Approximately one in four youth will have tried alcohol by the time they are 12.
Such sobering statistics have prompted local school officials to bring in an expert in the field of substance abuse to talk to parents about the vital role they play in helping their teens.
Dr. Marvin Krank, psychology professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus, will make a presentation at Kalamalka Secondary School in Coldstream Wednesday at 7 p.m. called Teens and Substance Abuse – Parents Matter.
“It will be focused on parents and what the risks are in terms of students getting involved with substances, including alcohol,” said Krank, who has not only studied and researched substance use among youth for the past 20 years, but as a father he has the practical experience of trying to raise teenagers.
Some of the research Krank highlights is statistics from the Kelowna and Vernon area which show that 28 per cent of 12-year-olds have tried alcohol in the past year.
“There’s significant alcohol use at that level,” said Krank of the 2002/04 statistics which he says have remained consistent.
By Grade 11 that number nearly triples to 85-90 per cent. And 60 per cent of those admit they have been drunk within the last year.
“Alcohol use is extremely prevalent among youth,” said Krank. “It is the most dangerous and prevalent drug by far.”
The other concern is with one substance, generally follows another.
“If you drink alcohol you are more likely to use marijuana,” said Krank. “If you use marijuana you are more likely to try other illicit drugs.”
If fact, marijuana is more prevalent among youth than tobacco.
“Kids tell me it’s easier to get marijuana than it is tobacco.”
Whether it’s alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, tobacco, prescription abuse, or any other drug, there are a number of risk factors.
One of specific concern, says Krank, is the interference drug use can play in a youth’s development as they are physically and mentally emerging from childhood to adolescence.
“Teens are not just smaller adults,” he said.
During this time of increased independence and exploration parent involvement matters. And Krank will offer practical advice on how to help your kids navigate these uncertain new waters.
“It’s about how to be involved in your son or daughter’s life,” he said, encouraging healthy activities and leading by example.
“Just maintain a good relationship with them and stay in their lives.”
He points to evidence which shows that kids raised in a nurturing environment may try some drugs but are not likely to get involved in them.
Despite a parent’s own concerns, Krank advises not bombarding kids with ‘drug talks,’ but to wait until the topic comes up.
“When you do see an interest in those things, that’s a teachable moment.”
Wednesday’s presentation is free and open to all members of the public.