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'Just Say No' Isn't Enough

Discussing drugs with kids? Start early and keep talking.

Breaking the Ice

Jeanette Friedman, a social worker at New York City's Phoenix House, the nation's largest nonprofit drug prevention program, says, "Kids are more likely to use drugs if parents seem to have any tolerance at all. This brings up a delicate issue for many baby boomer parents, who experimented with drugs in their youth, and who find that zero tolerance seems a hypocritical standard to enforce." Simon says, "Parents are often terrified by this. But you can share what you learned and tell your children that you don't want them to make the same mistakes."

Look for opportunities to introduce the subject of drugs into ordinary conversations. "Watch television with your child. Television programs are full of these opportunities," says Friedman. "Mention Uncle John who acts funny when he drinks. Say, 'I heard somebody at your school was using marijuana, what do you think about that?' "

Above all, say counselors, it's important to try. "Many parents underestimate the influence that they have," says Alyse Booth of CASA.

As for the Basham children, they are now 18 and 20. Having survived high school, both are now in college, excelling academically -- and still avoiding drugs, reports Barbara Basham. "So far, so good," she says.

Rochelle Jones is a writer based in Bethesda, Md. She has covered health and medicine for the New York Daily News and the St. Petersburg Times.

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