Many Boomers Expect Their Children To Try Illegal Drugs

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Many parents of the baby boom generation who used drugs when they were younger expect that their teenage children will do the same, and they believe there is little they can do to stop it, a survey released last week revealed.

The parents surveyed by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University expressed little confidence in their ability to control their children's decisions about whether to use drugs. Among the study's findings were:

  • 46 percent of baby boom parents surveyed--and 65 percent who said they used marijuana in their youth--believe their teenage children will try illegal drugs;
  • 40 percent said they had "little influence" over their children's decisions about drug use;
  • Two-thirds said other factors, such as their children's friends and media images that glamorize drug use are to blame for teenage drug use;
  • Only 14 percent of parents in the survey said they were primarily responsible for their children's use of narcotics.

"What is infuriating about the attitudes revealed in this survey is the resignation of so many parents and teens to the present mess," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., the president of CASA and a former U.S. secretary of health, education, and welfare during the Carter administration.

The CASA study is based on telephone interviews with 2,300 teenagers and parents during July and August. The poll's margin of error is less than 3 percent.

Its release comes weeks after a federal report that found that overall illicit-drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds has more than doubled in recent years, from 5.3 percent in 1992 to 10.9 percent in 1995. ("Increase in Drug Use Raises Issue of Prevention," Sept. 4, 1996.)

The CASA researchers also found that even the lives of young people who abstain from drugs are often touched by them. Fifty-eight percent of teenagers said they had a friend who had used LSD, cocaine, or heroin. And 62 percent said they had a friend who had smoked marijuana.

Among 12- to 17-year-olds who had yet to sample drugs, 22 percent were "very or somewhat likely" to try them in the future, the study found.

If they do decide to try drugs, the teens said, they won't have much trouble obtaining them. Nearly 70 percent of 17-year-olds said illegal drugs were kept, sold, or stored at their high schools; 28 percent of 12-year-olds told interviewers that their schools were not drug-free.

Gary Marx, a spokesman for the American Association of School Administrators, called the survey results alarming.

Parents must be held ultimately responsible for their children's actions, he said. "If parents feel their children's drug use is inevitable, they are less likely to do something about it, and that causes all sorts of problems."

Teenagers who live with two parents are less likely to use drugs or be admitted to substance-abuse treatment programs than those living in single-parent households, according to a federal study released last week.

The report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also analyzed differences between children who live with biological or adoptive parents and those who live with stepparents.

Adolescents living with a single parent or in two-parent families where one of the adults is a stepparent, for example, are 50 percent to 150 percent more inclined to use illegal substances or enter a drug-abuse facility than those who live with two biological or adoptive parents, the report shows.

The HHS study also found that teenagers who live with a biological father and a stepmother are more likely to abuse drugs than adolescents living with a biological mother and a stepfather.

Because fewer children today are living with their biological parents, society has a greater responsibility to deliver a consistent message that drugs are dangerous, HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala said last week in a statement.

"Parents raise children," she said, "but all of us have an obligation to give them a helping hand."

Little League baseball is a relatively safe activity with a very low rate of severe injury, according to a study published last week in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In interviews with the managers of two Little League organizations in suburban Rochester, N.Y., during the 1994 season, researchers found that fewer than 3 percent of the players were injured during a total of more than 140,000 hours of play.

Of the 2,800 Little Leaguers included in the study, 81 required medical attention, the report says.

About half of the cuts and bruises sustained by the players, whose ages ranged from 7 to 18, were from being hit with a ball. Twenty-seven percent of the wounds and strains resulted from collisions with other players.

The authors say that greater use of safety equipment, such as face masks, could help reduce the casualty rate even further.

--JESSICA PORTNER [email protected]

Vol. 16, Issue 03

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