Feature Archive

'Just Say No' Isn't Enough

Discussing drugs with kids? Start early and keep talking.

WebMD Feature

April 17, 2000 (Bethesda, Md.) -- Before her children reached their teens, Barbara Basham, 52, watched for opportunities to teach them about the dangers of drugs. A news story about a celebrity arrested for drunk driving, a television show featuring a character hospitalized for substance abuse, became, as she puts it, teachable moments.

"There are a ton of opportunities to talk to your children about drugs if you look for them. We just integrated the discussions into our daily lives," says Basham, a financial consultant in Vallejo, Calif. Basham and her husband Jeff, 52 and retired, also taught by example. "There are no drugs in this house and we have only an occasional glass of wine or beer," she says. "You can't be a hypocrite. Children can detect that instantly."

Basham instinctively believed what recent research has confirmed: Parents can play a major role in helping their children avoid drug and alcohol abuse. By starting early, talking openly, and setting a good example, she did what she could to guide her two children through the turmoil of adolescence.

It wasn't easy, and the Bashams, like most families these days, had their work cut out for them. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 80% of 12th graders have tried alcohol, and 41% of 13- to 18-year-olds have tried marijuana. But unlike many of their peers, the Basham children did not experiment with drugs. Their mother's advice to other parents? Start early, and keep talking.