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Prescription Pills: The New Drug of Choice for Teens

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Preventive Parenting

In September 2006, a few months after the Operation Painkiller bust and with a newfound awareness of their drug problem, the townspeople stationed police officers at Whippany Park and its sister school full-time to get to know the kids and keep an eye on their activities. A year later, the school district instituted a random-drug-screening policy, whereby kids are tested and, if the results are positive, parents are notified. The policy has been controversial among parents concerned for their kids' privacy, but anecdotal evidence suggests a reduction in abuse. "These measures have been a deterrent," says Sibila Dubac, guidance coordinator and substance-awareness coordinator for Whippany Park High School. "They've increased awareness and decreased incidents." She adds that kids are afraid of getting caught, and don't want to lose on-campus parking or extracurricular privileges.

Regardless of what measures schools take, however, primary responsibility for keeping kids drug-free remains with parents — and there are steps you can take to reduce your child's risks. "Parents need to talk about drugs with their kids, not just to them," says Haight. "You learn so much when you let them talk, and once they know you're receptive, they're not afraid to come to you." As for when and how to approach the topic, "there's no easy answer that will apply to all families," says Faddis. You know your child and what she responds to best. "But your attitude is important," he adds. "If you seem to be disciplining, rather than nurturing, she may just get defensive." You want your child to be safe — that's what you need to communicate to her. He recommends starting with something like, "I'm worried, because drugs are a big problem and anyone can be sucked in, especially if they have bad information. I don't want you to get hurt." Be brief (experts say that the effectiveness of the discussion falls off after the first few minutes); have this conversation more than once; and be honest — it's your conviction, as much as the facts, that will carry weight with your child. If you want a supplement to fill her in on the details, the DEA has an educational Website for teens on the topic of drug abuse: justthinktwice.com. In accessible language, the site covers all kinds of drugs, including controlled-substance prescription meds, and offers advice from peers, as well as links to where kids can find help.

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