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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Parents’ lack of concern about their children’s illegal drug use is making the problem worse, a University of Tennessee health researcher said Thursday.

Dr. Sandra Putnam headed a UT study that shows the less concern parents show for their teenagers’ activities, the more likely the youths are to use illegal drugs.

A new Columbia University survey says two-thirds of baby-boomer parents who experimented with illegal drugs as teen-agers expect their own children to do the same — and many don’t consider it to be a serious problem.

Putnam, who heads UT’s Community Health Research Group, said parents’ low expectations and lack of concern about their children’s drug activities are attitudes which the UT study links to teens’ greater likelihood of illegal drug use.

UT study results include:

* 17 percent of teens who used illegal drugs and only 9 percent of those who have not used drugs said their parents rarely or never track how they are doing in school.

* 31 percent of illegal drug users and 18 percent of non-users said parents aren’t interested in their extra-curricular activities.

* 27 percent of drug users and 16 percent of non-users said parents do not listen to their opinions or respect their feelings.

* 18 percent of drug users and 7 percent of non-users said their parents rarely or never know where their children are or what they are doing.

“Our study suggests that parents who set clear limits and boundaries on their children’s behavior, have and instill high expectations for success, encourage participation in constructive activities such as chores and homework, and take a positive interest in their school performance help protect their teenagers from the pressures to use illegal drugs,” Putnam said.

“Parents must take an honest look at their own attitudes toward the use of alcohol and other drugs to reduce illegal drug use among youths.”

Contact: Dr. Sandra Putnam (423-974-4511)