The 15th annual survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) is complete and the reports are in. The study, which consists of phone and internet surveys of teens and their parents, has recorded trends among students for the past decade and a half. This year’s survey has some disturbing results, but also provides useful information about prevention.
Drugs and Gangs
The CASA study first of all calculated the percent of drug-infested schools among its subjects. These were defined as schools where “drugs are used, kept, or sold on school grounds”. It was found that 32% of middle schoolers believe they attend drug infested schools. Two thirds of high schools had drug activity. The study also looked at gangs at schools, and concluded that 46% of public school reported the presence of gangs, and that schools with gangs were more likely to also have drugs.
We may have a great deal of confidence in our kids, but the CASA study showed the danger of kids attending schools that had gangs or drugs. Teens are 5 times more likely to use marijuana, 3 times more likely to drink, and 12 times more likely to smoke, when they attend a drug-laden school. They also found that drug and alcohol use in middle or high school often means substance abuse or addiction as an adult. However, for those that avoid the temptation and peer pressure to experiment with drugs or alcohol, there is good news. Those that make it to age 21 without using drugs or alcohol are likely to never start.
Public vs. Private Schools
Studies like the CASA one can be depressing and cause us to lose hope for our nation’s children and their futures. But some of the results of the survey clearly show ways we can slow the drug epidemic among young people. First of all, there are many schools, including private schools, that don’t have the presence of drugs or gangs. Students at these schools are much less likely to get involved with drugs. 78% of students in private or religious schools said there were no drugs at their school.
Parental Involvement for Prevention
The single most important factor, however, affecting whether or not a student will use drugs, is parental involvement. Parents may not always realize it, but they hold the key when it comes to keeping their child drug-free. Teens with weak family ties are 4 times more likely to try tobacco or marijuana as those with a strong family. Spending quality time together and eating meals together are great ways to build the relationships among the family members. Parents’ attitude toward drinking or drugs also has a big impact, and teens need to know that drinking and drugs are not acceptable.
We need to educate both young people and their parents about the dangers of drugs. Parents need tools to help them talk to their kids and learn how to give their teen the best chance at staying clean. Parents can choose a positive environment for their teen to learn, and can get to know their child’s friends. By keeping tabs on what their children are doing, and building a good relationship with them, parents can help their children remain drug-free.