Growing Up Drug–Free: A Parent's Guide to Prevention – 1998

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Chapter 1: How This Book Will Help You

"When Timmy entered middle school, I was scared to death."

"What can Jennifer say when her teenage friends pressure her? I don't know what to tell her."

"I can't keep up with all the new drugs and new names for drugs."

"I wouldn't know what to say if I suspected Keisha was getting high. She's only twelve."

When most parents talk about drugs, they voice some of their greatest fears and concerns. And their apprehension is well justified: The 1990s began with an increase in the popularity of drugs. During the previous decade, the number of children using drugs declined by nearly half as leaders from government, the media, and community and parents' groups sent a unified message to the public. Drug addiction can destroy your relationships and family life and can harm or even kill you. Unfortunately, as the general public began to feel that the problem had abated and was now manageable, usage began to rise again. A recent study found that four out of ten tenth graders have tried marijuana.

Those of us who grew up during the first wave of drug experimentation knew more about drugs than our parents did. Now we don't know as much about drugs as our children do. And we certainly don't know what it feels like to live in our children's world — a world not only more complex and stressful than it was during our youth, but with a drug culture that never existed before. For example:

Bad habits can start early

The anti-drug education our children are getting in school today only begins to counter the street-level "education" they pick up from their peers and popular culture. Our children often learn how to use new media faster than we do, and they receive news and entertainment not only from movies and TV, but from video cassettes, CDs, billboards, magazines targeted to children, websites, and chat rooms — information sources and formats that didn't even exist a generation ago. Drug references can reach them in unexpected places, such as magazine ads and clothing-store dressing rooms where music is piped in. Even though these sights and sounds are not usually promoting drug use, they can reinforce a child's impression that use is "normal" — a standard, even expected, part of growing up.

Unfortunately, the perception that drugs are a normal rite of passage has become common even among children in their preteen years. Many parents of nine-to-twelve year-olds would be shocked to learn how plentiful — and often free — drugs are in their children's world. The average age at which teens start using tobacco is a little past 12 years old. The average age at which they start drinking alcohol is almost 13. And the average age at which they start smoking marijuana is 14. Although the majority of young people do not use these substances, some children are using at even younger ages than these.

It could be your child

These statistics are so startling that it's tempting to think, "My child would never do anything so risky at that age." But believing that is risky in itself. Studies show that many more teens report being offered drugs — and using them — than their parents are willing to believe. When polled, the number of parents who thought their children had tried marijuana — about 20% — represented only one-half the number of teens who said they had actually tried.

Although keeping a child drug-free through these trying years is a great challenge to a parent, no one is in a better position than you to meet this challenge. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that teenagers who reported feeling close to their families were the least likely to engage in any of the risky behaviors studied, which included drinking and smoking marijuana or cigarettes. This finding supports what a majority of parents believe: that they can teach their children to view drugs as a serious concern and that they can influence their children's decisions about whether or not to use drugs.

This publication will help you guide your preschool-to-high school-age children as they form attitudes about drug use. It provides answers to children's questions as well as sources for help. It covers such important topics as:

The teen years can be trying for families. It is not always easy to communicate with those you love. But the stakes are high. If teens can navigate these years without drinking, smoking, or taking drugs, chances are that they won't use or abuse these substances as adults. Your influence early on can spare your child the negative experiences associated with illegal drug use, and even save your child's life.

This book will show you how to use your greatest strengths — your love for your children and concern for their well-being — to raise drug-free children.

Why you shouldn't allow your children to smoke marijuana

Some parents who saw marijuana being widely used in their youth have wondered, "Is marijuana really so bad for my child?" The answer is an emphatic "yes," and parents should familiarize themselves with these reasons:

[Acknowledgments] [Table of Contents] [Laying The Groundwork]