Teens Aren’t Getting the ‘Say No’ Memo

Substance abuse messaging in the media and in schools not reaching teens

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Preventing substance abuse in teens needs to start early. Whether the message comes from school, from TV or the radio, teens need to know the risks involved with substance abuse.

A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that exposure to substance abuse prevention messages in school and in the media has declined among adolescents since 2000.

These researchers recommended that parents, teachers and policymakers increase substance abuse prevention efforts towards adolescents.

"Talk to your kids about the dangers of substance abuse."

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a report on substance abuse prevention messaging reaching adolescents.

Data was collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The survey asked adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age from all over the US about exposure to substance abuse prevention messages in the past year.

Between 2002 and 2011, the number of advertisements - including posters, films and pamphlets at school as well as commercials on television and radio - concerning substance abuse dropped from 83 percent to 75 percent.

Students also reported fewer lectures, in-class discussions, school assemblies and special classes about substance abuse.

The percentage of adolescents who reported that their parents talked to them about substance abuse remained the same at 58 percent in 2002 and 2011. However, this finding means that 42 percent of adolescents did not talk to their parents about the dangers of substance abuse at all.

Adolescents aged 12 to 14 were 6 percent more likely to be exposed to prevention messaging at school compared to adolescents aged 15 to 17. The opposite was true for substance abuse messaging in the media, with adolescents aged 15 to 17 reporting 10 percent more exposure than adolescents aged 12 to 14.

“Although it is encouraging that the majority of adolescents are receiving prevention messages, practitioners, policymakers, educators and parents should note the percentage of adolescents who did not receive prevention messages through these sources,” the study authors concluded.

“To prevent substance abuse among our adolescents, our young people have to know the facts about the real risks of substance abuse, and we’re not doing a very good job of that right now,” said Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA Administrator.

“It’s time for all of us, the public health community, parents, teachers, caregivers, and peers to double our efforts in educating our youth about substance use and engaging them in meaningful conversations about these issues, so that they can make safe and healthy decisions when offered alcohol or drugs,” continued Ms. Hyde.

This report was published on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services website in February.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 22, 2013
Last Updated:
February 25, 2013