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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn.- What parents don't know about drugs and their children can have devastating impact according to a new Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation study.

The study released last week finds that as youth drug and alcohol abuse continues to grow, parents say they are uninformed -- and largely unconcerned -- about the threat to their children.

Audrey Klein, PhD, executive director of Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's Butler Center for Research, joined KARE 11 News @ 4 to share more of this study.

"These startling findings suggest that some parents are under-concerned about the dangers of alcohol and other drug use by their children and are overly-confident they would recognize signs of their children's use," Klein said.

She adds this is particularly worrisome given the consequences of teen alcohol and drug abuse -- including poor performance in school, a higher rate of accidents, unintentional overdoses, violence, sexual trauma, legal issues and possibly death.

Among the key findings of the poll are:

  • Lack of concern by most parents -- Nearly six in 10 (59.2%) parents of youth ages 12 to 24 say that they are not concerned about their children's use or abuse of alcohol or other drugs. This despite government surveys showing illicit drug use among teenagers remains high, and some 4 of 5 heroin addicts started out using prescription pain killers and when heroin use has reached "epidemic" levels.
  • Easy access to drugs and alcohol -- One in four homes reports having prescription painkillers (opioids) in unlocked cabinets or in the open and accessible to their children. More than half (54.4%) have alcohol accessible.
  • False sense of knowledge -- Even though almost eight in 10 (78.9%) parents think they have adequate education about child alcohol and other drug abuse, they could name only two warning signs out of 38 commonly known indications, on average.
  • Don't know where to turn for help -- Approximately one in five parents (18%) admitted they did not know where to turn for help if their child did struggle with alcohol or other drug abuse. One in five (20%) said they would seek out their primary care physician, yet most physicians are uncomfortable discussing alcohol and drug use with patients and feel unprepared to adequately diagnose addiction. Less than 20 percent of primary care physicians considered themselves "very prepared to identify alcohol or drug dependence" compared to more than 80 percent who are very comfortable diagnosing hypertension and diabetes, according to The National Center on Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

The survey of 2,454 U.S. parents was conducted by Q Market Research of Eagan.

Findings have a confidence interval of 95 percent and a margin of error of +/- 1.9 percent. For a copy of the report, "A matter of concern: Survey finds parents underestimate risks of alcohol or other drug use, go to Hazelden Youth.

In response to the need to help more young people, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is expanding its treatment facility for adolescents and young adults in Plymouth by 40 percent.

The facility now offers residential treatment to females as well as males. In addition, Hazelden has added adolescent and young adult outpatient treatment programs and will continue to add more. Hazelden has also increased its support for parents by providing free recovery coaching after their child has been discharged as well as a social community with support groups for parents.

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