The influence parents have on their teens is the most underutilized weapon in the war on alcohol and substance addiction, said Elder Richard P. Lindsay.
"Too many parents are not engaged in their teens' lives, are in denial about their children's exposure to these substances or are resigned to their teens' drinking, smoking and using drugs," said Elder Lindsay, a former member of the Seventy, in his recent address at the annual meeting of the American Council on Alcohol Problems.
Religious faith, belief and prayer are fundamental in dealing with the "horrendous" challenge of alcohol and substance abuse, he said. Addictions to drugs and alcohol lurk in the background of almost all the nation's social, health and criminal justice problems.
"We must take many actions to deal with these problems, but we will never solve them until we confront alcohol and other substance abuse and addiction," Elder Lindsay said.
The battle against alcohol and drugs is a battle for our children, he said. Studies show that children who reach 21 without smoking, using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol are virtually certain never to do so. Abuse of one substance, he added, often prompts abuse of other substances.
"The younger and more often a child smokes and drinks, the likelier that child is to use marijuana," Elder Lindsay said. "The younger and more often a child uses marijuana, the greater risk that child will use cocaine, heroin and other drugs like LSD."
Individuals addicted to nicotine have a more difficult time shaking addiction to harder drugs, he added. Most patients in treatment are poly-addicted — addiction to only one substance is increasingly the exception, not the rule.
Political leaders and candidates often claim to have answers for many of the social ills facing the nation — yet seldom talk about the role alcohol and substance abuse plays in each of these problems, he said.
"Our political leaders can soft-peddle the gravity of the addiction epidemic because so many individuals are content with their own denial," Elder Lindsay said. "Yet it is hard to find an American that alcohol and other substance abuse has not touched directly or indirectly."
Elder Lindsay said alcohol is the No. 1 drug problem in America. It is commonly used — sparking tragedies of massive proportions.
During the 20th Century, alcohol killed more Americans on U.S. highways than the total killed by every war the country has fought, he said. Yet what is America's official response? Alcohol "enjoys a battlefield exemption" on the nation's alleged war on drugs, said Elder Lindsay, enlisting a quote from former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
The human misery that addiction and substance abuse is causing cannot be calculated, he said. No area is free from the scourge of alcohol and substance abuse. Young people who do not consider religion an important part of their lives are more likely to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs.
Each person can play a role in combating alcohol and substance abuse, he said.
Beer is America's greatest alcohol problem, said Elder Lindsay, adding tighter controls on beer sales are needed.
"Stiffer regulation on beer sales would help contain the rampant consumption, widespread availability and epidemic problems caused by America's beer consumption," he said.