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Most Parents Know About Teen's Substance Use

What you don't know may hurt you, but most parents do know about the extent of their children's substance use, according to recent research from the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions. In this study, 75 parents and their teens (average age of 16) were interviewed separately about the extent to which the teens were using cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs. 86 percent of parents accurately reported both the presence and the amount of cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use by their children; reports of other teen drug use besides marijuana were less accurate at 72 percent.

Those parents who were less aware of their teens' substance use were parents of young teens (under 16), parents who less frequently monitored their child's whereabouts and friendships, and parents who had significant problems of their own, such as depression, increased stress, or regularly/heavily using alcohol.

The message? While no parent wants to learn that their child is experimenting with substances, this knowledge can pave the way for discussion about substance use and abuse, as well as consequences. It also reinforces the importance of monitoring your child's whereabouts-after school and on weekends. If you are struggling with your own problems, especially if you regularly use alcohol, consider reducing the use of such substances and seeking help for issues that may prevent you from paying close attention to your child.

Remember, too, that early intervention for substance abuse can make the difference between a teen getting through a difficult time to emerge wiser and smarter, or sliding into a lifetime of trouble. A troubled teen program, such as wilderness therapy or even a boarding school, can provide the highly structured environment your teen needs to get back on track.