Preventing Teen Drug Abuse

Article excerpt

IN an era of diminishing federal resources, members of Congress must work creatively to help local organizations and communities - which will inevitably be expected to shoulder increasing responsibility - address pressing social problems. Nowhere is the need more urgent than on the drug-abuse front, where marijuana use is up a staggering 200 percent among 14- to 15-year-olds and 137 percent among 12- to 13-year-olds.

After years of progress in the fight against drug abuse, the numbers suggest a frightening reversal. Apparently our children have come to view drug use as less harmful and more socially acceptable. As a consequence of this increasing drug use at younger and younger ages, our most critical social problems - crime, spiraling health care costs, welfare, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, and homelessness - are compounded.

According to the chairman of the Partnership for a Drug Free America, James E. Burke, "The country is losing precious, hard-won ground in its effort to curb adolescent drug use. Today's trends are similar to those of the late 1960s, and the outlook for the near future is disturbing."

We believe that real progress can be made only when communities take charge of their own problems. Comprehensive community antidrug coalitions show us what works. The most visible example is the Miami (Fla.) Coalition. Community leaders brought together parents, youths, the media, religious and business leaders, educators, law enforcement officials, health care professionals, and others to craft an effective approach to the problem.

In 1990, Miami had the highest drug- abuse rates of the six major American cities. Four years after the formation of the Miami Coalition, those rates were cut in half, giving Miami the lowest rates of the six. The approach can and should be replicated. …