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Tuesday, March 16, 2006

Jennifer de Vallance, ONDCP (202) 395–6618
Rosanna Maietta, Fleishman-Hillard (202) 828–9706


Many Teens Begin Using Drugs Between
Spring and Summer Months: Drug Czar Offers Tips for
Parents to Help Reduce Teen Risky Behaviors

(Washington, D.C.)—More teens than ever are putting themselves at risk during Spring Break. According to travel industry experts, an estimated one in seven (15%) young people on Spring Break party destinations are high school students. Even teens who stay at home can be at risk. Unsupervised time, money to spend, and peer pressure to "have fun" can be a recipe for risky behaviors, including drug use.

A recent report shows that more teens start using marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol for the first time between the spring and summer months—prime time for teens on Spring Break and time unsupervised by parents or teachers. Further, teen girls are at an even greater risk than boys when it comes to engaging in risky behaviors.

Spring Break is a very important time in the eyes of teens. A new Omnibuzz survey by Teen Research Unlimited (TRU) shows that many teens are planning to spend money on Spring Break this year. In fact, 39 percent of youth aged 16 to 18 said they would spend $100 or more.

While many people associate Spring Break with college age kids, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is urging parents of high school teens to know the risks associated with this time of year, before they agree to send their child on unsupervised holidays. "We don't want parents to be naïve about what happens when a group of high school kids goes away for Spring Break," said ONDCP Director John P. Walters. "Whether your child is going away or staying home, parents need to know what to do to keep their teens healthy and drug-free."

ONDCP is calling on parents to take action during this period, whether their teen is staying home, or going away on Spring Break trip. A checklist for parents offers three tips on keeping teens safe during Spring Break:

  1. SET RULES, especially no drinking or drugs

    • Be clear and specific about your expectations. Spring Break should not mean a break from responsibility.

    • Talk candidly about the risks of drug use and drinking, including alcohol poisoning, violence, sexually transmitted infections, and sexual assault.

  2. PREPARE your teen

    • Give teens tips on how to protect themselves, such as using a buddy system to watch out for each other.

    • Walk through different scenarios and discuss how to handle pressures, including offers of drugs or alcohol and other risky situations.


    • Know your teen's itinerary and where he/she is staying.

    • If they are staying home, know how they spend their unsupervised time.

    • Ask questions. Require a daily check-in via cell phone and make sure your teen is reachable. Make sure to have cell phone numbers for your teen's friends and check in with them as necessary too.

    • Network with and connect with other parents to confirm plans and coordinate ground rules.

"It's important that parents resist the impulse to just do what their teen wants," said Dr. Phillippe Cunningham, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, Family Services Research Center. "You're the parent. You are not alone if you're uncomfortable sending your teen on a week vacation to Cancun. This just shows that your parental instincts are intact. Generally, adult supervision is inadequate during Spring Break trips. Research is clear, parental monitoring is a key parenting tool that can reduce youth risky behavior. Rely on your parental judgment, ask questions, and talk to other parents. Put a stop to the trip if you are uneasy with the amount of adult supervision or structure that will be provided. An alternative would be a community service project."

Research shows that parents are a powerful deterrent to drug or alcohol use, even when teens are far from home. The majority of teens say the greatest risk in using marijuana is upsetting their parents or losing the respect of friends and families. For more advice on preparing your teen for a safe Spring Break, and free resources to help parents raise healthy, safe and drug-free teens, visit www.TheAntiDrug.com.

Since its inception in 1998, the ONDCP's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has conducted outreach to millions of parents, teens and communities to reduce and prevent teen drug use. Counting on an unprecedented blend of public and private partnerships, non-profit community service organizations, volunteerism, and youth-to-youth communications, the Campaign is designed to reach Americans of diverse backgrounds with effective anti-drug messages.

For more information on the ONDCP National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, visit www.MediaCampaign.org