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Interview With Joseph Califano

Aired August 20, 2003 - 19:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Too much stress, too much money and too much time on their hands. New research says that is what drives enormous numbers of teenagers to use drugs. The study by the National Center on Addition and Substance Abuse at Columbia University may be the first to make that link. CASA chairman, former health, education and welfare secretary Joseph Califano joining us here to fill us in on that. Joe, good evening. Thanks for being here with us.
JOSEPH CALIFANO, CASA CHAIRMAN: Nice to be here.

KAGAN: Let's talk about some of these big contributors to driving a lot of teens to substance abuse. Starting with high stress.

CALIFANO: High stress, we found that kids that were high stressed were much likely to smoke, drink, get drunk, and use illegal drugs.

KAGAN: Frequent boredom, too much money.

CALIFANO: Frequent boredom and too much money. Kids that had more than $25 a week actually in spending money were twice as likely to get involved in substances as kids who had less than $25 a week to spend; 25 seemed to be a tipping point.

KAGAN: That was kind of the conundrum.

CALIFANO: And kids with more than 50 bucks a week, which is 15 percent of our population of 12- to 17-year-olds were at very high risk.

KAGAN: I know it says that the study is the first one to make this link. But I got to say, if you take a group of bored, rich kids and give them a bunch of money, they're going to use drugs. I mean, is this really such a stretch?

CALIFANO: No question. Well, I think it's important because parents don't realize it, parents don't -- aren't sensitive enough...

KAGAN: Really? Weren't they teenagers once, too?

CALIFANO: They are not sensitive to when their kids are under stress, and helping them cope with it. They tend to give them too much spending money. And also, the thing, I think one of the most important things we found was a big difference between boys and girls.

KAGAN: Really? Now, what was that difference? CALIFANO: Thirty-two percent of the 12- to 17-year-old girls were likely to be high stressed, only 21 percent of the boys. That is a big gap. And high stressed -- and secondly girls with more than 50 bucks a week were much likelier to smoke pot and to get drunk than boys with the same amount of money.

KAGAN: So as I understand it, your study really didn't focus that much on why, and why the number, but just looking at the factors so that parents can be aware?

CALIFANO: Yes. And also -- so parents are sensitive to this -- but also for girls. We know a lot about that. I mean, girls are under more stress. Puberty is harder for a girl than a boy, it's -- the physical changes are more difficult to deal with. Girls mature faster than boys, so they tend to go out with older boys who may have more access to these substances.

KAGAN: We're reliving my teenage years here.

CALIFANO: ... and great pressure to have sex girls find as a point of stress.

KAGAN: Real quickly, I just need to ask you, because there's parents out there, besides docking their kids' allowance, what else can they do?

CALIFANO: Have dinner often with their kids. We're promoting something called Family Day on September 22, to promote that. Be sensitive to their kids' stress, help them cope with it. Know who their kids' friends are. That's a big factor. Kids don't get drugs from a guy in a black hat and a dirty coat. They get them from their classmates. And know when their kids are bored and why, and help make them unbored.

KAGAN: And cut the allowance.

CALIFANO: And be engaged with their kids.

KAGAN: A bunch of teenagers out there -- a bunch of teenagers out there are going, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Califano, not happy with you for cutting the allowance, but it's there to help.

CALIFANO: I'm sure.

KAGAN: Appreciate it. Thank you for your time.

CALIFANO: Nice to be here.

KAGAN: I appreciate it.

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