February 21, 2001

Coles Joins Califano to Release CASA 2000 Teen Survey
Finds that teens with ‘hands-on’ parents four times less likely to use drugs

Washington, DC -- Only one in four teenagers in America—27 percent, or about 6.5 million—lives with ‘hands-on’ parents who have established rules and expectations for their children’s behavior and monitor what they do. These teens are at one fourth the risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs of teens with ‘hands-off’ parents, according to the "Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VI: Teens," a new survey of 1,000 American teens aged 12-17 released today by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA*). Joining CASA President Joseph A. Califano, Jr. at a press conference this morning to announce the survey findings were H. Brent Coles, Mayor of Boise and President of the Conference, Gary (IN) Mayor Scott King and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley.

"The measure of our success in the drug war in America must be in the number of families, neighborhoods, and communities that are drug free," said Mayor Coles. "Our success will not be measured by how many boatloads of drugs we stop or how many coca fields we burn. Law enforcement action must continue, but to be successful in this war on drugs we must win the battles at dinner tables and soccer fields. Mayors know and understand this. They live with the impacts of drugs on families, neighborhoods, and communities day in and day out."

"We thank Joe Califano for his vision in providing solid data that gives parents permission to be parents," Coles continued. "As Mayors, we commit to working harder to being better parents ourselves and then to help parents and adults in our cities understand what they can and must do."

Coles cited ‘Priorities for the New American City,’ the Mayors’ action plan which (among other recommendations) calls for a national initiative to support parents by providing them with the skills and resources they need to raise their children. ‘Priorities’ also calls for comprehensive plan to stop the flow of illegal drugs into cities, and to increase the availability of treatment at the local level. Mayor Coles recently met with top officials at the White House to promote these and other elements of the plan. (To download the full plan, please visit the Conference website at

"The loud and clear message of the survey is this: moms and dads should be parents to their children, not pals," said Califano, who formerly served as U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services). "…Whatever the family structure, whether the teen lives with both parents, a single mom or a single dad, their risk of smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs in ‘hands-on’ households is dramatically lower than that of the average teen."

For the first time, the 2000 survey correlated each teen's risk of substance abuse with a series of 12 possible actions the teen attributed to his or her parents. The survey found that ‘hands-on’ parents consistently take at least 10 of these actions, while ‘hands-off’ parents take five or less. Further, nearly one in five teens—18 percent, or about 4.3 million teens—lives with ‘hands-off’ parents and are at four times greater risk for substance abuse than teens with ‘hands-on’ parents. (The 12 actions against which parental conduct is measured include parents monitoring what their teens watch on television, what they do on the Internet, and the CD's they buy; knowing where their teens are after school and on weekends; imposing a curfew on teens; clearly communicating anti-drug messages; and having an adult present when the teen returns from school.)

According to the survey, 47 percent of teens living in ‘hands-on’ households report an excellent relationship with their fathers, while only 13 percent living in ‘hands-off’ households do. Moreover, 57 percent of teens in ‘hands-on’ households report an excellent relationship with their mother, while only 24 percent living in ‘hands-off’ households do.

"We live in a nation which has committed billions of dollars to drug prevention, treatment, and interdiction," said Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley. "But it’s not enough—no amount of resources can replace the role of a parent in providing guidance to a child. Still, we do need to ensure that the resources available are being used as effectively as possible, and that they are directed to those who can most benefit from them at the local level."

For the sixth straight year, the teens surveyed reported that drugs are their greatest concern. In 2000, 26 percent of teens cited drugs as their biggest concern, up from 23 percent in 1999. For the first time, CASA asked the teens that said drugs were their biggest concern what it was about drugs that concerned them most; 31 percent said "drugs can ruin your life and cause harm," and 17 percent said "I feel peer pressure to use drugs." Only two percent were concerned about illegality.

"It is clear by this survey that parents need to be involved in every aspect of their children’s lives," said Gary Mayor Scott King, who serves as Co-Chair of the conference’s Drug Control Task Force. "Access to easy drugs is a constant lure for our young people and parents must remain vigilant in this day-to-day struggle against those who would harm our children."

The full survey and report is available online at


  • Jubi Headley, Conference of Mayors, (202) 861-6766 office, (202) 744-9337 cell
  • Alyse Booth or Stephanie Goichman, CASA, (212) 841-5260 or 5262 in New York

    The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions are to inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.

    The United States Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are approximately 1,100 such cities in the United States today. Each city in represented by its chief elected official, The Mayor.


  • ©2004 U.S. Conference of Mayors