How families can help curb drug abuse

Federal and state lawmakers and law-enforcement officials are trying a number of new approaches in the battle against drug abuse. With the retail value of illegal drugs in the US now estimated at $63 billion annually and with Justice Department officials warning that an expected influx of heroin from Southwest Asia could increase drug trafficking and addiction in many American cities this summer, the search for effective preventive measures takes on new importance.

In line with numerous state and local programs aimed at making drug use less attractive to young people in particular, a new booklet put out by the US General Services Administration entitled "Drug Abuse Prevention for your Family" offers some helpful advice to parents.

The booklet, whicht the GSA's Consumer Information Center mails at the cost of $1.30 to anyone who wants one, cautions parents that youngsters will follow their example in relying on such "socially acceptable drugs" as tobacco, alcohol , and aspirin. Noting that caffein falls into this same category, the GSA argues that in a broad sense coffee and tea drinkers, too, are using drugs. The point is that parents need to keep in mind that their own, perhaps unthinking reliance on such seemingly harmless drugs helps to shape their children's attitudes toward drug use.

The government experts, in essence, urge greater understanding and communication within families. "A stable family atmosphere and tolerance for a child's mistakes go a long way," it says. The GSA cautions against withdrawing from friends and relatives and cites churches, schools, and local prevention programs as important sources of help.

In short, the best place to build a strong defense against drug abuse is in the home. That's a bit of family advice worth heeding.

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