Research has shown that parents have a key role to play in helping their child make good decisions related to using drugs and alcohol. In addition, schools and the media can also be a positive influence as a vehicle to deliver information about the dangers of substance use and resources for education and intervention.
Assessing the presence of such influences in teens’ life is one of the many functions of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Through the use of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), SAMHSA gathers information about how teens receive preventative education messages and what influences their decisions about whether to use drugs or alcohol.
The NSDUH is then used to publish reports that provide insight into trends among the teen population, giving educators, parents, policymakers and others involved in developing strategies to reduce teen substance use information about how to best address the needs of American teens.
How Much of a Decline?
A recent report issued by SAMHSA provides information about teens’ exposure to prevention messages. The report indicates that in the past decade there has been a decline in the messages received by adolescents though the media and school. The bulk of the decline was evident between the years 2006 and 2007, and then remained stable through 2011 with approximately 75 percent of students receiving prevention messages at school.
The report showed that teens are also hearing about the dangers of drugs from their parents. The number of teens who had conversations with their parents about alcohol remained stable between 2002 and 2011, with about 58 percent having dialogue about substance use with their parents.
The prevention messages administered through the media were on the decline in the past decade. Between 2002 and 2004, the percentage of teens hearing messages through the media remained stable at about 83 percent, but by 2011 the number had decreased to about 75 percent.
The report indicated that when teens received prevention messages in 2011, the most likely source is a school education program, but 58 percent talked with their parents and 11.7 percent participated in a program outside of school that focused on prevention.
While the numbers reflect that the majority of students are receiving a prevention message either through school, the media or talking with their parents, it is important to note that 40 percent of teens reported that they did not talk at all with their parents about substance use decisions and a quarter of the teens interviewed did not receive any prevention education through school or the media.
There were also differences noted between age groups interviewed. Those between the ages of 12 and 14 were more likely to have been exposed to a prevention message through school when compared with teens between the ages of 15 and 17.
In addition, males were less likely to have talked with a parent about substance use decisions or to have heard a prevention message though the media when compared with females.