Our Opinion: Is there a demand for drug abuse prevention?

A more structured approach to discourage illegal drug use among young people is worth exploring.

Public attention to the problem tends to ebb and flow.

This is not unusual. Alcohol-related crashes galvanize attention on teen drinking; deadly tornadoes prompt calls to outfit schools with storm shelters; and drug overdoses heighten interest in teen drug use.

Our community has made measurable strides in discouraging illegal drug use among young people. Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs, initiatives from the Council for Drug Free Youth and the efforts of school resources officers have made a difference.

The question, however, is whether a more intensive effort is needed and, if so, is a regular, recurring program of instruction the answer?

In Wednesday’s “From Our Readers” forum, Jim Marshall urges schools to devise such a program of instruction. He recommends an emphasis on curbing demand because attacking the suppliers is not achieving results. “You can arrest dealers every day,” Marshall wrote, “but as long as the demand is there, another supplier from another city will take their place tomorrow.”

We consistently have maintained that prevention is preferable to apprehension and punishment. Prevention is proactive and, typically, has fewer costs and consequences.

Prevention strategies rely on awareness and education to change attitudes and behaviors. In conjunction with efforts already in place, Marshall suggests mental health professionals also have a role to play. In addition, we believe recovering drug abusers could share their experiences and insights.

Educators, and the community, will need to evaluate whether mustering and organizing these resources is feasible.

They also will need to address other questions. Is an existing staff member available to coordinate instruction or would new costs be incurred? Should such instruction be expanded to include other issues, including alcohol consumption, bullying, etc.? Is sufficient time available or would the added instruction detract from traditional curriculum?

Obstacles exist, but they are not insurmountable.

In the final analysis, the key question is whether drug abuse prevention is a priority for our young people.

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