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Teen Substance Abuse

Parents Dramatically Underestimate the Likelihood of Their Teen Children Using Drugs or Alcohol

Only 5% of parents believe their teen son or daughter has used marijuana in the last year…in actual fact 28% of teens have.

Parents…open your eyes! That’s what University of Michigan Children’s Hospital researchers might say after perusing the results of their survey study which indicated just how dramatically parents underestimated the likelihood their own children used drugs or alcohol as they overestimated the likelihood that other people’s kids were getting drunk and high.

Based on a nationwide survey poll of parents of teens between the ages of 13 and 17, here are the numbers:

  • 10% of parents believed their teenage son or daughter had used alcohol within the last year and only 5% of parents believed their teenage child had used marijuana over that same times period.
  • When asked to estimate how many other teens were using drugs and alcohol, these same parents guessed that 40% of teens would have used marijuana within the last 12 months and 60% would have used alcohol.
  • In actual fact, according to recent survey data from the National Institute of Health, 28% of teens have used marijuana within the last 12 months and 52% have consumed alcohol within that same time period.

Lead researcher Dr. Bernard Biermann commented on the results by urging parents to open their eyes to the likelihood of substance abuse experimentation, saying, "If parents acknowledge the possibility -- and in fact, the likelihood -- that their child may have experimented with or used alcohol or marijuana, they can begin to talk to them more about it, provide some guidance, and allow their kids to ask questions."

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