Treatment not the sole solution to teen drug use - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Treatment not the sole solution to teen drug use

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Posted: Wednesday, April 7, 2004 7:51 pm | Updated: 5:15 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The father of an East Valley high school girl suspected of supplying drugs in an overdose case made a good point in Wednesday's Tribune about the need for treatment for such teens.

But we disagree with dad's assertion that “Treatment is the only answer,” suggesting that drug-dealing teens shouldn't also face the legal consequences of their actions.

In fairness to the father, whose daughter may face felony charges in the incident, he appears genuinely concerned about the matter and wants to make sure she and the others involved get the help they need. During the interview with the Tribune's Kim Smith, he wondered whether they would get that help if they are handled as criminals. (The Tribune is not identifying the father to protect his underage daughter's privacy.)

East Valley parents have been unnerved of late by a rash of reports of drug dealing in several Gilbert high schools. The latest cases predominantly involve prescription drugs taken from home medicine cabinets or purchased in Mexico or possibly over the Internet.

Despite the apparent increased availability of prescription drugs, it should be understood by all that unauthorized distribution of such controlled substances is illegal. Depending on the circumstances, it can be a very serious crime with penalties including jail time.

Parents should understand that and make sure their teenage children understand it as well. And if school officials suspect illegal drug dealing or use, they are obligated to call police.

But youngsters who get involved with drugs also should get the treatment they may desperately need to steer them away from such destructive behavior. That treatment must be made available through our judicial system, and where appropriate successful completion of programs should be required in sentencing.

For conscientious East Valley parents who know all too well that they cannot shield their teenagers from all of life's dangers, this is a valuable teaching moment. It's an opportunity to talk about consequences — both legal and life-threatening — of messing with drugs. And also about help that's available to ensure a bad choice doesn't destroy a precious young life.

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