Marin survey: Parents fear laxity on youth inebriation

By Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal

Marin parents are concerned about the possibility of their children binge drinking alcohol or ingesting cannabis, but they doubt other parents share their concerns, a new survey shows.

The online survey was conducted in November by the Marin Prevention Network, a countywide coalition working to curb youth substance use. The respondents included 1,446 high school parents and 1,390 middle school parents.

“Awareness of these issues are high, and parents are more united than they realize in their desire to keep their kids from drinking and using substances,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s public health officer. “There is a great opportunity here to build a stronger community network of parents.”

Greenbrae Linda Henn, a member of Marin Prevention Network who has a daughter at San Domenico School, said, “We want parents to know they’re not alone; we’re in this together. There are a lot of allies out there that want to keep our kids safe.”

One of those allies is Larkspur resident Laurie Dubin, who has a daughter at Redwood High School. Six years ago, Dubin founded “Be the Influence,” a parenting program that seeks to reduce the high rates of teen binge drinking and drug use in Marin and the Bay Area.

The program has recruited about 1,400 parents in Marin and another 100 in San Francisco to pledge that teen parties held at their homes will be supervised and free of alcohol and drugs. Contact information for parents who have taken the pledge are available to other parents through an online database.

“Which makes it easier to reach out to the village, so to speak,” Dubin said.

In the survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents with high school students said they were extremely concerned about binge drinking; 88 percent said they would be extremely concerned if they learned their child had consumed four or more alcoholic beverages within a couple of hours in the last 30 days.

Only 54 percent, however, thought that other parents share their concern.

Similarly, 93 percent of respondents with middle school and 80 percent with high school students said they do not permit their children to drink in their homes. But 61 percent of respondents with middle-schoolers and 77 percent of respondents with high-schoolers said that most Marin parents would allow their children to drink in their homes at least occasionally.

Survey respondents demonstrated equal concern about their children using cannabis and prescription drugs. Sixty-seven percent said they would be extremely concerned to learn that their child had used cannabis in the last 30 days, but only 18 percent thought other parents would be extremely concerned.

Ninety-four percent of respondents said they would be extremely concerned if their child consumed a prescription painkiller not prescribed by a doctor, but only 58 percent thought that other Marin parents would be equally concerned.

The survey also showed that Marin parents have a somewhat unrealistic picture of their kids’ alcohol and drug use. Eighty-six percent of the high school parents who responded didn’t think their child had used alcohol in the past 30 days, but according to the biannual California Healthy Kids Survey, which surveys students, 20 percent of ninth-graders and 40 percent of 11th-graders in Marin reported using alcohol in the last 30 days.

“To me that is startling,” Henn said.

Respondents also thought other parents were more frequent drinkers than themselves. About a quarter of the respondents said they had four or more alcoholic drinks in a single day within the last 30 days, but more than half of the people who took the survey thought that other parents had done so.

“What we model has an impact,” Henn said.

Henn said she became interested in the issue of teen drinking and drug use because of her own experience with alcohol growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I drank as a teen and wish that I hadn’t,” she said.

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