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Parents' View of Teen Drug Use: Your Kid, Not Mine

Survey Shows Parents Underestimate Their Own Teens' Use of Alcohol and Marijuana
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Best Defense: Talk to Your Teen

Biermann says parents should never assume that their teens are not vulnerable to drugs and alcohol, adding that parents need to stay vigilant and keep the lines of communication open.

"If your attitude is 'not my child', you will be missing an important opportunity to have the discussion or intervene," he says.

Tom Hedrick is senior communications officer and a founding member of Partnership @ Drugfree.org (formerly Partnership for a Drug-Free America), which conducts its own annual survey to track teen drug use and parental awareness.

"We routinely find that there is a huge gap between the percentage of kids who report experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco and the percentage of parents who think their child is doing it," Hedrick says.

He says parents should talk to their children about drugs and alcohol even if they don't suspect substance abuse.

"Kids who report learning about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are half as likely to try them," he tells WebMD. "Yet only about 1 in 3 kids report talking to their parents about this."

Lloyd Johnston, PhD, a research scientist at the University of Michigan says it is also important for parents to educate themselves about the drugs being abused in their community.

He cites the rise of the synthetic stimulant known as "bath salts" along with other designer drugs that have become popular with teen drug abusers.

"Things change and parents need to understand that there are always new things coming along," he says.

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