Parental identification and response to adolescent substance use and substance use disorders

Brenda Curtis, Robert Ashford, Sarah Rosenbach, Max Stern, Kimberly Kirby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Previous research showing that parents tend to underestimate adolescent substance use is consistent with concerns that adolescent substance use may develop because parents delay in reacting to it. However, little research has examined parental decisions regarding how and when to intervene on adolescent substance use. This study examines the actions that parents report they would take after (a) discovering substance use to intoxication and (b) when they believe their child has a substance use problem. Internet surveys were conducted asking parents (N = 975) how they would respond to (a) evidence of their child’s use to intoxication and (b) their child’s significant problem with either alcohol, cannabis, prescription opioids, or illicit drugs. While parental response to alcohol and cannabis intoxication focused on talking with their children (34% and 45%, respectively) and punishment (30% and 18%, respectively), parents were significantly more likely to report help-seeking behaviors when responding to prescription opioid or illicit drug use intoxication (37% and 30%, respectively). More effective public health initiatives are needed to provide parents with practical strategies to address adolescent substance use and to increase parental engagement in the services offered by addiction specialists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)


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