Teens Look to Parent Openness for Drugs, Alcohol Advice

Study: Parents who talk about their own use help teens with drugs, alcohol.

ByABC News via GMA logo
October 7, 2009, 2:46 PM

Oct. 8, 2009 — -- Teens say hearing about their parents' experiences with drugs and alcohol would make them less likely to use the substances themselves, according to a new study.

Released today, the study, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of the Hazelden Foundation, a Minnesota-based addiction treatment center, found that the majority of teens surveyed would turn to their parents as the primary source of advice about alcohol or drug use.

Sixty-seven percent of teenagers in the survey said their parents had told them about their past experiences with alcohol and drugs, and 95 percent of those teens welcomed that openness.

One-third of the teens said their parents had not shared information about their experiences with drugs, and most of those teens said they wanted their parents to open up on the subject.

Open communication from parents makes a difference, Toby McKenna, a recovering addict who has been sober for two years, said.

McKenna, 25, first experimented with alcohol when he was 14. By the time he got to college, he was hooked on cocaine.

The Roseville, Minn., man, starting missing classes, and stopped going to football practice.

He dropped out of college and went home to live with his parents, where he did whatever he could to get high, even stealing his mother's medication after she was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

The addiction turned him into a stranger, his father, Tim McKenna, said.

"I didn't even know my child anymore," he said. "He went from grammar school, where everything was wonderful, to someone we didn't even know. The lying and the cheating, and we were in full denial."

For parents who grew up in a more permissive generation, it's hard to be open about their past with their children, but more than 60 percent of the teens in the survey said hearing about their parents experiences would make them more responsible, and more than half said it would even make them less likely to use drugs.

Only 2 percent of the teens reported that hearing about their parents' experiences would make them less responsible, while 4 percent said that it would make them more likely to try the substances.