With the recognition of alcoholism as an actual disease that can be passed down both culturally and genetically from one generation to the next, more and more outstanding work has been done to shed light on the numerous causal factors and impact of addiction on people, families, and communities. The sense of shame and hopelessness that people often feel is sometimes a stumbling block as they recognize their problems, but then go through denial and lose sight of how to begin the recovery process.
You may think that allowing your teenager to consume alcohol under your supervision at home is better for them, but a new study suggests the risk of subsequent alcohol-related problems is greater, compared to the zero tolerance approach. The authors wrote in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs that many of us believe that alcohol consumption is a normal part of teenage development, and as such we should therefore drink with our teenagers so that they can learn how to drink responsibly, rather than with strangers – this approach is known as a harm-minimization approach.
In a Zero-tolerance approach, all consumption of alcohol is prohibited if the child is underage.
From the founding of National Families in Action during the height of the War on Drugs to Joseph A. Califano’s book, How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid, parents and communities have been touted as the keys to preventing alcohol and other drug problems among youth, and research now shows that environmental and genetic risk factors can be trumped by parental engagement during the critical adolescent years, according to Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
"Parents are incredibly important in raising drug-free kids, but in many instances they are not there or are not involved" — absences that can have measurable effects on brain development as well as other aspects of growing up — said Volkow. For example, studies of orphans have demonstrated that the brains of children who lack connections to parents actually mature more slowly, raising the risk of drug use and other impulsive behaviors.
Half of all vulnerability to addiction can be traced to an individual’s genetic background, but that hardly means that a child’s fate is sealed if they have a family history of addiction. Rather, Volkow said that addiction is, in many ways, a developmental disorder that is intimately linked to the maturation of the brain from childhood through adolescence and into early adulthood.
The Partnership for a Drug Free America has made fostering the parent-teen connection easier with the release of "A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain," a digital, science-based resource for parents that explains adolescent brain processes and offers tips for communicating and helping teens make good decisions.
With video, humorous interactive segments, role-playing and advice from experts, parents learn that ongoing brain development contributes to the vexing teen behaviors that confound and often put parents off – impulsiveness, rebellion, high emotions, questionable judgment and risk-taking.
The resource also includes tips to help parents establish (or re-create) the parent-teen relationship so essential to guiding teens through any one of the number of challenges they face, alcohol and drug temptations included.
Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA)
Youths whose parents set clear rules for them are less likely to report using illicit drugs, according to data from the 2008-09 PRIDE Survey. Middle and high school students* whose parents set clear rules for them “a lot” or “often” were less likely to report using illicit drugs in the past year (12% and 21%, respectively) than students whose parents never set clear rules (49%). Similar results were found for having parents who punish them for breaking these rules (data not shown). Previous studies have found that youths living in households where parents kept track of their whereabouts and set curfews were less likely to report heavy drinking.
SOURCE: Adapted by CESAR from PRIDE, Questionnaire Report for Grades 6 to 12, 2008-09 National Summary – Grades 6 thru 12, 2009. Available online at http://www.pridesurveys.com/customercenter/us08ns.pdf.
|Drugs and Kids: How Parents Can Keep Them Apart by Gary L. Somdahl|
Despite all of your efforts to keep your kids drug-free, one day you might suspect that your son or daughter is using drugs or alcohol. Perhaps you have found an odd-looking pipe in his room, cans and bottles in the car or rolling papers in her laundry. Or you overheard a conversation not meant for you. Whatever the signal, your gut instinct has been activated. How do you know if you need to do anything? What do you do now? Where do you turn for help?
Every day, approximately 4,700 American youth under age 18 try marijuana for the first time. That is about equal to the enrollment of six average-sized U.S. high schools. In 2003, nearly nine out of 10 twelfth graders reported marijuana as being accessible.
By the time they finish the eighth grade, approximately 50 percent of adolescents have had at least one drink, and more than 20 percent report having been “drunk.”
Drug and alcohol use by teens increases the risk of addiction and can change the developing brain for life.
Despite these statistics, one thing remains true:
Parents are the most important influence in a teen’s decisions about drug use. You can and do make a difference. If you suspect or know that your child is using drugs, take action now, because the longer you wait, the harder it will be to deal with your child’s drug use.
Especially for Parents
- www.TheAntiDrug.com is an online service of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign that offers resources, information and facts for parents.
- www.laantidroga.com is the Spanish online service of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign and offers resources, information and facts for parents.
- www.drugfreeamerica.org/Parents_Caregivers is an online service of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America that offers tips and information for parents and caregivers.
A comprehensive plan to stop young people drinking in public; help them make the right decisions about alcohol; and provide clear information to parents and young people about the risks of early drinking was announced today by the UK Government’s Youth Alcohol Action Plan.
The Action Plan sets out what the Government will do to address drinking by young people in three main arenas:
Police and Courts
- Working with police and the courts to stop it, making it clear that unsupervised drinking by young people under-18 in public places is unacceptable;
- Recognising that drinking by young people in the home is clearly the responsibility of parents and families, but providing clearer health information for parents and young people about how consumption of alcohol can affect children and young people. The Action Plan announces that the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson will produce clear guidelines for families;
- Working with the alcohol industry to continue the good progress made to reduce the sale of alcohol to under-18’s but also in marketing and promoting alcohol in a more responsible way.
While the proportion of young people who drink regularly has fallen, the consumption of alcohol by those who do drink has risen sharply. And the ways in which young people are drinking have changed. The Youth Alcohol Action Plan promises a powerful package of action to tackle this.
Full story at Young people and alcohol
Alcohol prevention programs should start prior to sixth grade
A study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the University of Florida suggests that “tweens” should receive alcohol prevention programs prior to sixth grade, when nearly one in six children are already alcohol users.
The study found that adolescents who already use alcohol are less receptive to prevention programs aimed at all students. Intervening at earlier ages, specifically between third and fifth grade, would allow for truly universal anti-alcohol messages that would also provide support for high-risk students.
“Children who use alcohol in sixth grade respond differently to messages about alcohol use than those have not used alcohol,” said Keryn Pasch, M.P.H., Ph.D., University of Minnesota School of Public Health and first author of the study. “By sixth grade it’s too late; we’ll miss many of the at-risk kids.”
The study, published recently in the journal Health Education and Behavior, compared sixth-graders who had used alcohol in the past year to those who had not, in a multi-ethnic, urban sample of more than 4,000 students in 61 Chicago schools. Among this sample, 17 percent had used alcohol within the past year.
The study found that sixth-grade users of alcohol were significantly different from the non-users on almost all risk factors examined. For example, users were more likely to be male, engage in violent or delinquent behavior, and have friends who used alcohol.
Factors such as lacking the confidence to refuse alcohol and failing to perceive and value the negative consequences of alcohol use are critical in at-risk children.
Researchers suggest a prevention program prior to sixth grade in which parent involvement is central. Students should receive developmentally appropriate messages that correct inaccurate perceptions that drinking is normal and that provide “tweens” with the skills to refuse alcohol. In addition, interventions should include parental involvement in order to help create opportunities for increased parent-child communication and provide parents with the skills to increase monitoring.
“Parents and the general public don’t realize how early alcohol use starts,” Pasch said. “However, in early intervention, parental involvement is a key factor in delaying alcohol use.”