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Parents Underestimate Influence Over Teens' Substance Abuse: Survey

FRIDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- About one in five parents think they have little control over whether their teens take up smoking, drinking or illicit drug use, a new U.S. government survey finds.

That's too bad, say experts at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), since new research shows that parents are actually one of the most influential forces helping to shape their child's views on these issues.

"Surveys of teens repeatedly show that parents can make an enormous difference in influencing their children's perceptions of tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drug use," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde in a news release.

The new findings are based on the agency's most recent survey of more than 67,000 Americans ages 12 and older. The survey also found that one in every 10 parents has not talked to their teens about tobacco, alcohol or other drugs -- even though two-thirds of these same parents believe such a talk might sway their child away from these substances.

"Although most parents are talking with their teens about the risks of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, far too many are missing the vital opportunity these conversations provide in influencing their children's health and well-being," Hyde said. "Parents need to initiate age-appropriate conversations about these issues with their children at all stages of their development in order to help ensure that their children make the right decisions."

According to SAMHSA, prior studies have shown that when teens believe parents strongly disapprove of their smoking, drinking or trying illicit drugs, they are much less likely to do so. In one survey, just 5 percent of teens who thought their parents would strongly disapprove of their trying marijuana had actually used pot, compared to 32 percent of teens who thought their parents might not have that level of disapproval.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on teen alcohol and drug abuse.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, news release, May 24, 2013

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