Our Voice: Let's get at the root of teen drug abuse problems

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

That's what Leo Tolstoy once wrote, but we disagree with him.

Families, happy or otherwise, all face challenges and there is no sure-fire prescription for success. Much of this burden rests on parents.

Tri-Cities Mobile Drug & Alcohol Testing of Richland is offering $10,000 of services free to parents who would like to test their kids for drug use.

It's a generous offer.

Parents who are considering this route likely have reasons to be suspicious. They may even be at their wits' end.

We don't intend to give parenting advice in this column, but do give some weight to Kennewick police Chief Ken Hohenberg's statements that, "Trust works both ways in a relationship." And that if a youth is using drugs, it most likely is a symptom of a problem.

Often adolescents and adults turn to drugs or booze as an escape or as a coping mechanism.

Maybe a teen is curious about getting high or is prone to peer pressure, but maybe the real problem is that a teen has been victimized in some way or feels isolated. Maybe the drug dulls that pain that other people don't even know exists.

It's important to open the doors of communication to our children, starting at an early age. We need to talk with our kids about what's going on in their lives.

We need to build a relationship so that kids feel comfortable coming to their parents or a trusted adult.

We also need to talk about the dangers of destructive behaviors, the sooner the better.

And we need to label these behaviors as just that ... destructive.

Washington parents may be especially concerned with our legalization of marijuana. Perhaps it now will be easier for kids to experiment with mind-altering drugs.

But, let's be honest, kids have always had access to drugs. Smoking pot is nothing new. Marijuana became popular in the '60s and kids have been able to get a hold of it ever since.

Education about the effects of smoking has decreased teen smoking rates.

That education needs to be carried over onto the marijuana front.

We need a conversation in our community and our families about why drug abuse causes more problems than they solve.

Conversations about the ills of drug use are important, but conversations about the pressures of life and building trusting familiar relationship is even more so.