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Arsenal required in war on drugs

| June 23, 2010 9:00 PM

Some say delivering important messages about the dangers of meth use is best left to parents.

Some say those warnings are perfectly appropriate in the province of shocking billboards and other advertising venues.

We say both are needed. In fact, we believe more of both are required if we're going to have any real hope of saving our children from the nightmarish lives awaiting them through abuse of drugs.

The Idaho Meth Project has made great progress - Idaho registered the nation's greatest decline in meth use between 2007 and 2009 - and attributes part of that success to an ad campaign that includes powerful and therefore controversial messages. Some parents see that as a threat not just to their children's innocence but to parental rights and responsibilities for raising a family.

We sympathize with that perspective but sadly acknowledge that not all parents are so devoted to their children or able to effectively communicate the dangers and consequences of hazardous choices like drug use. Just as a shocking anti-meth billboard can force an uncomfortable discussion with one family, it can provide a vital opportunity for communication in another.

To grab young people's attention, though, shock-value campaigns have a very limited shelf life. They are not without their own peril, either. Like a musician in a room full of musicians, to stand out one must play louder than the rest. Eventually all you have is noise.

There is another problem underlying any complacency about gaining ground on the meth problem in Idaho. There is increasing evidence that young people are turning to a powerful, legal drug that is far more accessible than meth. It's prescription pain medication, and it's accessible because right now it is in the unlocked medicine cabinets and bathroom drawers of many of these at-risk children's and young adults' homes.

The most effective anti-drug messages will always be delivered at home by conscientious, loving parents, more by what they do than what they say. For the rest, the war must be waged in more public settings. Because this really is a war, and as a society we must deploy all the weapons at our disposal to have any chance of winning.

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