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Lots Of Drinks, Drugs At Teen Parties

A lot of teen parties are "awash with alcohol and drugs," though their parents don't seem to know it, according to a U.S. survey of teens and parents.

The new report is based on a survey of nearly 1,300 teens and 562 parents of teens.

It was done by telephone in March and April for the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, in New York.

"One in three teen partygoers have been to parties where teens were drinking alcohol, smoking pot, or using cocaine, ecstasy, or prescription drugs while a parent was present," CASA chairman and president Joseph A. Califano, Jr., says in the report.

"By age 17, nearly half (46 percent) of teens have been at such parties where parents were present," adds Califano, a former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

The parents may not approve of or even know about the parties, the survey also shows.

Parents In Denial?

"The message is loud and clear: Parents, wake up and smell the beer and pot!" states Califano.

"If your teen is having a party at your home, you should not only be there, but also be aware of what is going on," he continues. "And if your teen attends a party at someone else's home, you should confirm that the parents will be present and that alcohol and drugs will not."

"The reality is that even when parents are present at a party, some kids will try to sneak in substances," Califano notes.

"Too many parents fail to fulfill their responsibility to chaperone their teens' parties, have no idea how drug- and alcohol-infested their teens' world is, and are utterly unrealistic about their own conduct with respect to their children," he says.

"The lack of involvement, denial and self-delusion of these parental palookas puts their teens at enormous risk of drinking and using illegal substances," says Califano.

About The Survey

Nearly 600 boys and about 700 girls age 12-17 took part. Most of the 562 parents had a teen taking the survey (84 percent).

Survey topics included teen party attendance; use of alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and prescription drugs at those parties; and parental presence at the party site.

Most teens — 38 percent — said they don't attend any parties in a normal month.

Another 27 percent said they go to one party per month. Fifteen percent said they attend two parties a month, and 8 percent say they go to three.

Most partygoers said they hadn't gone to parties where alcohol or drugs were present. And two-thirds said their host's parents are "always" or "usually" home during parties.

Alcohol, Drugs

But the survey shows a gap between parents and the teen partiers.

For instance, 80 percent of parents believe alcohol and marijuana usually aren't available at parties their teens attend.

But 46 percent of teen partygoers reported being at parties where alcohol was present; 30 percent had seen marijuana at parties; and 11 percent had been to parties where drugs like cocaine or ecstasy were available.

Nearly all parents — 98 percent — said they're normally present when their teens hold parties at their home. But a third of teens say parents are rarely or never at those parties, Califano notes.

More than a quarter of teen partygoers say they've been at parties where teens were drinking alcohol while the host's parent was at home, the survey also shows.

Parental Influence

Parental presence at teen parties may not stop all partiers from drinking or using drugs. But it might be a deterrent.

Teens who attend parties where a parent is present are much less likely to report alcohol and drugs being available at those parties, compared to teens who party without parents, the survey shows.

"While the presence of parents does not guarantee a substance-free party, it does reduce the likelihood that a teen party will have drugs or alcohol," Califano says.

Sources: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XI: Teens and Parents," August 2006. News release, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
© 2006, WebMD Inc. All rights reserved

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