A new federal report brings good news to parents across the nation: teen drinking has been on the decline since 2002. General alcohol use as well as binge drinking are continuing to drop, and although there is much more to do, the report brings hope and promise.
The Annual Report
The United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has been surveying 70,000 people between the ages of 12 and 18 since 2002. Not only did alcohol use among teens drop from 13 to 11.6 percent last year, rates of drug abuse decreased from 9.5 to just under 9 percent. In the last decade, illegal drug use has gone down nearly 3 percent.
Other findings include:
- In the past month, rates of binge drinking decreased by one percent.
- Over the past decade, the number of preteens and teens driving under the influence of alcohol dropped three percent.
- Tobacco use is also on the decline, falling nearly seven percent in the last decade to a new low of just under eight percent.
- Marijuana is the most popular drug among teens, and its use continues to climb. In 2013, nearly 20 million teens were marijuana users.
- Other drug abuse such as cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and prescription opioids remained relatively unchanged.
The Importance of Drug Education and Parental Involvement
There are a number of factors that affect drug use among youth including:
- Perceived risk of substance abuse
- Perceived parental disapproval of substance use
- Attitudes among peers
- Delinquent behavior
- Performance at school
- Participation in extracurricular activities
- Religious beliefs
- Drug availability
- Drug education
- Parental involvement
Drug education is a major factor in drug prevention. Statistically, those who are exposed to prevention messages are less likely to experiment with drugs. However, the impact appears to be greater when parents are involved. Discussions about drugs at home, as well as parental disapproval of substance abuse, play a big role in a teen’s decision to use drugs.
Other factors that influence drug abuse such as trouble at school, boredom from lack of activities, and peer pressure can also be prevented with more parental involvement. A 2010 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that drug and alcohol use was lower among teens who reported that their parents monitored them in some way, whether it was by restricting time spent with friends, setting a curfew, monitoring homework or enforcing chores. Those whose parents were seldom or never involved were much more likely to experiment with drugs.
Saving Our Youth
The importance of drug education, prevention and treatment among teens is clear on so many levels. Teen drug abuse leads to shattered dignity, torn families, and ruined futures. It hinders academic performance. It stunts growth and impedes proper brain development, which can lead to IQ and memory problems later in life. It teaches teens to numb their problems rather than learn to handle life. And worst of all, it leads to a lifetime of addiction.
If we are to create a brighter future for our country, it will be through the time and effort we invest into the future generation. These are our doctors, our engineers, our entrepreneurs and inventors. These are future mothers and fathers. What kind of world will we have if most of the population is numbed and medicated?
Parents, teachers and all adults share a responsibility to set a good example, to properly educate, and to set a precedent for our children. As the SAMSHA report indicates, this is what is working, and this will continue to eliminate teen drug and alcohol use.