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Drug Use Starts Sooner Than Suspected, Study Says

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FAYETTEVILLE — Children may start abusing cigarettes and alcohol earlier than some thought.

The first national study targeting fourth graders found four percent of fourth-graders had smoked cigarettes, nearly eight percent had consumed beer, and more than six percent had used inhalants to get high.

Some elementary school kids say they have heard classmates talk about using drugs and alcohol in the first grade. The national study shows peer pressure is a major factor in experimentation.

"You've got to look at your own life," says parent Barry West. "When you were growing up did you do a lot of listening? No. You thought your parents would tell you a lie, really, or they were robbing you of your fun. So what did you do? You listened to your friends."

The study shows that parents who simply talk with their kidsbeforekids have a chance to experiment find the most success with keeping their kids on the straight and narrow.

Talking worked for fourth-grader Bobby Hurd. "They told me that it's bad and there's not been anyone in my family that has done it," Hurd says. "They want to keep that going along in my family."

Others stress the importance of community.

"I think you need to know where you live," says teacher Sandra Hurd. "Who's your neighbor? Who are you leaving your kids with?"

"Constantly be checking on them," Hurd suggests. "They probably don't like that at this age, but eventually they'll be grateful for it."

The research was done by the Atlanta-based Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education. The group asked questions of 26,000 kids nationwide.

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John McDonnell, Reporter
Doug Bricker, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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