By Alison Storm, REDBOOK
The number of teens using drugs has spiked in the last year. Make a dent in this troubling trend by doing just one thing on this list.
1. Know the facts. The number of teens who smoke pot shot up 22 percent last year. If you think, well, pot's not that bad, consider this: Marijuana today is 2½ times more potent than it was in the 1980s. And kids who smoke pot perform worse in school and are more likely to experiment with other addictive drugs. It's time to get your head out of the sand if you think that could never be your kid. Test your drug IQ at getsmartaboutdrugs.com.
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2. Reward good behavior. Study after study has shown that positive reinforcement is more effective in keeping kids off drugs than preachy ultimatums. So praise your children when they fend off peer pressure from friends. Or launch a wider-reaching campaign, like Deborah White, a science teacher in Cody, WY, who started Cody CAN (Change Attitudes Now) 14 years ago when her town's adolescent drug-use rates outpaced national averages. "Now, only 10 percent of children in Cody are frequent marijuana users-down from 27 percent eight years ago," White says. Her solution: "We don't go around saying 'don't do drugs' over and over; instead, we shower students who stay away from drugs with discounts to popular hangouts and pizza parties with high-school-aged role models." Senior Carter Nielsen, who joined CAN as a third-grader, says, "When high schoolers tell you not to do drugs, you listen, because you want to be like them." See how Cody CAN does it-and learn how to kick off a similar program in your community-at codycan.com.
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3. Clean out your medicine cabinet. Every day, 2,500 teens use a prescription drug to get high for the first time. Do your part by tracking the number of pills you have on hand and trashing unused meds. For more tips, visit smartmovessmartchoices.org.
4. Donate sports equipment such as soccer balls and tennis racquets to the Boys & Girls Club of America, a mentoring organization that aims to keep kids out of drug trouble. "Playing basketball after school at my Boys & Girls Club kept me away from all the bad influences in my neighborhood," says Tommy Walls, 19, who graduated high school second in his class and is now attending Marquette University in Milwaukee on a full scholarship. Find a club near you at bgca.org, then contact them to see what goods they need most.
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5. Download the EZ Shopper plug-in to your computer at shop.drugfree.org/shop/apps. When you buy online at one of 300 participating stores, including Target and Staples, 15 percent of the sale will automatically go to The Partnership at Drugfree.org (the makers of the classic "This is your brain on drugs" ads).
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6. Pledge to have honest and open talks with your kids about alcohol and other drugs by signing the Contract for Life at sadd.org. It was created by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) to help parents strike up these difficult conversations. "Many parents are reluctant to have this talk, but it's a very important piece to solving the problem," says Charlie Parsons, president and CEO of DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Download the contract for you and your child to sign, then print SADD's conversation guide to jump-start your first talk.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.