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Those anti-drug talks? Your teens are listening

/ Source: The Associated Press

Parents appear to be talking more effectively with their children about the dangers of drug use, says a study being released Thursday.

"Parents are talking, and what you see in the study, particularly among the girls, is the willingness of kids to listen. They're more open to talking about the drug issue than kids in the past," said Steve Pasierb, president and chief executive of The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which commissioned the study.

The annual survey found the number of teens who reported "learning a lot" from their parents about the risks of drug use rose last year to 37 percent, up from 32 percent the previous year. It marks the first compelling increase in that number in 15 years, and Pasierb considers it noteworthy.

"We know from the last 20 years of this study that kids who report learning a lot at home about the drug issue are half as likely to use as kids who don't get that at home," he said in an interview.

Also encouraging: declines in marijuana and methamphetamine use.

The percentage of teens who reported using pot — the most widely abused drug — at least once in their lives dropped last year to 33 percent from 37 percent in 2005, and meth use declined from 8 percent to 6 percent, the report said.

Teens reporting use of pot in the past month has dropped 30 percent since 1998, and 40 percent for methamphetamine abuse.

Parents, the study said, most often discuss alcohol and marijuana with their kids, followed by cocaine, crack and heroin. Farther down the list was prescription drugs. Only 24 percent of kids said their parents had discussed prescription drug abuse with them, compared with 78 percent for both alcohol and pot.

Pasierb said legal drugs, such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Ritalin, continue to be a concern. Teen abuse of prescription drugs has remained flat at 19 percent since 2005, the study found. "Parents don't think it's a problem and they think it's safer than illicit street drugs," he said.

Other findings:

  • Girls are more likely than boys to report taking action to help a friend with a drug or alcohol problem, 45 percent compared with 38 percent for boys.
  • Sixty-five percent of teens agreed strongly that kids who use steroids for athletic performance or physical appearance are putting their health at risk, down from 69 percent the previous year.
  • Thirty-five percent of teens agreed strongly that they "don't want to hang around with anyone who uses marijuana" — up from 28 percent a decade ago.

The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study surveyed 6,518 teens in grades 7 through 12. Data was collected from questionnaires that kids filled out anonymously from April to June 2008. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 percentage points.

The New York-based Partnership is a nonprofit group that aims to reduce the use of illicit drugs.