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Press Release Source: The Partnership for a Drug-Free America

New, National Study Reveals Drug-Experienced Parents See Less Risk, Talk Less With Teens About Drugs

Tuesday February 22, 11:00 am ET

Just as Teens Confront New Drug Threats and Changing Landscape, New Cohort of Parents Carry Lax Attitudes, Less Concern About Drug Risks Facing Kids

NEW YORK, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- When it comes to today's parents and their views about drugs, it appears old attitudes are like old habits -- they die hard, and sometimes, not at all.

In its 17th annual tracking study of parents' attitudes toward drugs and teen drug use, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America(R) today reports that the current generation of parents -- the most drug-experienced group on record -- sees less risk in a wide variety of illicit drugs, and are significantly less likely to be talking with their teens about drug abuse, when compared to moms and dads just a few years ago.

"While the vast majority of parents have left old habits behind, they're carrying old attitudes and beliefs forward," said Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of the Partnership. "If old habits die hard, the data suggest that lax attitudes about drugs die even harder."

Released today at a press briefing in New York, the 2004 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) surveyed 1,205 parents across the country (margin of error = +/- 2.8 percent). Top-line findings of the nationally projectable study(1) show:

    * Today's parents see less risk in drugs like marijuana, cocaine and even
      inhalants, when compared to parents just a few years ago.

    * The number of parents who report never talking with their child about
      drugs has doubled in the past six years, from 6 percent in 1998 to 12
      percent in 2004.

    * Just 51 percent of today's parents said they would be upset if their
      child experimented with marijuana.

    * While most parents believe it's important that parents discuss drugs
      with their children, fewer than one in three teens (roughly 30 percent)
      say they've learned a lot about the risks of drugs at home.

Many of today's parents (those with pre-teens and teens) were high school students themselves during the late '70s and early '80s -- a period when teen drug use reached its absolute high point.(2) In fact, when compared to high school seniors today, teen drug use rates were significantly higher in the late '70s and early '80s. "It's not all that uncommon today to come across teenagers who've never use drugs who have parents who have," Pasierb said.

While few of today's parents use drugs today (11 percent report smoking marijuana in the past year), 58 percent have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, according to the Partnership's study. Significant percentages report trying other illicit substances as well.

Despite their first-hand knowledge about the issue, the Partnership's study finds that today's parents significantly underestimate the presence of drugs in their teens' lives.

    * Just one in five parents (21 percent) believes their teenager has
      friends who use marijuana. Yet 62 percent of teens report having friends
      who use the drug.

    * Fewer than one in five parents (18 percent) believe their teen has
      smoked marijuana, yet many more (39 percent) already are experimenting
      with the drug.

    * This perceptual disconnect is even more pronounced when it comes to
      drugs that weren't around when today's parents were teenagers. Only one
      in every 100 parents -- one percent -- believes their teen may have used
      MDMA, commonly referred to as Ecstasy. The reality is quite different:
      Some nine percent of all teens -- 2.1 million teens in America -- used
      Ecstasy for the first time last year, down from a peak of 12 percent in
      2001.

Pasierb noted that the drug scene in America is vastly different today than it was back in the late '70s and '80s. "Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine -- parents know these drugs," he said. "Today's teens, however, are exposed to new drugs of abuse -- Ecstasy, GHB, crystal meth and increasingly, a wide variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications. In total, parents are seeing less risk in a variety of drugs and fewer parents are talking with kids just when teens are facing new drugs and new drug threats. All of this adds up to a potentially dangerous convergence in the trends -- one that we must interrupt."

The Partnership's tracking data underscore the powerful influence parents can have on teen decision-making about drugs. Teens who report learning a lot about the risks of drugs at home are up to half as likely to use drugs, according to the data.

"To be clear, parents don't want their kids using drugs -- any drugs," Pasierb said. "But the data tell us today's parents don't regard drug use as seriously as past generations of parents. Our challenge is getting parents to look at this issue anew, and in ways that penetrate their current beliefs and attitudes."

Today, the Partnership launched a new, national communications effort designed to reach parents with new, compelling information about the evolving nature of the drug problem in America. The program -- called Partnering with Families -- includes advertising campaigns, a parent-centric Web community, Web resources for parents and a parent-driven campaign to recruit families that have dealt with substance abuse to spread the word.

See the Partnership's Web site for full details about the new program. http://www.drugfree.org.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America(R) is a private, non-profit coalition of professionals from the communications industry. Best known for its national, drug-education advertising campaign, The Partnership exists to help kids and teens reject substance abuse by influencing attitudes through persuasive information. The Partnership's State/City Alliance Program supports The Partnership's mission at the local level. The Partnership receives major funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and financial support from more than 200 private sector corporations. The Partnership accepts no money from alcohol or tobacco manufacturers. All actors in The Partnership's ads appear pro bono through the generosity of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

       1. Conducted by RoperASW for the Partnership. Survey of parents in
          households with children under the age of 18.

       2. According to the Monitoring the Future study, conducted by the
          University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, under grants
          from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.