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Willpower key weapon in fighting drug abuse

Speakers at a Fargo gathering Thursday told the North Dakota Commission on Drugs and Alcohol that fighting drug abuse requires something government can't provide -- willpower.

Speakers at a Fargo gathering Thursday told the North Dakota Commission on Drugs and Alcohol that fighting drug abuse requires something government can't provide -- willpower.

The forum, one of eight held around the state, was aimed at gathering information needed to boost the state's anti-drug efforts. The commission includes 21 people appointed by Gov. John Hoeven; four of them heard comments during the forum, which was taped for the rest.

Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness compared anti-drug efforts to this area's fight against gangs. Officials in Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo and Dilworth organized the Metropolitan Gang Enforcement Network in 1994. That included representatives from law enforcement, medicine, social services and others concerned with gang problems. It ultimately helped the area control gang growth.

But officials have been unable to drum up the same enthusiasm for fighting alcohol and drug abuse, Furness said.

There were two poorly attended forums, the cities formed a task force and there was a youth initiative, he said.


But "there is no will to solve this problem amongst society," Furness said.

Officials must somehow change the thinking of adults who wink at drinking and drug use among the young, he said.

Mike Kaspari, a nurse at First Step Recovery in Fargo, said when it comes to underage drinking, "kids are doing what they've always done. What's different is we are not holding them accountable."

Some parents who drank and took drugs when younger feel like hypocrites warning their children not to do that. Kaspari said they need to realize that "just because I made mistakes doesn't absolve me from being a parent."

What's more, people need to realize that drinking and drugs can affect users in ways not immediately obvious, he said.

"Recognize that this (alcoholic) can be my neighbor, this could be my priest, this could be my kid's soccer coach," he said. "That's a conversation we need to have."

A West Fargo High School junior urged the commission to find anti-drug mentors younger students actually will listen to.

"I'm not saying it doesn't help to have cops come in," said Jodi Meisch, a member of West Fargo's SADD chapter. "It would help to have college groups come in and say it's not cool."


Meisch said upbringing and education are important in keeping kids off drugs. But so are consequences, she said.

She referred to a 2001 incident in which 10 West Fargo football players were found at a party with marijuana; they were suspended for a time, but remained part of the team.

"Part of (the lack of consquences) is they didn't get kicked off," she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541

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