||Parents Not Pushers Turn Kids On To Drugs:
One In Five Drug Abusers In Treatment Did Drugs With Parents
One in five drug abusers in treatment used illegal drugs with their
parents, and most did so before the age of 18, a new
survey has found. This survey, supported by earlier
research, makes clear that parents sharing illegal
drugs with their children is a significant, and
largely unrecognized phenonmen.
Strikingly, study findings explode the myth of the
schoolyard "pusher," that shadowy figure pressing
drugs on unwary youths.
According to the survey, conducted by Penn, Schoen &
Berland Associates at Phoenix House treatment programs
throughout the country, candidates for drug treatment
are nineteen times more likely to have been introduced
to illicit drugs by a family member than by a
professional drug dealer. And they are five times more
likely to have been "turned on¨ to drugs by a parent
than by a dealer.
Similar levels of parent-teen drug sharing was found
among whites, blacks and Hispanics and there was
little difference between urban and suburban
According to Mitchell S. Rosenthal M.D., a child
psychiatrist and president of Phoenix House, survey
findings reflect the fact that after more than 30
years of widespread drug use in the United States,
many parents today regard teenage drug use as no more
than a youthful rite of passage.
"These findings should disturb everyone involved in
preventing drug use among kids,¨ Dr. Rosenthal said.
"It's shocking to discover that one drug abuser in
five did drugs with their parents. And one in five say
they received their first drugs -- not from some
pusher on the street -- but from a family member.¨
"The study tells us, "We have met the neighborhood
drug pusher and he is us,¨ Dr. Rosenthal added.
"There are significant policy implications to the
study,¨ according to Dr. Rosenthal. "Most drug
prevention and education campaigns urge parents to
talk to their children about the dangers of drugs.
Yet, we see here that many parents are far from being
what a current television prevention campaign calls
"The influence of parents are a double-edged sword,¨
Dr. Rosenthal said. "We have to remember what kids are
hearing and seeing at home is as varied as the parents
they live with. And after more than three decades of
widespread drug use in America, many parents have
spent much of their lives as users themselves. We
also hope that these results will spur policy makers
to take a new look at the importance of drug treatment
in helping adolescents become drug-free.¨
Douglas Schoen, partner in the firm of Penn, Schoen
and Berland, which serves the White House, among other
clients, said: "This survey is startling and
extraordinary in a number of ways. First, it gives us
an insight into what happens behind closed doors in
all too many American families."
"Second, by applying the public opinion research
methodology usually used by politicians and
corporations to address the drug problem, we can
clearly hear the voices of the ultimate experts - drug
The survey found:
- Twenty percent of the people seeking treatment at
Phoenix House used drugs with their parents, and 59
percent of them used drugs with their parents before
the age of 18.
- Of those who used drugs with their parents 76
percent reported using marijuana, 19 percent used
crack, 16 percent used cocaine, and 6 percent used
- Nineteen percent were introduced to drug use by
family members: 9 percent by siblings, 5 percent by
parents, 4 percent by uncles, aunts, cousins, and 1
percent by spouses.
- The study found that fewer than 1 percent had been
introduced to drugs by a professional dealer.
Interviews with former users and former dealers now in
treatment across the country support this finding.
- Tracking parent-teen drug sharing, 22 percent of
whites reported that they had used drugs other than
alcohol with their parents; 18 percent of blacks said
they had used drugs other than alcohol with their
parents and 22 percent of Hispanics said they had used
drugs other than alcohol with their parents.
- Among urban residents 22 percent said they had done
drugs other than alcohol with their parents, as
compared to 17 percent of suburban residents.
Phoenix House commissioned Penn, Schoen & Berland
Associates, Inc. to survey a random sample of current
residents at Phoenix House drug treatment programs in
four states: New York, California, Florida and Texas.
The survey of 582 respondents was conducted in April
2000 and involved a representative sample of the more
than 5,000 residents of 70 Phoenix House programs
across the nation. Residents responded to 80
questions about their drug history and their views on
substance abuse treatment and policy issues.
Survey findings were confirmed by interviews conducted
at Phoenix House treatment programs around the United
States and are substantiated by findings about
children and teens in research conducted for the
Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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