My son Johnny, a high school junior this fall, is learning all kinds of new things — academic, social and physical. At 16, he seems fearless. And, as a typical American teenager, he faces two risk-sensitive issues: drug use and sexuality. So I read with keen interest a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that addresses both of these hot-button topics.
Its gist: Teen drug use is up, but fewer young people are having sex, and more of those who do practice ”safe sex.” A decade ago, a third of students surveyed said they had experimented with marijuana. By 1999, almost half had tried pot. But during the same time span, the number of students having sex declined from just over half to slightly under half. Most important: Of those who were sexually active, 58% reported using a condom in 1999, compared with 46% in 1991.
I wanted to know why risky teen sexual activity decreased while drug use rose. A look at our sex and drug education offers an answer: In a nutshell, while we’d all prefer that they abstain from both, we try to reason with teens about sex, but we scare them about drugs.