Reframing Adolescent Substance Use and Its Prevention

Reframing Adolescent Substance Use and Its Prevention

Efforts to build public awareness of the factors that can prevent or mitigate adolescent substance abuse as well as support for evidence-based interventions should include appeals to moral responsibility and an explanation of the harmful effects of substance use on adolescents, a report from the Frame Works Institute suggests. Funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the report, Reframing Adolescent Substance Use and Its Prevention: A Communications Playbook (19 pages, PDF), offers a number of field-tested framing strategies for effectively addressing public misperceptions of the problem — for example, that substance use merely is an experimental phase adolescents go through. According to the playbook, featuring pediatricians and adolescents as messengers, translating specialized language into easy-to-understand metaphors, and avoiding the overuse of the word screening can help to reframe adolescent substance use as a public concern, address public skepticism about adolescents' willingness to admit to substance use in a healthcare setting, and serve to explain how environmental factors contribute to the escalation of substance use in adolescents, which is both preventable and remediable.