Teens, Drinking, Drugs, and “Clueless” Parents

beer Last week, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse released the results of a new study on teen alcohol and drug use. It’s not a pretty picture. Among the findings:

  • 80% of parents believe that neither alcohol nor marijuana is usually available at teen gatherings, but 50% of their kids say they attend parties where alcohol, drugs or both are available.
  • 98% of parents say they are normally present during parties in their homes, while a third of teens report that parents are rarely around.
  • 38% of teens say they can buy marijuana within a day; 19% can complete the transaction in an hour or less.

Prior to my job here at Generations for Life, I was a high school teacher. Based on what many former students divulged during classroom discussions (in which many often spoke in a manner I frequently found to be surprisingly candid), coupled with innumerable student conversations I overheard (in which many of these same students didn’t make much of an effort to keep their teacher[s] from hearing), my experience gives me no reason to doubt the accuracy of these statistics. The Chicago Tribune, to its credit, saw fit to give the study front page treatment. Two remarks in particular — one from an adult, one from a teen — caught my attention. CASA chairman Joseph Califano stated bluntly:

Parents are living in a fool’s paradise. They’ve got to take the blinders off and pay attention. If asbestos were in the ceiling, they’d raise hell. But their schools are riddled with drugs. If they’d say, “Get the drugs out” with the same energy, we’d get somewhere. This is a wake-up call.

David Cosby, a sophomore at New Trier High School in Wilmette, IL, offered some insightful thoughts on the denial that characterizes the “But it won’t happen to my child” mentality:

So many parents have put so much effort into creating the perfect son or daughter, that they can’t really believe when something goes wrong. They think, “I’ve done everything”–and that image has become so solid that when something bad does happen, it’s a shock.

Read the whole thing.

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