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Survey: Parents grossly underestimate kids' drug use

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The Minnesota-based Hazelden-Betty Ford Foundation says parents are alarmingly ignorant about their children's use of alcohol or other drugs.

"As youth drug and alcohol abuse continues to grow, many parents say they are uninformed – and largely unconcerned – about the threat to their children," the foundation says about new research. Hazelden-Betty Ford is a newly merged partnership of two of the nation's long-time leaders in the battle against addiction.

The foundation commissioned a nationwide survey that found nearly six in 10 parents of 12- to 24-year-olds say that they are not worried that their children are using drugs or alcohol – even as research shows illicit drug use among teenagers remains high.

"That is a very large disconnect," Audrey Klein, an executive director at Hazelden Betty Ford's Foundation, told KSTP. And it's alarming, Klein said, because it means parents aren't having vital conversations with their children."

Hazelden psychologist Amanda Klinger told FOX 9, "Very often when we have young people here for treatment and their parents come in, what we hear frequently is, 'I'm completely shocked and blindsided by this.'"

Also among the findings that Klein calls disturbing:

– Access to drugs/alcohol. One in four homes have prescription painkillers (opioids) unlocked and accessible to children. More than half of the homes have alcohol out in the open.

– False sense of knowledge. Eight in 10 (78.9%) parents said they have adequate education about child alcohol and drug abuse, but on average they could name only two warning signs of 38 commonly known indications.

"This is particularly worrisome given the consequences of teen alcohol and other drug abuse – including poor performance in school, a higher rate of accidents, unintentional overdoses, violence, sexual trauma and legal issues – and, unfortunately in some cases, even death," Klein said.

More troubling news: One in five parents admit they wouldn't know where to turn for help if their children were doing drugs, and another one in five would turn to a doctor, even though only 20 percent of doctors say they are "very prepared to identify alcohol or drug dependence" in a given teen.

Experts say it's vital that parents recognize and deal with alcohol and other drug abuse because research shows that parental involvement is effective in preventing chemical use.

Parents need to know their children well so that they can recognize warning signs, Adam Pederson from Minnesota Teen Challenge, which trains parents on what to look for, told KSTP.

Results of a widely anticipated survey of adolescent habits released in January suggested that fewer Minnesota adolescents drink, smoke, have sex or skip school than their peers did over the past decade, the Star Tribune reported. The Minnesota Student Survey is conducted every three years.

Among the findings, 14.2 percent of ninth-graders said they had consumed alcohol in the last 30 days, down from 36.3 percent of ninth-graders in 1998. There were similar declines in rates of cigarette or marijuana use.

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