Shocker: Teens Not Truthful About Drug Use

Filed under: In The News, Alcohol & Drugs, Research Reveals: Teens

marijuana joint picture

Your kids are probably telling you what you want to hear. Credit: Getty Images

Your teenager insists he isn't taking drugs, and you believe him.


A new study shows teenagers are 52 times more likely to test positive for cocaine than they are to cop to using it -- even if they know they will be tested and are guaranteed confidentiality, according to a report in Pediatrics.

"It shouldn't have been surprising to us," Dr. Virginia Delaney-Black, professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University and the article's primary author, tells ParentDish. "The take-home message is that it's human nature for us to want to give socially acceptable answers, and not everyone believes that using drugs or admitting to using drugs is socially acceptable."

Researchers conducted confidential interviews with more than 400 high-risk urban teens ages 14 or older and their parents, and asked about recurrent drug use. After filling out a questionnaire about their use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine and heroin, the subjects supplied a hair sample, which was then tested for drugs.

Of those hair samples, researchers gathered 211 that were adequate to test for cocaine, 69 of which returned positive results. But of those 69 teenagers, only two had admitted to using the drug, Delaney-Black tells ParentDish. This was despite having been assured there would be no repercussions if they admitted drug use, their parents would not be told and that no third party would be allowed to ask for the information.

The parents were tested, too, and weren't entirely accurate about their responses, either. The adults were 6.5 times more likely to test positive for cocaine and 5.5 times more likely to test positive for opiates than they were to admit using the substances. The parents also under-identified their teen's drug use.

The results show you can't rely on your child, or on your instincts, if you need to know whether or not your teenager is doing drugs.

"If you really need that information, whether you're a researcher or a pediatrician or a parent, you may have to do more than just ask," Delaney-Black tells ParentDish.


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.