Survey: Parents Okay
With Teen Drug Use
By Lauran Neergaard

WASHINGTON (AP) 09/09/96 -- Two-thirds of baby-boomer parents who experimented with illegal drugs as they grew up expect their own children will do the same -- and many don't consider that a crisis, says a survey released today.

The findings, from the first national survey of teen-agers' and their parents' attitudes toward drugs, come just weeks after the government announced a troubling rise in teen drug use.

``What is infuriating ... is the resignation of so many parents,'' said Joseph Califano of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, which sponsored the survey. ``That is not a climate that's sending a clear and loud message to a kid: Don't use drugs.''

Government figures released last month found that drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds rose from 5.3 percent of those surveyed in 1992 to 10.9 percent last year. Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole seized on the data to attack President Clinton as being soft on drugs.

The new survey questioned 1,200 teens and 1,166 parents of teens including 819 whose children also were polled about their attitudes toward drug use. The poll, conducted in July and August, had a margin of error of 2.8 percent for the teens' portion and 2.9 percent for the parents.

Almost half of the parents surveyed 49 percent had tried marijuana in their youth. Some 46 percent knew someone who uses illegal drugs today, including one-third of parents who have friends who currently use marijuana.

Overall, 46 percent of the parents surveyed said they expect their teen to try illegal drugs.

But when researchers looked only at the parents who had experimented with marijuana, akin to a rite of passage for many baby-boomers, the numbers jumped.

Some 65 percent of parents who used marijuana regularly as teens believe their own children will use drugs, as do 62 percent who experimented with marijuana in their youth. Among parents who never tried marijuana, only 29 percent believe their children will try drugs.

When asked if it is a ``crisis'' for someone under 16 to smoke marijuana, 83 percent of parents who never tried pot themselves said yes -- but only 58 percent of parents who smoked marijuana regularly when they were young were similarly alarmed.

Part of the problem, Califano argued, is that scientists have discovered that the marijuana of the 1960s and '70s was not as strong as the pot sold on streets today -- meaning parents may not have gotten the message that their teens could be more in jeopardy than they were at the same age.

The Department of Health and Human Services said the same thing last year when a government survey found a rising number of teens using marijuana and declaring it a benign drug. In response, HHS distributed anti-marijuana educational materials and sent 16,000 school districts videos to teach parents to discuss pot with their teens.

Califano, who headed the Department of Health, Education and Welfare -- HHS' predecessor -- in the Johnson administration, found the teen-agers' attitudes toward drugs parallel the doubling of actual teen drug use between 1992 and 1995. Twenty-two percent of the teens surveyed this summer said they are likely or somewhat likely to use drugs in the future -- up from 11 percent who said that in a similar survey conducted by the Columbia University center in 1995.

Four percent of 12-year-olds said it was ``very likely'' that they would try drugs, compared with 20 percent of 17-year-olds. Nineteen percent of the 12-year-olds said it would take them less than a day to purchase marijuana.

And more than 70 percent of the 15- to 17-year-olds surveyed -- and their parents -- said drugs are kept, used and sold at their high schools.

The survey also found that while 94 percent of parents claimed they have warned their teens about the dangers of illegal drugs, 39 percent of the teens don't remember hearing it.