Parents are a powerful influence in keeping their teens off of drugs

Parents are a powerful influence in keeping their teens off of drugs and other risky behaviors, such as underage drinking, cigarette use, and sexual activity.

And according to new data, the majority of teens say the greatest risk in using marijuana is upsetting their parents (69%), followed by losing the respect of friends and family (67.2%). To better help parents prevent all types of risk-taking among teens, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and health and prevention leaders have partnered to raise awareness about the consequences of risky behaviors among teens, including drug use, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity.

Compared to a generation ago, most of today's teens are thriving. Drug, alcohol, tobacco, and teen pregnancy rates are all down. But recent surveys show that among the Nation's 12-17-year-olds, each day 3,430 try marijuana for the first time; 7,500 try alcohol; 3,900 try cigarettes; and one in five teenage girls has at least one birth by age 20. In a typical high school class in America today, the number of students engaging in risky behaviors is staggering: seven out of 30 kids are using drugs; 13 drink alcohol; six smoke cigarettes; and 10 are sexually active. Indeed, new data also shows that more than four in 10 adolescents have been offered drugs, and about one in four have been offered drugs at school.

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., ONDCP unveiled a new "Open Letter" print ad that highlights proven actions parents can take to help their teens successfully navigate the minefield of risky behaviors during the adolescent years, including setting rules and consequences, keeping close tabs on their teens, and monitoring their teens' time on the Internet. The Open Letter ad, signed by 16 prevention and parenting organizations, including the American Legacy Foundation, the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, will be published next week in the top 25 media markets in national and local newspapers, and in select magazines.

Research shows that teens who have a positive relationship with their parents are less likely to engage in risky behaviors:

  • Positive relationships or connectedness between parents and adolescents is linked to avoidance or lower use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs;
  • Adolescents who have high-quality relationships with their parents are less likely to initiate sex or be sexually active;
  • Teens whose parents use a "balanced" parenting style -- are warm, and involved, firm in setting limits, and show respect for their teen -- do better in school, report less depression, and anxiety, have higher self-esteem and self-reliance, and are less likely to engage in all types of risky or problem behavior, including drug and alcohol use, sex, or violence.

"We're here to tell parents they are not alone. Research tells us there are some straightforward steps parents can take not only to help prevent drug use, but to reduce risk-taking across-the-board," said John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "We think parents and caregivers will find the information on how to monitor their kids practical and useful in their everyday lives."

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