Tracking Teen Attitudes About Drug Use

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and New Hampshire’s Partnership for a Drug-Free America are announcing the findings of the 2008 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS). The study revealed a major increase in the number of teens who reported “learning a lot” about the risks of drugs from their parents: 37 percent of teens reported this, a 16 percent increase from the previous year.

This is the first major increase in this area since the study began 20 years ago. Research has shown teens who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are 50 percent less likely to use, yet many parents have difficulty talking with their kids about drugs and alcohol.

“This progress may indicate parents and teens are finding some common language,” said DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas, “it’s encouraging to see that some of these very important messages seem to be making an impact on our youth. However, we know there is more work to be done so we must continue our efforts in encouraging parents to communicate with their children about the dangers associated with drug use.”


According to the study, teen meth use has experienced a steep three-year drop. Teen attitudes about meth use corroborate the drop – 83 percent see a great risk in using it regularly, about 85 percent see great risk “in getting hooked on meth,” and 54 percent see trying meth once or twice as very risky. While marijuana remains the most widely used drug among teens, PATS indicates its use has been declining for a decade, with past year use down 24 percent since 1998.

Despite the increase in parent-teen discussions, only 24 percent of teens report their parents talked with them about the dangers of prescription (Rx) drug use or abuse of medications outside of a doctor’s supervision; just 18 percent of teens say their parents discuss the risks of abusing over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine.

“The strong declines in illegal use combined with the news that teens are learning a lot about drugs and alcohol at home,” said DHHS’s Director of the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services Joe Harding “underscores the power and influence of parents. Yet too many parents are still missing opportunities to talk about the intentional abuse of prescription and OTC medications. This risky behavior is still not on parents’ radar, many of whom don’t realize that when abused or used without a prescription, these medications can be every bit as dangerous as illegal drugs.”

Parents are encouraged to have ongoing conversations with their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and the abuse of Rx and OTC drugs.