Faith-based program aims to keep youths off drugs


WASHINGTON - White House officials unveiled a program yesterday that aims to help religious groups keep teenagers off drugs, underscoring administration efforts to forge partnerships between faith-based organizations and the federal government.

The project - consisting of an 86-page booklet and pamphlets to aid religious youth leaders in talking to teens about drug use - was a joint effort between spiritual leaders, the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

"What we're recognizing is that religion is an institution that plays an important role in this effort," said federal drug coordinator John Walters, adding that "faith communities are uniquely situated" to help.

He estimates that during the summer, 5,800 young people each day try marijuana for the first time. Religious teens are half as likely to use marijuana as their nonreligious counterparts, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association.

The booklet, Pathways to Prevention, suggests activities, prayers and discussion techniques for youth groups in mosques, synagogues and churches to help make adolescents feel comfortable resisting peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol. The federal government and independent groups paid the $115,000 it cost to develop and print 75,000 booklets, Walters said.

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