Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Teen Health

Font Size

Teen Drinking, Drugs: Parents Unaware

Study: Many Parents in the Dark About Their Teen's Substance Use
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 25, 2006 -- When teens drink or use drugs, their parents often don't know it, a new study shows.

The study appears in October's edition of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Nearly 600 youths aged 12-17 years answered questions about their use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

One of their parents also participated; more than eight out of 10 parents were mothers. The parents were asked if they thought their child had tried or abused any of the substances.

The results show that many parents were in the dark about their teen's substance use, especially with the youngest adolescents (aged 12-13 years).

That finding is "very troubling because research has shown that starting to use alcohol and drugs at a young age is a risk factor for developing substance abuse or dependence in the future," says researcher Laura Bierut, MD, in a journal news release.

Bierut works in St. Louis at Washington University's psychiatry department.

Teen Said, Parent Said

Across the board, parents underestimated adolescent substance use.

For instance, more than half of the teens -- 54% -- said they had ever had an alcoholic drink, and nearly a quarter said they had ever gotten drunk.

But only 30% of parents said their teen had ever had a drink, and only 8% said their child had ever gotten drunk.

Also, more than four in 10 teens said they had ever used tobacco, and more than one in five said they had ever used marijuana.

But less than three in 10 parents said their teen had ever used tobacco, and about 13% said their teen had used marijuana.

Parents Unaware

In short, "55% of adolescents who had smoked cigarettes, 50% who had used alcohol, and 47% who had used marijuana had a parent who knew that they used" those substances, the researchers write.

Parents were even less aware of teen use of other drugs, such as cocaine.

About 8% of teens said they had used such drugs, while only 3% of their parents said they knew about that drug use.

Parents of older teens were more likely to acknowledge adolescent alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.

It's possible that adolescent substance use was exaggerated by some teens and downplayed by some parents.

Still, the findings may serve as a wake-up call to some parents.

"Although as parents we might not like to think that our children are not reflected in these percentages, it is important to realize that our kids do have access to substances and might very well be using them," Bierut says.

Today on WebMD

unhappy teen couple
mini cupcakes
teen couple
girl running with vigor
Sugary drinks
teen wearing toning shoes
young woman texting
teen boy holding a condom
Teen girls eating ice cream
teen sleeping
couple kissing
Taylor Swift