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Four Generations Overcoming Addiction
Nearly half of parents admit today to using alcohol or drugs to get drunk or high when they were teenagers, and one in four teens say they’ve seen their parents high or drunk. Yet more than 90 percent of parents and teens feel that parents should be role models for children on issues of using drugs and nearly two-thirds of teens (63 percent) say hearing their parents’ stories about past drug use would make them more responsible about their own use of alcohol and other drugs.
Those are among the stunning findings in a new “Four Generations Overcoming Addiction” survey of teen and parent attitudes toward chemical dependency and treatment, produced by Minnesota-based addiction treatment center Hazelden. The research has inspired Hazelden’s 50-state “Four Generations Overcoming Addiction” project designed to ignite conversations about the dangers of addiction and the value of treatment among Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers and The Greatest Generation – an honest dialogue on addiction issues between teens, young adults, parents and grandparents.
Among the results of Hazelden’s “Four Generations Overcoming Addiction” Survey:
- Half of teens say it would make them less likely to use drugs if their parents told them about their own drug use when they were younger.
- Two-thirds of teens (67 percent) say their parents have already told them about their experiences with alcohol and other drugs when they were young – and these teens almost unanimously (95 percent) said that kind of honesty about drug use is a good thing!
- Among the one-third of teenagers (33 percent) who report their parents have not talked with them about their own use of drugs as teenagers, two in three (68 percent) say that they would want their parents to share these past experiences.
- Fully 74 percent of teens say they’d turn to their parents as their No. 1 source of advice about the use of alcohol or other drugs, even though 26 percent have seen their parents drunk or high on alcohol or drugs.
- Parents who have not yet told their teenage children about their own use of alcohol or other drugs most commonly said the reason (for 74 percent of them) was because they’d rather have their children do as they say, not as they did when they were their child’s age.
- Whether parents have told their teens about thier use of alcohol does not significantly decrease the teens’ perceptions of their parents as role models. In fact, teens who are aware of their parents’ experiences with alcohol or other drugs as teenagers are nearly as likely as those who are not to consider their parents to be role models (90 percent vs. 93 percent).
The Hazelden study suggests a major shift has occurred in the course of one generation, as parents of today’s teenagers are much more open with their children about their early use of drugs than were their own parents at the time. Sixty-three percent of parents said that when they were teens, their parents told them “nothing” about their use of drugs when they were teenagers. In contrast, among the 47 percent of parents surveyed who said they’d used alcohol or drugs to get drunk or high as a teenager, over three quarters (77 percent) said they had spoken with their teenage children about it. Hazelden says the trend toward parental openness is likely to continue – more than eight in 10 teens (83 percent) say they expect to someday tell their teenage children about their use of alcohol or other drugs.
“For the first time in American history, we have four generations working side by side in the workplace and gathering at home,” says Mark Mishek, chief executive officer of Hazelden. “Each generation views the use of alcohol and other drugs through a different filter; each requires a different approach when they seek treatment for addiction. With 54 percent of students admitting to using drugs by the time they leave high school and 50 percent using alcohol by eighth grade, it’s vital that all generations break through the stigma and speak openly about addiction and the benefits of treatment and recovery.”
“The responses Hazelden received from hundreds of parents and teens suggests that it’s time for parents to rethink what being a ‘role model’ really means,” adds addiction medicine specialist Dr. Marvin Seppala, the chief medical officer for Hazelden. “It’s not enough to cling to ‘Just Say No’ and pretend that today’s parents didn’t have their own experiences with alcohol and other drugs when they were younger. Teens say they want their parents to be honest and that such openness will lead these teens to be more responsible about their use. As a father who is open with my kids about my own recovery from addiction, I know first-hand that parents have an opportunity to be real ‘role models’ – but talking candidly about the consequences of drinking and using drugs, and the benefits of treatment and recovery.”