When `Just Say No' is not enough

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

`YOU can never be too tough when it comes to drugs and the children you love,'' says Ken Barun. He isn't talking about using the United States armed forces to keep drugs out of the country, but about what parents can do to help their children.

As a father of four and a former drug addict, Barun speaks and writes from his own experience. His new book, How to Keep the Children You Love Off Drugs (Atlantic Monthly Press, Boston, $12.95) is co-written with Philip Bashe.

After his narrow escape from heroin addiction, Barun went on to become a drug abuse counselor. He was closely involved in Nancy Reagan's ``Just Say No'' campaign against drugs.

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Moving beyond this catchy but simplistic slogan, the book offers parents thorough coverage of a variety of topics, including:

Why kids try drugs.

How parents can educate their kids to resist drug use.

What specific drugs look like, and how they are used.

The physical and behavioral signs of drug abuse.

How to confront a drug-using child.

And how to select a treatment program.

There is also a comprehensive list of organizations involved in preventing and in treating substance abuse, with addresses and phone numbers.

The book is divided neatly into two sections - one on prevention and one on treatment. Both are filled with factual detail and concrete advice. At the end of each chapter is a helpful summary of key points.

Since the average age of the first drug user is 13, it's never too early to start educating children about drugs.

Parents must not only abstain from drug use themselves, but they need to actively educate their children. The authors suggest that lessons be spontaneous - rather than formally saying, ``Now we're going to talk about drugs.''

Parents can use news stories, movies, and everyday events as starting points for discussion. By basing discussions around real-life incidents, the issue becomes tangible to youngsters.

In addition to early education about drugs, the book tells parents how to counteract the causes of drug abuse. People often turn to drugs out of loneliness, alienation, boredom, or depression.

Parents should actively promote the individual development of their children, so that each child has a sense of identity and achievement.

``Show your child by example how to enjoy life through accomplishments, through loving and being loved.

``Drugs kill; but partaking in fulfilling pursuits helps people to live,'' Barun and Bashe write.

But they find that an active life alone is not an antidote to the appeal of drugs. The ``fast forward'' pace of today's society mirrors the latter part of the 19th century, when drug use soared in an industrializing America.

Television advertisements and bulging medicine chests, Barun and Bashe point out, reinforce the impression that ``for every pain there is a chemical cure.''

This book will help parents educate their children by guidance and example, and support those struggling with drug abuse in the family.

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