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A New Way To Discourage Your Teen From Substance Use

Every parent wants to discourage their teenager from substance use. Unfortunately, many of the approaches that parents believe they are supposed to follow don’t seem to work. One of the approaches that doesn’t seem to work is the “Just Say No” campaign. Parents will need to use alternative approaches to keep their children from using substances.

 What is the “Just Say No” Campaign?

“Just Say No” was an advertising campaign launched by former First Lady Nancy Reagan. It was part of the War on Drugs and was started nearly 30 years ago. The initiative was started to help teens avoid using substances. Reagan and other advocates of the campaign hoped they would be able to discourage teens from using drugs so they wouldn’t need to seek alcohol counseling or have to enroll themselves at rehab places in Fresno, California when they got older.

Substance Abuse - Just Say No

The campaign was a great idea at the time, but it didn’t work nearly as well as they hoped. A 2005, University of Washington study found drug use was less prevalent before the campaign was initiated than it is today.

Reasons the Campaign Didn’t Work (And What to Do Differently)


The “Just Say No” campaign did create awareness for substance abuse. However, there are several reasons it wasn’t successful in preventing teenagers from using drugs. Here are some of its shortcomings and what you can do differently as a parent.

It Didn’t Consider All Reasons Children Use Drugs

The campaign made the assumption that all teenagers use substances because of peer pressure. That was a very big misconception and one of the reasons the campaign failed.

There are a number of reasons kids use substances. They often turn to them to cope with depression, anxiety, grief over a loss and other emotional problems.

As a parent you will want to recognize warning signs your child may have these problems. You may need to have them evaluated and get treatment if they suffer from mental health problems. This will lessen the chances they will use substances or engage in other risky behavior.

Failure to Communicate “Why”


The “Just Say No” campaign told teenagers over and over again that they shouldn’t use drugs. However, it never communicated why they should avoid them.

Teenagers are naturally rebellious. Parents shouldn’t expect them to do something simply because they tell them to. However, they are not inherently stupid or reckless. Most teenagers will make better decisions if you tell them why. Make sure your child knows the risks so they understand your reasons for discouraging them from using drugs.

Inconsistent With Other Examples

Your teenager receives a number of messages every day. They may hear you tell them not to use drugs or alcohol, but see other people in their lives give other messages.


You will probably have more success if you make sure they are exposed to better messages. Try to get them engaged with people who are on better tracks and make sure that you give a consistent message at home. Your teen will probably be more likely to use substances if they see you abusing them regularly.

About the Author: Kalen is a freelance health and wellness writer. He talks about mental health treatment, counseling and substance abuse rehab. 

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