the Message: Challenges
members of our state task forces encountered the following stumbling
to frame the message
Inhalant abuse prevention presents a challenge and a paradigm shift
for people who come from the substance abuse prevention field. We
have asked people to think differently about inhalants. Preferred
messages reframe the issue of inhalants into a public safety approach
that equates inhalants with poisons, pollutants, and fire hazards;
stresses using products as they were intended to be used; and is
careful not to group inhalants in with other drugs.
was intimidating as an educator
with the controversy of where should we go, what message should
we give, and what messages shouldn’t we give. And because
of that, I ended up becoming very eager to learn as much as
I could to ward off some of those potential mistakes that
could take place in the classroom as far as giving too much
information or too little.”
Heinen, New Hampshire Educator with the Northern New England
Unfortunately, adults know less about inhalants today than young
people do. Inhalant abuse is not on the adult RADAR screen. Parents
don’t talk about it with their children. Pediatricians don’t
often look for signs of abuse with their patients. School administrators
don’t believe they have a problem in their schools. Our challenge
was to find effective ways to reach the general population -- without
disclosing information that would interest potential young experimenters.
Partnering with the Media
Well-intentioned news reporters see inhalant abuse as a fresh new issue and in their zeal to report the dangers, they often write about what products to use, how to use them, and their drug-like effect. In addition, television programs often want to showcase a young inhalant abuser or a family that has lost a young child. We believe it's a difficult situation for a young person who is in recovery from addiction to be interviewed on air. If done, it must be done with great care. And it may be difficult to find a family locally willing to speak up. So, while we crave the news coverage, we want it conducted responsibly.
See Massachusetts Inhalant Abuse Task Force's "Frequently Asked Questions to Inform the Press about Inhalants" for an example of a document that explains the issue to the media.