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Health & Parenting

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Family Dinners Reduce Teen Drug Use

Survey Shows Teens Who Don’t Eat Dinner With Families Are More Likely to Abuse Drugs
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 22, 2010 -- Teens who don’t sit down with their families for dinners on a regular basis are much more likely to use alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco, compared to young people who do eat meals with their parents, a new study shows.

A report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) says that, compared to teens who eat dinner with their families five to seven times per week, those who don’t are twice as likely to have used tobacco, nearly twice as likely to have used alcohol, and 1.5 times likelier to have used marijuana.

The CASA report also says that:

  • 72% of teens think eating dinner with their parents on a regular basis is very or fairly important.
  • Teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week are twice as likely to say they can obtain in an hour or less marijuana or prescription drugs they would use to get high, compared to peers eating five to seven family dinners weekly.

A Message for Parents

The report says 60% of teens who say they eat dinners with their families at least five times a week are less likely to say they have friends who use alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, or drugs that are prescribed for other people.

“The message for parents couldn’t be any clearer,” says Kathleen Ferrigno, CASA’s director of marketing. “With the recent rise in the number of Americans age 12 and older who are using drugs, it is more important than ever to sit down to dinner and engage your children in conversation about their lives, their friends, school - just talk.”

A Sept. 17 report by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said illicit drug use rose in 2009 by 8.7% among Americans age 12 and older. Ferrigno, who is also CASA’s head of an initiative called “Family Day-A Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children,” says in a news release that “the magic that happens over family dinners isn’t the food on the table, but the communication and conversations around it.”

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