As kids make the transition from summertime back to school, one expert says it’s a good time for Iowa parents to remind their kids about the perils of drugs. A new survey finds more Iowa teens say they use marijuana than the national average, what one expert calls a dangerous trend. Dr. Phillippe Cunningham is a White House advisor on drug policy.

Cunningham says about ten-percent of Iowa teens report using illicit drugs in the past month, about 12% said they’d used marijuana in the past year, while seven-percent reported abusing pain killers in the past year. Nationwide, the study found ten-percent of kids report using illicit drugs, about 7% use marijuana and around four-percent abuse pain killers.

Cunningham says the numbers on pot smoking are of particular concern, as the survey polled teens between 12 and 17. He says the harmful ingredients in marijuana travel throughout the body, including the brain, where they can lodge in vital receptors.

Cunningham says, "What we’re learning from neuro-imaging studies about the adolescent brain, the developing brain, is that areas of the brain involved in higher cognitive functioning have an abundance of these receptors, so it’s not surprising then that we find that kids who use and abuse marijuana are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to get poor grades in school." He says studies show marijuana use doubles a teen’s odds of dropping out of school.

Cunningham, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, says parents need to remind their children about the rules. He says, "Be clear with your kids about your expectations about their behavior, particularly, having a no marijuana/drugs policy in your home, having consequences, but you also have to monitor, you really have to know where your kids are and who are they with?"

Cunningham says the number-one predictor of a kid using marijuana or other drugs is having a friend who’s also using them. He says parents do play a highly influential role in teens’ lives and need to know the facts about marijuana and over-the-counter drugs.