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Whether a casuality in the war on terror or the war on drugs, 19 is too young to die

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The recent deaths of two local youths in my community, from yet another street drug, this time a deadly strain of heroin, are merely an indication of a much larger problem, one that cannot be blamed on the drugs or the dealers who sell them.

Of course, stopping drug trafficking would be a fine idea if only it worked. Forty years ago, this writer was 19 and there were just as many senseless deaths from just as many illicit drugs as there are today. Clearly, the "War on drugs" is not working.

While law enforcement and anti-drug programs are doing the best they can, it's never enough. For every street dealer arrested, there are two more waiting in the wings, ready to step forward and claim the turf. And now, we have children being used as drug mules due to the lesser penalties given to underage youth.

So, what does work?

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Treatment works - every former addict who stays clean and sober has the potential of becoming a law abiding, contributing member of society.

Education works - every young person educated on the realities of drug use has, at least, the chance of making a more intelligent choice.

Parental involvement and open discussion work. Removing the stigma attached to drug use and seeing addiction for what it is - a treatable disease - goes a long way toward reducing the problem.

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What works even better is eliminating the market for drugs in the first place, by helping people raise their self esteem. Most individuals turn to drugs and alcohol abuse out of a need to feel better about themselves. If a person already feels good about her or himself, there's little reason to seek out substances in the first place.

While people in the drug treatment field are doing their best, there are areas where we can make significant improvements, without having to throw more money at the problem.

We can begin by implementing programs designed to help young people increase their sense of their own worth. We can use techniques from the field of professional coaching to arm parents and teachers with tools and strategies to better communicate with young people and help them become happier and more successful individuals.

The stereotype image of Mom or Dad sitting with a martini in their hand lecturing the teenager about smoking pot, is all too often the real life scenario. We need better communication and better behavior on the part of the adults who are the role models for their children.

We can learn to shift our focus as a society away from studying the problem and toward studying solutions. Since we attract that which we focus upon, an idea that has been taught for thousands of years, we'd be better served by keeping our attention on solutions instead of problems.

This simple idea, employed by virtually every successful individual and business, is a powerful first step toward creating a more positive outcome.

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Try this, the next time your child walks in from school, instead of asking a "closed ended" question like, "How was your day?," a question which generally elicits a response of "OK", try asking, "What's the best thing that happened to you today?"

Once the young person gets over the shock of the question, you may be quite pleasantly surprised at the answer.

We need to use more of our tax money for prevention and treatment and less for building bigger and better jails.

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Jim Donovan, is the author of several critically acclaimed self-help books, published in more than 20 countries, an inspiring motivational speaker and life coach. For a bonus gift and subscription to his "Jim's Jems" ezine visit his Web site.
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