Good news about teens and drugs. Dr. Ken Cheyney at Des Moines’ Blank Children’s Hospital has seen the recent surveys that find young Americans are doing a little less experimenting with illegal substances. He says there have been laudable decreases lately in the number of teens using drugs and alcohol, though a significant number still use illegal substances on a regular basis and there’s still work to be done. The pediatrician says the things we should worry about most are things that are legal, for SOME of the population. He says tobacco use will kill more in the long run than illegal drugs, in part because it will combine with effects of things like obesity and high blood pressure. For a lot of adolescents, alcohol continues to be their “drug of choice” and despite our worries about things from marijuana to meth, many more teens are likely to drink or smoke. Dr. Cheyney says the message about tobacco is getting through to teens — from parents, school and public information campaigns, as well as crackdowns on sellers of the smokes. He thinks the 9/11 tragedy gave teens a feeling they may be vulnerable after all, and other societal factors show them it’s no longer okay to get real drunk, like showing up at the company Christmas party with a lampshade on your head. Dr Cheyney tells parents of his adoescent patients they have far more influence than they, or their kids, may realize. Teens don’t think parents have much to tell them, and parents fear that’s true, but teens tell surveyers they really DO listen to what their folks say — they just don’t let them know it.
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