Pubdate: Mon, 17 Apr 2000
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2000 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Contact:  1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA 22229
Fax: (703) 247-3108
Author: David C. Leven, deputy director, The Lindesmith Center


As suggested in ''Parents get involved by discussing drugs'' (Life,
Tuesday), it is critically important for parents to speak frankly with their
children about drugs -- and more parents are doing so.

However, increased discussion, even if it may result in greater professed
disapproval of drugs by teens, has not, so far, translated into less teen
drug use.

In 1999, the annual Monitoring the Future Study showed, for example, that
the use of marijuana remained stable across age groups. Almost 1 in 4 high
school seniors sampled said that they had smoked marijuana over the past
month, and 6% said they did so on a daily basis, virtually the same figures
as the prior year.

The sad truth is that after two decades of the zero-tolerance-based ''just
say no'' message, 80% of high school teens experiment with alcohol, 54% have
used illicit drugs, while about one-third leave high school as cigarette

None of us wants our teenagers to use drugs. Still, many children at least
experiment with drugs.

One reason is that they have learned that America is hardly drug-free; there
are vast differences between experimentation, abuse and addiction; and the
use of one drug does not inevitably lead to the use of others.

Even as we stress abstinence, a safety-first strategy is necessary that
provides our teens with information and resources so that they do the least
harm to themselves and those around them. It needs to be honest and

Students who use marijuana despite our strong admonitions to abstain need to
be strongly encouraged to use in moderation and only occasionally -- never
at school, work, while playing sports or while driving.

If we are going to have a positive impact on teen drug use and not just
attitudes, it is our responsibility as parents and teachers to engage
students and provide them with credible information so they can make
responsible decisions, avoid drug abuse and stay safe.

David C. Leven, deputy director

The Lindesmith Center

New York, N.Y.
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