Polls Finds Few Parents Believe Their Own Teens Are Drinking or Smoking Marijuana

A new national poll finds few parents believe their own teenagers have used alcohol or marijuana in the past year. The findings stand in stark contrast to another national poll that found a much higher percentage of self-reported substance use among teens.

The new poll, from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital of the University of Michigan, found that 10 percent of parents believe their own teens ages 13 to 17 have used alcohol in the past year; 5 percent said they believed their teens have smoked marijuana, Medical News Today reports.

However, the 2010 Monitoring the Future survey, which measures drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide, found 52 percent of 10th graders said they drank alcohol in the last year, and 28 percent said they used marijuana.

“There’s a clear mismatch between what parents are reporting in terms of their children’s possible use of substances and what teenagers report themselves,” researcher Bernard Biermann, MD, PhD, said in a news release.

The poll found many parents believed teens other than their own child are likely to use alcohol and drugs. More than half believed the percentage of 10th graders who used marijuana in the past year is at least 40 percent, and one-third believe the percentage of 10th graders who drank alcohol in the past year is at least 60 percent.

Biermann recommends parents talk to their teens about substance abuse in a non-threatening way, and look carefully for signs of substance abuse when they come home. He says parents should try not to overreact to a single instance of substance abuse, instead using it as an opportunity to talk to their teen in a non-judgmental way.

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