A Parent’s Challenge:
Offset a Constant, Daily Deluge of Pro-Drug Messages

The majority of parents sit down with their kids and talk about drugs and alcohol, ensuring that their kids understand the consequences. But how often should these conversations occur? Is once enough? Every year? Actually, before you decide, it’s vital to realize how many times a day your child receives pro-drug messages. “Never!” you say? After all, everyone in your home is in agreement that your kids will never touch drugs or alcohol. Not so fast. There are probably a lot more “pro” messages getting through to your kids than you realize.

Let’s walk through a day with a young American who’s just reached his teens and get an idea of the volume of pro-drug messages he receives.

Introducing Teddy

Asian boy studies at a laptop.

It’s a Monday morning in November. A young man named Teddy gets up and prepares to go to school. He’s 13 years old and has never used drugs. He’s secretly smoked a few cigarettes and has drunk alcohol a few times when he was away from home.

When he gets to the kitchen for breakfast, a television is tuned into the news. Since $5.2 billion was pumped into pharmaceutical advertising in 2015, it’s a good bet that his casual observation of the news channel will include some drug advertisements. He might watch ads for erectile dysfunction drugs Cialis (supported with $248 million in ads) or Viagra, supported with $211 million. Or he might see an ad for Abilify, a drug for schizophrenia, on which more than $100 million per year is spent. He might not even know what these drugs are for but he’s still receiving messages that drugs are an effective answer to life’s problems.

There’s no drug ads once he gets to school but after lunch, three or four of his classmates disappear to the nurse’s office to be given medication that is supposed to help them focus in class. He knows where they are going and why they are going there because word gets around.

Boy on bicycle in the park

Teddy Heads Home from School

As he leaves school on his bicycle, he sees a nice new car pull up next to a group of his friends. His buddies walk over to the car and talk to the driver. Teddy isn’t sure what’s happening there but something about the guys in that car makes him uncomfortable. On his way home, he passes a liquor store with ads filling the glass at the front of the store. There’s a few guys sharing a bottle in the park he rides past. He catches a whiff of marijuana as he rides past a parked car. He knows that smell because a couple of his older friends got in trouble with their parents for smoking pot. (Of course, in many states, he could also encounter medical marijuana dispensaries, retail marijuana stores and pot-themed billboards and ads).

When he gets home, he looks on YouTube for some sports videos and a number of them feature alcohol ads that can’t be completely skipped. After dinner, he makes a run to the mall with his mom. Because it’s approaching Christmas, there’s a fancy whisky billboard next to the freeway. The discount retail store they go to has a big alcohol section and a pharmacy right in the middle. On the way home, they stop in to see grandma who’s pretty sick and has a table full of pill bottles right by the bed. When he gets home, his dad is having a beer while he does some work in the yard.

Bedside pills

He finishes his homework, then checks out Snapchat on his phone and sees images of his older brother at college is posting while at an off-campus bar. A couple of the girls look pretty drunk.

As he gets ready for bed, his mom is streaming the Academy Award-winning movie Moonlight, which features a young boy who runs away from bullies and is sheltered by a crack cocaine dealer. Aside from that part of the plot, the movie features heavy drug and alcohol use by other characters. He looks in his older sister’s room and she’s streaming the movie Before I Fall, which centers around a group of teenaged girls drinking at a party and the problems they run into.

A Parent’s Challenge

You have to ask yourself, is your message louder than all these messages? How many hours a year is your child getting all these messages—the obvious ones, the subtle ones, the sneaky ones? One by one, they may seem pretty harmless. But look at the overall message your children receive: Drugs are a solution, they are entertainment, they are an escape.

Your message has to be louder and more consistent than the thousands of messages he (or she) receives throughout the year. Your message must also be reinforced by your good example for it be strong and convincing.

Raising a drug-free child is a challenging task. But in today’s world, someone who uses drugs risks his life every day. You want to be a good parent and raise a healthy child. Realizing the influence of drug and alcohol use and advertising in your child’s environment is an important part of estimating the work it will take to accomplish this goal.

For help in understanding the drugs your child may be offered or see his friends using, please consult our extensive library of drug information. Learn 10 things you can do right now to reduce the chance your children will use drugs. And use this article to learn how to spot subtle or not-so-subtle signs of drug use in your home or neighborhood. Narconon has been helping the addicted recover and educating young people on the hazards of drug use for more than five decades. Call us when you need help: 1-877-782-7409.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.