Statement of Steve Pasierb, President
NEW YORK, Dec. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- The 2008 Monitoring the Future study (MTF) indicates the continuation of a promising trend of declining usage rates of certain drugs -- particularly stimulants like methamphetamine, cocaine and crack -- among our country's teens. However, it also indicates several areas of growing concern.
The long-term decline in methamphetamine use, especially among 12th graders, carries particular importance. Since 1999, use of the highly addictive drug that devastated regions of the country in the past decade has dropped by two-thirds among this age group. Through the combined efforts of parents regularly talking about the risks of using meth with their teens -- paired with local education initiatives like the Partnership's Meth360(R) program operating in 24 states -- there is strong hope that this progress will continue.
Positive trends were also reported in two other key areas -- use of over-the-counter cold and cough medicines to get high, and teen use of anabolic steroids. The abuse of OTC cold and cough medicines is one of the most concerning trends in teen drug use, and news that prevalence of this behavior among 8th and 12th graders has declined even a small percentage is an indicator that prevention efforts have begun to have an impact, and that these must continue.
Additionally, steroid use has been in steady decline since 2001, and since that time, use has dropped by one-third among 12th graders, and by half among 8th and 10th graders, which bodes well for the health of young athletes.
Reasons for Concern
Despite this good news, the 2008 MTF study highlights three areas of concern that should serve as a call-to-action for all parents and the substance abuse prevention field at large -- strong reminders that we must not divert our attention from this critical family health issue.
First, the abuse of prescription medications continues at alarming levels. The fact that 15 percent of 12th graders report abusing a prescription drug in the past year -- and that this prevalence has remained steady for several years -- is a stark contrast to the progress made against illicit drugs.
Parents cannot wait for the "right time" to have a discussion with their teens about the dangers of abusing prescription medications. They must act now -- first by educating themselves and understanding that abusing medicines can be just as dangerous as using illicit drugs; then by talking to their teens about the risks; and lastly by safeguarding medications at home and disposing of unneeded prescriptions.
The second area of concern is among eighth graders, where there has been a weakening in the perceived risk of using inhalants -- household products that are sniffed to get high. In 2008, this age group also reported a lower rate of disapproval of this behavior.
Lastly, MTF indicates that the decade-long decline in marijuana use among all grades has leveled off, and among 8th and 12th graders, there is weakening in the perceived risk of using marijuana regularly.
Historically, when risk perceptions weaken, the likelihood of use increases. As such, attitudes about both marijuana and inhalant use are in potentially dangerous transition periods, and use may be poised to rise in the future. Prevention efforts, especially by parents, are warranted and encouraged to head off an unnecessary backslide.
While parents and caring adults have the greatest preventive influence over a teen's decision to try drugs, research shows that there is a statistically significant correlation between increased teen exposure to anti-drug messages on television and a decreased likelihood of trying drugs. It is concerning to note that the softening of risk perceptions among a new generation of teens coincides with a time of reduced budget for the federal government's National Youth Anti Drug Media Campaign.
Parents can learn more information, including tips on talking to teens about drugs and alcohol at drugfree.org/parent.
|SOURCE Partnership for a Drug-Free America|
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