By: Robert M. Vincent, Public Health Analyst, SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
During adolescence, young people have new life experiences and enjoy greater freedom but are also exposed to peer pressure. One result of peer pressure is that many teens experiment with alcohol and other substances. According to SAMHSA’s 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 7.4 million people ages 12 to 20 reported consuming alcohol in the past month. The data also found that – in addition to alcohol – marijuana, prescription pain relievers and cigarettes were the next three substances used most frequently by youth trying a substance for the first time.
It’s very important for adults to explain to the young people in their lives the dangers of drug and alcohol use. One way to help prevent underage drinking and drug use is by talking with youth about the risks. SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You.” is a national media campaign that helps parents and caregivers talk with children early about alcohol. Since the campaign’s launch in May 2013, “Talk. They Hear You.” public service announcements (PSAs) have been featured across the country.
As part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ prevention efforts, “Talk. They Hear You.” has now expanded its message beyond underage drinking. In October 2018, the campaign launched three PSAs titled “Reminiscing,” “We Do Hear You” and “Keeping Our Kids Safe.” These PSAs address the importance of parents and guardians having short, frequent talks with their children about underage drinking and other drugs, starting at an early age. Approximately 3,300 young people try marijuana and 900 try prescription pain relievers for the first time each day.
NBC’s “Chicago Med” actress Torrey DeVitto and her father, musician Liberty DeVitto, are featured in “Reminiscing.” In it, Torrey and Liberty discuss the conversations they had while Torrey was growing up. These talks helped her to avoid alcohol and other drugs and to focus on her goals. “I grew up in a home where open and honest dialogue was welcomed and accepted. It was conversations like those that helped walk me through life’s hard decisions,” explains Torrey.
The role of parents and guardians as a source of information and advice can be quite large in the lives of their children. “I believe a parent is the ultimate example to the child,” said Liberty. “What the child learns from the parent becomes what will protect that child from pressure and the damaging influences of the outside world.”
The other two PSAs, “We Do Hear You” and “Keeping Our Kids Safe,” feature youth talking with parents and caregivers. However, in “We Do Hear You”, youth explain that while young people don’t always like rules, they understand why the rules are in place. They continue on to say that, when parents talk, young people hear them and that the conversations are important. “Keeping our Kids Safe” takes a slightly different approach and focuses on parents talking about the dangers of taking prescription pain medicine and opioids without instructions from a doctor.
Keep an eye out for more “Talk. They Hear You.” campaign resources. In the meantime, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking for information and access to current resources.