Of adolescents who live with married or cohabiting parents or with an always-single parent, up to 11% have used hard drugs. When their living environment has been disrupted, however, that number shoots up: 15% for adolescents living with divorcees, 18% for those in stepfamilies, and 19% for those living with one biological parent in a cohabiting relationship.
Divorce and parental separation increase both the likelihood of trying drugs and the amount of drug addiction and intravenous use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fourteen-year-olds of divorced parents are nearly four times more likely to try illegal drugs and twice as likely to use them as adults.
What can be done?
Sometimes - not always, but sometimes - complex problems can be addressed with simple solutions. In the case of teenager and pre-teenager drug abuse, a little bit of faith can go a long way.
Church attendance has beneficial effects to at-risk youth. Among American adolescents, 8% of at-least-weekly worshipers admit using hard drugs. That number doubles to 16% for those who worship less than monthly and 18% for those who never worship.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University is now researching the success of anti-drug efforts led by charismatic Evangelicals, particularly those in Assemblies of God congregations, from which CASA hopes to draw "lessons on the role of spirituality and religious beliefs in recovery."
CASA is on the right track. A diverse group of experts such as Mark Regnerus, Glen Elder, Jerry Trusty, Richard Watts, and Lisa Pullen agree that religious practice decreases the likelihood of drug use. Barbara Yarnold of Florida International University has even said that religion is the only statistically significant factor in inhibiting adolescent cocaine use.
When the statistics for family structure and church attendance are combined, the results are even more striking. Of at-least-monthly worshipers from intact families, 8.5% have used hard drugs, but rises to 20.1% for students from broken families who worship less or not at all.
The White House has a noble cause and a high calling to perform well. It should continue waging its anti-drug campaign by educating parents. In order to provide its services in a more meaningful way to more adolescents, it must include in its efforts the vast network of willing and like-minded churches and religious organizations.