According to the pile of paper on my desk, the latest research news confirms, ”at home” and “early” spell trouble for our kids.
I get to see a lot of data that help us understand the health risks of youth substance abuse. Sometimes it’s tough to make sense of all of the numbers and conclusions these studies put forth. However, a few came across my desk in recent weeks that have a consistent theme for parents…
First, findings from right here at the Partnership that confirm both the fact prescription drug abuse is a serious problem among our teens today – one in five report having done it and also that teens say the number one source of the products they are abusing is their own home medicine cabinet, the medicine cabinet of a family member, or a friends home.
Second, an analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reporting that 45 percent of childhood drinkers ages 12 to 14 report getting their alcohol free from adult family members (30 percent) or take the alcohol from their own home (15 percent). Remember, we’re talking about 12-14 year-olds here!
Then, another study that reports, “the earlier a person begins drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to have ever used other drugs illicitly.” It’s called the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiological Survey. Now while that name’s a mouthful, the finding that half of those who began drinking at age 14 or younger had also used illicit drugs in their lifetime, compared to just around one-tenth of those who began drinking at age 20 or older should make all us sit up in our seats and think about the kids in our lives! All of the analysis done by the study authors boils down to the single fact that starting alcohol use at a younger age was the strongest independent predictor of ever using drugs illicitly.
So you may see where am I going with this. It comes back to my favorite theme, that parents have real power. We have the unique ability to control access to these products in our own homes and to educate kids about the risks they pose to their health. While we certainly can’t ourselves control drug trafficking over national borders, we sure as heck can control what’s accessible in the family medicine cabinet, the kitchen refrigerator or in the family room. What’s more, parents have real power as once again we see helping your child avoid childhood drinking and drug use has benefits that last them throughout their lives.
Even the most dramatic of study findings defining a problem are not reasons for hopelessness, rather they offer hope and further emphasis that talking with our kids about drugs and alcohol , preventing their use and intervening when early use occurs can and does make a profound, positive impact. It’s not always easy, but it makes a big difference.