George Will’s national editorial, “Should U.S. legalize drugs?” needs discussion. Will states, “20 percent of all prisoners – 500,000 - are incarcerated for dealing illegal drugs, but alcohol causes as much as half of America’s criminal violence and vehicular fatalities.” Interdiction and incarceration cost billions, so some say, “Let’s just try legalization.”

Today, drugs impact children as young as ten, sniffing, puffing and drinking for a thrill or just to feel good. Adults should ask…why are young people using legal and illegal drugs instead of learning how to live happy, healthy, productive lives?

WHAT HAPPENED to the American family?
Drugs have been around for centuries! As a mother, grandmother and crime prevention specialist for 35 years, I have seen American values, attitudes and parenting skills change which helped create the drug epidemic.

Problems begin in weakened families. (Today, 1 in 4 women are raising children within abusive relationships) A growing number of adults are divorces, separated or single. Too often adults become, “helicopter parents” in the name of “love.” They don’t let children make mistakes, solve problems or suffer the consequences for bad behavior. Continually hovering, rescuing and controlling a child’s life, takes away their self-confidence, making him or her weak and dependent. Children become anxious, depressed and vulnerable targets for bullies or they can become bullies.

Sensitive children often suffer in silence as they struggle to fit in and be accepted. When children lack self-awareness, they don’t learn how to handle rejection, failure or humiliation. They may focus on emotional pain and blame themselves. That reaction often leads to social isolation, anger and depression. Or, they may learn to keep secrets, manipulate or lie because adults think their children can do no wrong.

Without self-awareness, children don’t trust their intuition and can become followers or may bully others because they are not on a path to discover their own identity. When children feel anxious and powerless, they can find escape in drugs, which masks the real problem. Or, they might find new and dangerous “friends” on the computer. Many children have not been taught how to cope with the “slings and arrows” of life!

Children need two major factors in their life to help them take responsibility for their future.
1. Learn to live by their inner spirit to grow strong and resilient.
2. Create networks of support to learn how to develop healthy relationships.

The media bombards children with images of beautiful people, sex and violence. Parents have to seek out ways to give children the emotional support they need to stay on a healthy life path. Support for parents can be found in churches and synagogues where children can find positive extended families with nurturing mentors and role models. Connected, self-aware children do not become socially isolated or turn to drugs.

Children need self-confidence to speak up and say NO to “friends” who manipulate them into taking drugs, having sex and getting into an abuse relationship. (Teen dating abuse affects 1 in 5 youth) As children become self-aware, they learn to trust their conscience to guide them and listen to their instincts for protection. A parent’s reward will be a responsible child with a good foundation to help them lead happy, healthy, productive lives.

Yes, we could legalize drugs but first, focus on strengthening families so children learn how to grow from their spirit, not from an inflated ego of, “I am right” and “You are wrong.” As children discover inner power they develop healthy values, which helps them pursue their dreams. American youth will no longer see the need to abuse drugs to feel good.

Author's Bio: 

Mann hosts a program twice a week at MORE Public Radio International, Oakland, CA.
Author: 4 crime prevention books. (1st book, "Alternative to Fear," helped launch the National Neighborhood Watch Program.)
Founder: Safe Kids Now
Speaker and workshop leader