New reports by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) find that overall, from 2002 to 2011, the percentage of adolescents receiving substance abuse prevention messages in the past year from media fell significantly from 83.2 percent in 2002 to 75.1 percent in 2011. School-based prevention messaging also dropped from 78.8 percent in 2002 to 74.5 percent in 2011. The report also finds that roughly 40 percent of adolescents did not talk with their parents in the past year about the dangers of substance use.
A companion SAMHSA report also shows that adolescent attitudes about the risk of substances like alcohol and marijuana have changed significantly from 2002 to 2011, as have their patterns of use of these substances.
For example, the report finds the percentage of adolescents that perceive great risk from heavy drinking having five or more drinks once or twice a week rose from 38.2 percent to 40.7 during 2002 to 2011. During the same period, there was a decrease in the rate of adolescent binge drinking from 10.7 percent to 7.4 percent.
Conversely, the percentage of adolescents perceiving great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice a week decreased from 54.6 percent in 2007 to 44.8 percent in 2011. As the rate of perceived risk among adolescents declined, their rate of current marijuana use (use during the past month) rose from 6.7 percent in 2007 to 7.9 percent in 2011.
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 SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. It is 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.
Such efforts are already underway. Since 2005, SAMHSA, in concert with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has provided direct oversight of the Drug Free Communities Support Program (DFC) grants, whose purpose is to establish and strengthen collaboration to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth. To date, DFC grants were awarded to approximately 2,000 community coalitions to meet the needs of their specific communities toward enhancing the awareness of risks associated with substance abuse problems among youth and over time reducing substance abuse among adults.
Both reports, Trends in Adolescent Substance Use and Perception of Risk from Substance Use and Trends in Exposure to Substance Use Prevention Messages among Adolescents, are based on findings from the 2002 to 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). NSDUH is a scientifically conducted survey of approximately 68,000 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older, each year. Because of its statistical power, it is a primary source of statistical information on the scope and nature of many substance abuse and mental health issues affecting the nation.
The complete survey findings are available on the SAMHSA web site at:
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.