Native News Network Staff in Native Health. Discussion »
WASHINGTON American Indian and Alaska Native youth drink, smoke and use drugs at higher rates than their non-Indian counterparts.
Alcohol is the substance abused most frequently by American Indian and Alaska Native teens, followed by marijuana and tobacco.
Debra Wilz and Daughters
Teens face peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol. Have a cigarette; it's just one. Want a beer? Influences on what teens do often come from their friends, but parents have big roles. Researchers interviewed high school freshmen and sophomores, asking them about their substance use, their friends, and their parents' discipline behaviors and knowledge of their social lives.
Parents should provide positive role models for their children, especially when it comes to alcohol usage, smoking and using drugs.
More adolescents drink alcohol than smoke cigarettes or use marijuana combined. Within the past month, four out of 10 high school seniors report drinking some alcohol and more than one in three have engaged in "binge drinking." Drinking endangers adolescents in multiple ways including motor vehicle crashes, the leading cause of death for this age group. More than one in four adolescents has ridden in a car with a driver who had been drinking. Genetic factors and life stressors influence adolescents' alcohol abuse, but parents and guardians can help by monitoring adolescents' activities and keeping channels of communication open.
Cigarette smoking among adolescents has declined dramatically in the last 15 years. Today, most adolescents do not smoke, but about one in eight has smoked within the past month and the use of smokeless tobacco has increased slightly in recent years. Tobacco use harms nearly every organ in the body, and more than six million children born between 1983 and 2000 will die in adulthood of smoking-related illnesses. Multiple factors influence whether an adolescent becomes a regular smoker, including genetics and having parents or peers who smoke. Many adolescents start trying tobacco products at a young age, so prevention efforts in schools, in communities, and in homes, can help and should begin early.
Illicit & Non-illicit Drug Use
Illicit drug use, which includes the abuse of illegal drugs and/or the misuse of prescription medications or household substances, is something many adolescents engage in occasionally, and a few do regularly. By the twelfth grade, about half of adolescents have abused an illicit drug at least once. The most commonly used drug is marijuana but adolescents can find many illicit substances, such as prescription medications, glues, and aerosols, in the home. Many factors and strategies can help adolescents stay drug free: Strong positive connections with parents, other family members, school, and religion; having parents present in the home at key times of the day; and reduced access in the home to illegal substances.
Parents should be aware of their teens' whereabouts. They also can keep track of who their teens are friends with, and get to know the parents of those other kids.
posted July 24, 2012 7:40 am edt