Tips-for-speakers - Coalition for Placer Youth

Tips for speakers talking with youth
Avoid disclosing personal usage. Many of us have stories about substance abuse or use in our
past. Being a role model is more important than most of us realize. While presenting to teens
if we are seen as a successful adult that used drugs in our youth, it is more likely the youth in
the audience would rationalize using – ie., they are healthy and successful – no harm happened
to them and they are succeeding.
Using Examples:
I think this is an important piece but should be worded more succinctly.
Ultimately the scared straight programs don’t work because youth do not buy in
to all of what they believe to be exaggerated hype. As young people they
cannot see addiction, D/A accidents and violence happening to them. Young
people will respond to facts and welcome information in order to make better
choices around D/A use.
Trauma is one of the leading causes of drug and alcohol use. It is important to not increase
stress or trauma in youth. Results for the classic “scared straight” programs tend to be mixed
to negative, generally believed to be caused by the increased trauma created by the programs.
Distress or trauma increases, rather than decreases, drug or alcohol use. Pay special attention
to using stories that your audience members might specifically associate with themselves. If
you tell a story, and one of the youth in the audience feels that you are talking about them,
they might feel that everybody is looking at them as the “bad example”, feel traumatized. As a
result they are more likely, rather than less likely to use in the near future.
Family stories:
If you have stories about your family that you want to share with the audience to either make a
point, or just set the stage that is fantastic. Making a personal connection will increase
effectiveness as a speaker as audiences always remember a well- related story. It can be very
impactful on the audience. However, you should discuss what you might say with family
members ahead of time
Behavior norming:
The general belief among youth is substance abuse is more prevalent than it really is, while
adults under estimate the actual usage rates. This creates a problem when talking about usage
rates to a mixed audience as you want “opposite” messages. A line like “while many youth use
alcohol (or pot, or other drugs), most youth DO NOT use them. The number that do use is very