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Parents: Don't tell kids about past drug use

By BitterSweet, Feb 26, 2013 | Updated: Mar 7, 2013 | | |
  1. BitterSweet
    19060.jpg Discussing the regrets of past drug use may seem like a good way to convey the dangers of drugs, but the move could backfire, according to a new study.

    Children of parents who disclose past alcohol, drug or tobacco use are more likely to have more positive views about drugs than peers whose parents don't, according to a study published online Jan. 25 in the journal Human Communication Research. That held even if the parents were describing their regrets about drug use.

    "This is a really cool article, because it does break down the dialogue" and give parents some ideas for what to say, said Michael Fendrich, a substance abuse epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who was not involved in the study.

    But the findings are correlational, so the study doesn't show that parental honesty actually leads to drug and alcohol use amongst teens, and tying such communication to addiction or drug and alcohol abuse down the line is even more tenuous, Fendrich said.

    Finding the right words

    Talking about drugs with children can be incredibly tricky, Fendrich said.

    "Kids are pretty savvy, they see the picture of their mom and dad giving the peace sign on the VW bus," he said. "How do you communicate with your kids about that?"

    Pretending to never have dabbled in drug use may seem deceitful, but disclosing a hippie past life isn't easy either, Fendrich said. [The Old Drug Talk: 7 New Tips for Today's Parents]

    To see how parents' talk was tied to kids' drug attitudes, Jennifer Kam, a University of Illinois communications researcher, and her colleague Ashley Middleton surveyed 561 sixth- through eighth-graders on whether their parents ever mentioned past drug, alcohol or tobacco use, and whether they had regrets about it. (The study didn't distinguish between parents using illegal versus legal substances or single out addiction or problem drug behavior.)

    Roughly 80 percent of the parents had disclosed past use. The teens then reported on their drug attitudes.

    "The more often the parents talked about regret over their own use, the bad things that happened, and that they'd never use it again, the students were more likely to report pro-substance-use beliefs," Kam told LiveScience.

    Those participants also imagined that their parents would be less disapproving if they did try drugs and also thought more of their peers did drugs. Only a tiny fraction of youngsters had used illicit drugs such as marijuana at this age, however.

    The researchers hypothesize that these messages may backfire by leading kids to think "if my parents did it, it's not that bad," Kam said.

    Cause or correlation?

    But while the findings are intriguing, they don't prove that the heart-to-heart drug talks were the cause of tolerant attitudes toward drugs and alcohol.

    For one, psychological problems are strongly tied to future drug problems, but the study didn't assess students' mental health at all, Fendrich said.

    It could be that kids already gravitating toward drugs lead parents to open up about their past, not the other way around, Fendrich said. "Are those parents the ones who say 'Oh, I can reach my kid if I tell them I am human just like he is?'"

    And while past work has shown that attitudes about drug use predict whether teens are likely to try drugs, linking them to long-term problems is even shakier.

    Some controversial studies have shown that people who experiment with drugs, but then outgrow the phase, tend to be better adjusted than teens who become addicted or those who completely abstain, Fendrich said.

    Author: Tia Ghose, LiveScience
    Date: February 25th, 2012
    News Source: FoxNews.com


  1. Rob Cypher
    Eh, it's from Fox News, which is mostly anti-legalization (outside of the occasional libertarian or two). I'd prefer to see other sources before I buy what they're selling; no offense to OP of course (good job finding the article for us to see).
  2. blazeme
    Hm, in my opinion this whole article seems like a bit of a long shot, and I think it's generalizing quite a bit.
    It all depends on relationship between parents and child. Beside, in my opinion, and from what I could see from number of posts on this forum and other drug related forums we have a lot of teenagers informing them-self about drugs, drugs abuse, side-effects and so on and forth.
    When you read many experiences online about either drugs or other "sensitive" subjects, you're much more likely to adopt either general opinion or your form your own based on information you've read.
    Thanks OP for finding interesting article we can discuss.
  3. nattydread
    my personal feeling is this: i was 15 and maybe smoked once or twice. my mom opened up to me about her experimentation. I felt justified in continuing mine. My mom didn't really mention any regrets about it though.

    i was kind of looking forward to telling my son about all of my crazy adventures...but then again, perhaps i'm lucky to still be alive?
  4. hookedonhelping
    My dad told me of his experimentation with LSD, DMT, marijuana, mushrooms, etc when he was a young adult. Now I can't even have an open conversation without him turning into a total uneducated asshole prick who emits a aurora of ignorance. He badmouths the very culture he was once into. I have lost a lot of respect for his closed mind.

    Some adults are set in their ways and there is no changing that, despite the validity of your argument. It's sad, because I am realizing he is not as intelligent as I once thought he was. A damn shame really that has introduced a lot of discontention between us at a time when our relationship is bound to take a permanent turn for the worst. I fear the man will die soon without us ever making peace with one another. Much the same way things played out with him and his father. I have no patience for closed minded individuals. It's a pride thing for them. They can't possibly understand that their younger son discovered some mind altering chemicals have the potential to make people better people when used responsibly.

    Sometimes the best medicine is just not speak to your parents. They can be one of the reasons that drove you to escape your reality in the first place. My father is a perfect example of this. He fucked me up and for a few years I escaped reality any chance I got. Then he has the nerve to jude me for being so deeply rooted in drug culture. You drove me to this point buddy.
  5. runnerupbeautyqueen
    Only a tiny fraction of middle schoolers have tried marijuana? Maybe I just hung out with the wrong kids but by 8th grade everyone I knew had smoked weed and drank (and most did so regularly) and I was the only one who hadn't had sex. A few kids had tried LSD and cocaine but I think that was it. Oh and we took what we *thought* were pain pills but looking back if someone said "These are pain pills" we didn't exactly get online and try to identify them, we just took them. So I have a problem believing that only a tiny fraction of kids have ever used weed.

    According to my parents they have never done any drugs. Some times I think "there's no way" but other times (like when they think my weed pipe that they discovered was a meth pipe) I think, "maybe they are telling the truth."

    I think at that age parents telling kids that they used drugs would have the effect of making drugs not seem cool anymore. At 14 EVERYTHING your parents do is completely wrong and lame and uncool and you are completely and totally different and you just know you have to be adopted.

    This study doesn't account for any other factors. Like lets take the parents that admit to doing drugs and say for the sake of argument that because they were busy following a tour bus around the country that they missed some chances that the non drug using parents didn't. They now make less money, live in a worse neighborhood, and send their kids to a a worse school. They hang out with kids who probably steal drugs from their parents or who have parents that don't give a shit what their kids do. Suddenly the kid has friends that can get more than just weed. He has the time and space to get high everyday because his parents have to constantly work and don't have time to check up on him.

    And the kids who's parents didn't (or at least didn't admit) to using drugs...we'll say that they live in a nicer house in a nicer neighborhood. The dad works and the mom stays at home so she is able to shuttle the kids to dance practice, soccer practice, tuba lessons, etc. She goes to school things, meets the teachers, checks homework at night. She meets the parents of her kids friends before they stay the night and she calls up at 11pm to make sure the kids are where they say they are. She probably even read an article telling her to just casually leave a drug test out on the kitchen table, so she does. Even if the kid wanted to use drugs when would he get the chance? And how long could he do it regularly before he gets caught and inevitably gets sent to rehab?

    I don't know, I think these factors are more important than what parents say.
  6. reef88
    I don't know whether I'd share some experiences with my son/daughter. Maybe when they are all grown up +25 years old, I'd share some of my experiences, making emphasis on the fact that it brings you negative things more than positive. But I believe that telling an immature teenager that you have used drugs, it pretty much makes them feel like they can do it since you did it too. It's a delicate matter, and has to be handled carefully.
  7. Rob Cypher
    Well, this won't be an issue for me because I will never (knowingly) father a child thanks to the experiences I went though with both my father and stepfather (and to a lesser extent how my paternal grandfather treated his family - he alternated between raping the daughters and beating the sons for no reason. Three of my aunts went on to die of drug ODs and the surviving one is a fanatical Christian with mental issues; of his sons, one is okay and the other one is total fuckup (guess what one is my father?). His abusing his family in turn affected me in the end as my father is dysfunctional and abusive towards women as well (even older women who were nearly twice his age, which I found abhorrent because he's 6'3 and 250 lbs and used to be a defensive lineman in college football before blowing out his knees). Thanks to his bullshit, never me or my brother have willingly talked to him for years (except for the time he showed up unexpectedly at my mom and brother's house, which scared the shit out of her due to him trying to disfigure and kill back when I was 3 and naturally angered him). His lies during a court case about me stealing some benzos off him due to him breaking my shit when I tried living with him briefly ultimately cost me six years of my life on parole/probation; I couldn't keep it together mentally until I was off it (and they only took me off it because he owned my mom for child support for me and my brother [over eight years overdue at the time] and I think exceeded the remainder of my restitution.). He was also mad because when he reported his pills stolen so he could get them replaced the doctors realized he was getting scripts for the same amount off of three of them...you know, doctor shopping and slowly cut him off. It was clorazepate...hell of a benzo.
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