Teen Substance Abuse: Family Dinners Are the Key

According to a new report released Wednesday, September 23, 2009, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are, overall, more likely to use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

The Importance of Family Dinners V is part of the Center’s Back to School Survey.

CASA reports that teens with infrequent family dinners, qualified as less than five times a week, compared t0 teens who do sit down to family dinners five or more times per week, are:

  • 1.5 times more likely to drink
  • 2 times more likely to smoke tobacco
  • 2 times more likely to use pot
  • about 2 times more likely to acquire prescription drugs and marijuana within an hour, suggesting regular drug purchasing and/or use
  • 2 times more likely to expect to try drugs in the future
  • 2 times more likely to have friends that use marijuana or ecstasy
  • more than 1.5 times more likely to have friends that drink, abuse prescription drugs, and use methamphetamine
  • almost 1.5 times more likely to have friends that use cocaine, acid, and heroin

Furthermore, the study looked at frequent family dinners without distractions versus infrequent family dinners with distractions and found that teens are three times more likely to smoke pot and tobacco, and two and a half times likelier to drink alcohol when having infrequent, distracted family dinners. Distractions were categorized as talking on cell phones, texting, blackberry, and other smartphones, laptops, and Game Boys or other handheld devices.

“The emotional and social benefits that come from family dinners are priceless,” said Elizabeth Planet, Vice President and Director of Special Projects at CASA, in a press statement. The key is clearly parental engagement in a teen’s everyday life, and active family dinners are a fantastic opportunity to create this dynamic.

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