New research suggests parents play dual role in preventing teen drug use

This month’s Monitor on Psychology reports two studies that demonstrate parents’ direct, incontrovertible influence on whether their teens use drugs. First, in a joint research project, scientists at three different U.S. universities evaluating data from more than 10,000 students, parents, teachers, and school administrators concluded that strong parent-child relationships are more important than good teacher-student bonds in reducing teens’ use of marijuana and alcohol. Second, researchers analyzing data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that abuse of prescription painkillers is 40% higher among today’s American teenagers than in previous generations—regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. Next to marijuana, it is the most common illegal drug preferred by teens. The study’s authors theorize that this trend may be caused by the increasing availability of painkillers such as vicodin, valium, and oxycontin in their parents’ home medicine cabinets. Together, these studies underscore the importance of parents developing trusting, supportive relationships with their teens as well as lifestyles that model and encourage healthy lifelong habits.

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