212-841-5260, lduran@casacolumbia.org
Nancy Gavilanes, 212-841-5308, ngavilanes@casacolumbia.org

WASHINGTON, August 17, 2006 – One-third of teens and nearly half of 17-year olds attend house parties where parents are present and teens are drinking, smoking marijuana or using cocaine, Ecstasy or prescription drugs, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XI: Teens and Parents, an annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

CASA’s survey also reveals that teens who say parents are not present at the parties they attend are 16 times likelier to say alcohol is available, 15 times likelier to say illegal and prescription drugs are available and 29 times likelier to say marijuana is available, compared to teens who say parents are always present at the parties they attend.

“Teen drinking and drugging is a parent problem. Too many parents fail to fulfill their responsibility to chaperone their kids’ parties. They have no idea how drug- and alcohol-infested their teens’ world is,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s chairman and president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. “The denial, self-delusion and lack of awareness of these parental palookas put their children at enormous risk of drinking and using illegal and prescription drugs.”

Parental Blinders
The survey also found:
  • 80 percent of parents believe that neither alcohol nor marijuana is usually available at parties their teens attend. BUT 50 percent of teen partygoers attend parties where alcohol, drugs or both are available.
  • 98 percent of parents say they are normally present during parties they allow their teens to have at home. BUT a third of teen partygoers report that parents are rarely or never present at the parties they attend.
  • 99 percent of parents say they would not be willing to serve alcohol at their teen’s party. BUT 28 percent of teen partygoers have been at parties at a home where parents were present and teens were drinking alcohol.
  • Only 12 percent of parents see drugs as their teen’s greatest concern. BUT twice as many teens (27 percent) say drugs are their greatest concern.

“Parents need to wake up and smell the pot and beer,” Califano said. “If your teen is having a party at your home, you should not only be there, but be aware of what is going on. And if your teen attends a party at someone else’s home, confirm that the parents will be present and that alcohol and drugs will not. The reality is that even when parents are present at a party, some kids will try to sneak in substances.”

CASA’s eleventh teen survey finds that teens attending three or more parties a month are at two and one half times the risk for substance abuse compared to teens that do not attend parties.

The Dangerous Divide: Age 13 to 14
The transition from age 13 to age 14 is a particularly risky time for American teens.
Compared to 13-year olds, 14-year olds are:
  • Four times likelier to be offered prescription drugs;
  • Three times likelier to be offered Ecstasy;
  • Three times likelier to be offered marijuana; and
  • Two times likelier to be offered cocaine.

The CASA survey also reveals that, compared to 13-year olds, 14-year olds are almost three times likelier to attend parties where parents are present and teens drink alcohol; two times likelier to attend parties where parents are present and teens smoke pot; and four times likelier to attend parties where parents are present and teens use other drugs.

The Age of Rude Awakening: 17
By the time a teen reaches age 17:

  • One in four (26 percent) will personally know someone their age that was the victim of gun violence, and 27 percent will have personally witnessed drug sales in their neighborhood;
  • Seven out of 10 will have been offered an illegal drug; and
  • Almost half (46 percent) will have attended a party at which teens were drinking alcohol, smoking pot, or using cocaine, Ecstasy or prescription drugs while a parent was present.
Other striking findings:
  • One in five 12- to 17-year olds (19 percent) has personally witnessed the sale of drugs in their neighborhood, and these teens are more than two and one half times the risk of substance abuse compared to teens who have not seen the sale of drugs in their neighborhood.
  • One in five 12- to 17-year olds (19 percent) personally knows someone their age who was the victim of gun violence, and these teens are at twice the risk of substance abuse compared to teens who do not know someone their age who was the victim of gun violence.
  • Hispanic and African American 12- and 13-year olds are being offered illegal drugs at three times the rate of white 12- and 13-year olds (20 percent vs. seven percent).
  • For the first time, the CASA survey reveals that at every age, the substance abuse gender gap has closed. Girls 12 to 17 are at equal or higher substance abuse risk compared to boys of the same age.
  • Ten million 12- to 17-year olds (38 percent) say they can buy marijuana within a day, and 5 million (19 percent) can buy marijuana in an hour or less.
  • Parental separation and divorce are associated with higher teen substance-abuse risk.
  • Most high school students (51 percent) and one in five middle school students (20 percent) attend a school where drugs are used, kept or sold.

QEV Analytics conducted The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XI: Teens and Parents from March 9 to April 30, 2006. The firm interviewed at home by telephone a nationally representative random sample of 1,297 12- to 17-year olds (591 boys, 706 girls) and 562 parents (84 percent of whom were parents of teens surveyed). To compensate for under-representation of Hispanic and African American teens, an over-sample of these groups was obtained by surveying in counties with high concentrations of the target populations (40 percent or more Hispanic or African American). Sampling error is +/- three percent for teens, +/- four 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 has issued 61 reports and white papers, published one book, conducted demonstration projects focused on children, families and schools at 155 sites in 63 cities and counties in 26 states plus Washington, DC and a Native American tribal reservation, and has been testing 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 Childrentm -- the fourth Monday in September – the 25th in 2006 -- that promotes parental engagement as a simple and effective way to reduce children’s risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs. For more information visit http://www.casacolumbia.org/.

 
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