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EDITORIAL: Worse living through chemistry: teens and drug use

A collage of headlines yesterday about the perils of drug use depicts a deeper storyline, the consequences of a culture where teens turn to drugs to cope with their lives.

Starting with the near-fatal overdose by a star high school wrestler, to frightened parents rushing to get urine testing kits, to cuts in federal funding for ineffective prevention programs and finishing with Mark McGwire's admission of steroid use to revive his career - the news reveals a dramatic erosion in the appreciation that legal and illegal drugs are dangerous.

The heroin epidemic is not new, the alarm is. There were 96 overdoses last year, but there were 89 in 2005. Parents are now realizing that teens who experiment with drugs from the medicine cabinet, the gyms and pharmacies are more likely to move on to even riskier substances. Some want to confront their sons and daughters with testing kits. It may seem extreme, until you read the cautionary words of the parents of the East Islip wrestler who watched their son get last rites after an overdose: "If this could happen to us, it could happen to anyone."

Drug kits may give some parents a method to finally confront their kids. McGwire's confession might stop young athletes from abusing their bodies. But what can we do about raising our children in a society fixated on the notion that chemistry can make our troubles, sadness and social anxiety magically disappear? hN