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Medicineworld.org: Parents In The Dark About Substance Abuse

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Parents In The Dark About Substance Abuse

Parents In The Dark About Substance Abuse
A team of scientists led by School of Medicine researchers has observed that parents often don't know when their children are using alcohol, nicotine or other drugs.

"We observed that parents knew their kids were using alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana only about half the time," said Laura Jean Bierut, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and principal investigator of the study.

In addition, the study, reported in the recent issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, observed that for cocaine or other illicit drugs, the number of parents who know is even lower, with only 28 percent reporting that their adolescent children used these drugs.

"For example, among 12- to 17-year olds, 8.5 percent of the children said that they had tried a drug other than marijuana, but only 3.1 percent of parents reported that their child had used one of these drugs," said Sherri L. Fisher, the study's first author and the project coordinator for the St. Louis site of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA).

The scientists surveyed 591 children ages 12 to 17, asking them questions about alcohol, tobacco and drug use. They also surveyed one parent per child to ask about whether their child ever had used alcohol or other drugs. A total of 438 parent-child pairs came from families participating in the COGA study, meaning that at least one member of their family had sought therapy for alcoholism. Another 153 pairs were from families recruited from the community. The scientists observed that parents who had experienced drug or alcohol problems themselves were no more likely to know that their children were using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

For example, 22.4 percent of kids ages 12 and 13 reported they had used alcohol, but only 12 percent of their parents answered in the affirmative when asked if their child had ever had a drink. Whether children as young as 12 have started to drink is important because the younger the child when alcohol use begins, the more likely that child will develop problems down the road.

By the time teens were old enough to drive, parents seemed to have a better idea about whether their children used alcohol, but there were still differences. Half of parents of 16- to 17-year-olds reported their kids had used alcohol, but 82 percent of those teens said they drank. More than 45 percent of those teen drinkers reported drinking until they were intoxicated, but only 16.5 percent of parents told scientists their child had ever been drunk. In addition, of the 49 children in the study who met official diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, 14 percent of their parents reported those children had never had a drink, and only 27 percent of parents agreed that their child had a problem.

"I think one of the main reasons for this disconnect is that kids don't come home and tell their parents that they're using alcohol or other drugs," Bierut said. "As a parent, I also believe that we're not talking to our kids enough and asking them if they're using or if they're ever at parties or other places where they could get alcohol or drugs."

The study was conducted to help determine how reliable parent information is when studying or treating adolescents with alcohol and drug problems. Bierut and Fisher say it's clear from these results that if doctors or scientists want good information about drug or alcohol use in adolescents, they need to ask the kids themselves.

"If you want to understand a child's alcohol or drug use, you have to ask them directly," Bierut said. "You can't get accurate information from their parents."

So what are parents to do? Bierut said keeping the lines of communication open is key, and so is listening to parental intuition.

"If you think your child is using alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs," she said, "you're probably right."


Posted by: JoAnn    Source




Did you know?
A team of scientists led by School of Medicine researchers has observed that parents often don't know when their children are using alcohol, nicotine or other drugs. "We observed that parents knew their kids were using alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana only about half the time," said Laura Jean Bierut, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and principal investigator of the study.

Medicineworld.org: Parents In The Dark About Substance Abuse

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