Saturday, April 10, 1999

Drug czar: Parents aren't doing enough to prevent teens' use

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Drug usage is abnormal and dangerous. If you don't use drugs, you're not strange.

        Those were the messages Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, delivered Friday to more than 5,000 youth at the 1999 World Drug Conference.

        The conference, hosted by the National Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE), ends today at the Dr. Albert B. Sabin Convention Center downtown.

        Though half of students may have tried some form of drugs by their senior year of high school, only 6 percent of Americans use drugs, Mr. McCaffrey told the group.

        “Most kids aren't using drugs,” the retired four-star U.S. Army general said. “But they think everyone else is using them. They think they're behavior is unusual and that peer group pressure is supportive of drug use. The more they think that, the harder it is to stay drug-free.”

        The perception among youth that most of their peers use drugs can be traced back to the late 1980s, Mr. McCaffrey said, when adults stopped talking to young people about drugs. Also contributing to that perception is the mixed message youth hear from the entertainment industry.

        “Parents aren't telling kids that drugs are OK. But combined when parents don't talk about it and when they hear (the) music industry, entertainment industry implying that drugs are normal, then you get a very difficult message to kids,” the drug czar said later.

        By the sixth grade, Mr. McCaffrey said, parents, teachers, coaches, ministers, doctors “have to be giving (youth) a consistent and accurate message that, "No, it's not OK to drink beer, smoke cigarettes and smoke pot.'”

        Dave Schoenfeld, 17, a senior at Riverside Brookfield High School outside of Chicago, said sixth grade is too late to teach students about drugs.

        “I think that they should teach kids about drugs younger,” he said. “When they first told us about it, kids were already doing drugs in second and third grade ... I think they should start teaching them right away. In kindergarten, they should just start putting it into things just saying that they're bad.”

        Robert Carter, a 15-year-old freshman at Roger Bacon High School, said his peers perceive that drug use is rampant from the music they listen to and because they see other students using drugs.


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