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posted: 2/14/2012 5:00 AM

To fight teen drug abuse, parents must be alert

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

For any parent dealing with a teenager, truer words have never been spoken than those by Barrington High School Principal Steve McWilliams in a Sunday story on dealing with drugs in the suburbs.

"Raising a teenager -- to raise a son or daughter of any age, in fact -- is not easy. It takes a lot of energy, a lot of knowledge."

And knowledge is something parents need, because rebellious teens who want to smoke pot or drink alcohol or take other kinds of drugs will rationalize their behavior to fit their agendas. Don't let them.

That's why schools like Naperville Unit District 203 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204, for example, are working with the Naperville Police Department to publicize events warning of the increased prevalence of heroin in Naperville and the suburbs in general.

That's why parents need to be aware of studies like one done annually at the University of Michigan. As staff writer Eric Peterson reported Sunday, the survey shows daily or near-daily use of marijuana among teens is currently at the highest level since 1981. Among the numbers that should alarm parents and all of us: About 1 in 15 high school seniors today smokes marijuana almost daily.

"Marijuana has become extremely common and prevalent among teens," Elgin police Sgt. Dan O'Shea told Peterson.

Then he added this startling fact and ominous prediction: "Weed is probably easier to get than cigarettes. We're never going to win the weed war. Never."

But that doesn't mean we give up. On that war or the war against alcohol abuse or any other drug. Our kids are too important. Their futures -- perhaps even their lives -- are at stake.

So when suburban parents read about the arrest of two students last week at Stevenson High School for arranging marijuana transactions at school by text message, they should ask: Could that be happening at my son's school? Could that be my daughter? How do I know? What should I do to find out?

The answer to the first question is yes, absolutely it could be happening and likely is happening at every high school in the suburbs. Those who choose to not believe that are living in a fantasy world. The answer to the second question is more difficult to ascertain; that's why parents need to be involved, need to be educated and need to be aware. And they need to talk to their children daily about what they are doing with their time and who their friends are.

Said Barrington High's McWilliams: "(Drugs have) been an issue at high schools since high schools were opened. We just have to help educate students to make good decisions."

Added O'Shea: "Parenting is the first and last line of defense." Get busy, parents.

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