The good news is that teenagers may not be as much at risk for addictions as you may think, or as teenagers once were. For a decade, now, the annually published The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse: Teens and Parents, based on a survey by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, has been showing a rising number of drug-free schools. However, CASA still asserts that adolescent substance abuse is our nations #1 public health dilemma.
Surprisingly High-Risk Teens
Is your teenager at heightened risk for addictions? Even if teens are in a drug-free school and have no direct influences pressuring them toward substance abuse, they may still be at heightened risk. Findings of one of CASA’s most recent surveys show that those with higher chances of succumbing to substance abuse report frequent boredom, extra spending money ($25 or more per week), and high amounts of stress. As a result of one of these three seemingly innocuous traits, more than 50% of 12-to-17 year olds are at increased risk for smoking, drinking, using illegal drugs, and getting drunk.
The silver lining to those findings is that those risk factors can be avoided with some effort on the part of parents. But don’t think that the answer to boredom is giving teenagers access to social networking sites; those teens who spend time daily on sites like MySpace and Facebook are at increased risk, as well. The findings of the 2011 study National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents show a definite correlation between frequent social networkers and teens who experiment with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
Combating Risk Factors
The opposite of boredom is not a sedentary lifestyle, but an active one. While Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign mainly targets younger children and is geared toward fighting childhood obesity, there are other benefits to her recommendations, as well. By helping your child develop active lifestyle habits early on, you can pave the way for athletic involvement during the teen years and help lessen the chances of drug and alcohol use.
Of course, sports aren’t the only extracurricular activities out there. If your teen seems to have two left feet, his or her passions may lie beyond the gymnasium or ball field, and that’s okay. Tapping into areas of interest and aptitude can lead to more than an adolescent diversion—it can also keep your teen from harmful practices and lead to a more fulfilling life, later on.
According to another 2011 CASA survey, The Importance of Family Dinners VII, sitting down at the table as a family can go a long way toward lessening risks, as well. While the precise correlation between family dinners and drug and alcohol addictions may be subject to interpretations, the findings certainly suggest that strong family relationships are significant in the life and psyche of teenager. When those relationships work to reduce, rather than multiply, stress, they can be a great asset.