Adolescent Substance Use

In adolescence, the brain goes through an intense period of construction, a period of “heightened neuroplasticity” when changes in neural wiring are easier to make. This sensitivity makes youth substance use particularly risky; exposures that might have only short-term effects on adults can make durable changes in adolescent brain architecture. At the same time, neural plasticity makes adolescents especially receptive to prevention and early intervention efforts. A relatively simple intervention—for instance, a carefully-designed conversation that promotes re-evaluation of behavior—can head off substance misuse.

Based on this science, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s work on substance use prevention advances innovative prevention and early intervention approaches to reduce youth substance use and promote health and wellbeing. FrameWorks Institute is supporting this important work by investigating the communications aspects of adolescent substance use. A series of studies will map the communications landscape and develop an evidence-based strategy for explaining why adolescent substance use matters to society, how it works, and what we can do to promote better outcomes. 


“It’s a Rite of Passage”: Mapping the Gaps between Expert, Practitioner, and Public Understandings of Adolescent Substance Use (2016). This study compares expert understanding of adolescent substance use with that of practitioners and the public, and offers strategic guidance for how communicators can help these constituencies better grasp what science has to say about how youth substance use affects development and what can be done to protect young people from substance misuse.

Telling Stories that Explain: Comparing Media and Organizational Discourse on Adolescent Substance Abuse (2016)This content analysis explores how the news media and advocacy organizations frame adolescent substance use. It provides experts and advocates with a detailed understanding of the communications environment that surrounds them and points to strategic opportunities to reshape it.  

FrameWorks Institute

  Updated: 10/10/16