Happy Spring!

Join us in promoting a safe, healthy, caring, and substance-free Franklin County that values all its members.

Watershed Mentoring by purchasing our logo-engraved bottles of maple syrup from Carman Brook Farm!  Visit our Watershed Mentoring page for more.

Visit our facebook page to see what’s going on in the coming weeks.

If you are looking for information on effective policies that support prevention, please download our document, Addressing Youth and Young Adult Substance Abuse in Franklin County.

Parents, “Safe Homes Parent Network” is a way for you to connect, support one another, and keep kids safe and substance free across Franklin County.   We’re inviting parents to “sign on” to the following:

  • I will actively supervise all gatherings of youth in our home or on our property, or ask another responsible adult for help to do so.
  • I will not allow the possession of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs by youth in our home or on our property.
  • I will set expectations for my children by knowing where they are going, whom they are with, what they are doing, and when they are to return home.

Are you interested in joining the Safe Home Parent Network? Click here for more information, or contact betsy.fcccp@gmail.com to get on board.

Check out ParentUp for tips on recognizing substance use in teens, talking to your kids and teens about underage drinking and other drug use, and preparing them for safe, fun, substance free parties and events.

Looking to get more involved in County-wide prevention and positive youth development? Consider becoming a mentor or joining our board. We all benefit when our members take an active role in guiding our coalition’s prevention initiatives.  Contact Beth 527-5049 x 1 or beth@fcccp.org for more information.

Caring Communities is a proud supporter of Front Porch Forum, a web-based community network., which is now available to all towns in Vermont.   Check it out and join the conversation.

And, if you’d like to support Caring Communities and Watershed Mentoring financially, you can now donate online! Please click on the button to the right to be taken to a secure donation website.

Thanks for your interest and remember, we are ALL Caring Communities.

Beth Crane




Alcohol use involves drinking beer, wine, or hard liquor.


Alcohol is one of the most widely used drug substances in the world.


Alcohol use is not only an adult problem. Most American high school seniors have had an alcoholic drink within the past month, despite the fact that the legal drinking age is 21 years old in the U.S.

About 1 in 5 teens are considered “problem drinkers.” This means that they:

  • Get drunk
  • Have accidents related to alcohol use
  • Get into trouble with the law, family members, friends, school, or dates because of alcohol


Alcoholic drinks have different amounts of alcohol in them:

  • Beer is about 5% alcohol, although some beers can have more.
  • Wine is usually 12 to 15% alcohol.
  • Hard liquor is about 45% alcohol.

Alcohol gets into your bloodstream quickly.

The amount and type of food in your stomach can change how quickly this occurs. For example, high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods can make your body absorb alcohol more slowly.

Certain types of alcoholic drinks get into your bloodstream faster. A carbonated (fizzy) alcoholic drink, such as champagne, will be absorbed faster than a non-carbonated drink.

Alcohol slows your breathing rate, heart rate, and how well your brain functions. These effects may appear within 10 minutes and peak at around 40 to 60 minutes. Alcohol stays in your bloodstream until it is broken down by the liver. The amount of alcohol in your blood is called your “blood alcohol level.” If you drink alcohol faster than the liver can break it down, this level rises.

Your blood alcohol level is used to legally define whether or not you are drunk. The blood alcohol legal limit usually falls between 0.08 and 0.10 in most states. Below is a list of blood alcohol levels and the likely symptoms.

  • 0.05 — reduced inhibitions
  • 0.10 — slurred speech
  • 0.20 — euphoria and motor impairment
  • 0.30 — confusion
  • 0.40 — stupor
  • 0.50 — coma
  • 0.60 — respiratory paralysis and death

You can have symptoms of “being drunk” at blood alcohol levels below the legal definition of being drunk. Also, people who drink alcohol frequently may not have symptoms until a higher blood alcohol level is reached.


Alcohol increases the risk of:

  • Alcoholism or alcohol dependence
  • Falls, drownings, and other accidents
  • Head, neck, stomach, and breast cancers
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Risky sex behaviors, unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Suicide and homicide

Drinking during pregnancy can harm the developing baby. Severe birth defects or fetal alcohol syndrome are possible.


If you drink alcohol, it is best to do so in moderation. Moderation means the drinking is not getting you intoxicated (or drunk) and you are drinking no more than 1 drink per day if you are a woman and no more than 2 if you are a man. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

Here are some ways to drink responsibly, provided you do not have a drinking problem, are of legal age to drink alcohol, and are not pregnant:

  • Never drink alcohol and drive a car.
  • If you are going to drink, have a designated driver, or plan an alternative way home, such as a taxi or bus.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. Snack before and while drinking alcohol.

If you are taking medication, including over-the-counter drugs, check with your doctor before drinking alcohol. Alcohol can make the effects of many medicines stronger. It can also interact with other medicines, making them ineffective or dangerous or make you sick.

Do not drink if you have a history of alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

If alcoholism runs in your family, you may be at increased risk of developing alcoholism yourself, so you may want to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.


  • You are concerned about your personal alcohol use or that of a family member
  • You are interested in more information regarding alcohol use, alcohol abuse, or support groups
  • You are unable to reduce or stop your alcohol consumption, in spite of attempts to stop drinking

Other resources include:

  • Local Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-anon/Alateen groups
  • Local hospitals
  • Public or private mental health agencies
  • School or work counselors
  • Student or employee health centers


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol and health. Available at: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health. Accessed on February 24, 2014.

O’Connor PG. Alcohol abuse and dependence. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 32.

Sherin K, Seikel S. Alcohol use disorders. Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 49.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce alcohol misuse: recommendation statement. Available at: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf12/alcmisuse/alcmisuserfinalrs.htm. Accessed on February 24, 2014.

Update Date: 2/24/2014

Updated by: Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

Judy Cohen has let us know that the week of March 8-15 is Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge week: This informative and fun way to educate people on the importance of understanding medications, how to secure them, and how to dispose of them is organized into 3 simple steps. Below each step are a few questions to keep in mind when completing them. Our hopes are that by completing this challenge at home, people  can become fully informed about the proper way to handle their medications, safely and responsibly.

1.    Know your medications

– Do you take your prescriptions as prescribed?
– Do you understand all possible side effects?
2.    Secure your medications

– Are your medicines stored in a secured location?
– How do you monitor the amount left in each medicine bottle?
3.    Dispose your medications
– Do you know how/where to safely dispose of any unused or expired medications?
– Have you checked to see if any medications are recalled?

Common Fictions and Health-Based Facts

: Marijuana is not an addictive drug.

Fact: Marijuana is both a psychologically and physiologically addictive substance.

Studies show that THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, causes dopamine levels in the brain to rise, disturbing the brain’s natural reward system and opening the door for dependency problems. This puts marijuana on the list of addictive drugs. In fact, research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) finds that roughly one in 10 persons who use marijuana will become addicted to the drug.

While most people across the world, including most students, do not use marijuana, its relatively greater use compared to other substances makes it the illicit substance with the highest rate of dependence, according to NIDA. In 2011, over four million Americans met clinical criteria for dependence or abuse of marijuana, more than twice the number for prescription pain relievers and four times the number for cocaine.

Not only is marijuana a potentially addictive drug, it has been shown to be more addictive in adolescence than in adulthood.

Due in large part to the developing brain, people who start using marijuana during adolescence raise their risk of addiction to from one in 10, to one in six.

Fiction: When someone stops using marijuana, there are no withdrawal symptoms.Fact: There are withdrawal symptoms from marijuana, and they can be intense.

For those that develop an addiction to marijuana, refraining from use is likely to cause mood swings, depression, sleep disruptions, anxiety, appetite disturbances, tension and irritability.

People dependent on marijuana are additionally likely to experience a significant loss in energy and a progressively decreased ability to tolerate discomfort. These symptoms promote more marijuana use, which then leads to further nullification of emotion, increased confusion and further avoidance of discomfort by smoking more of the substance.

This pattern of marijuana addiction – that of use, discomfort and increased use – was modeled by a study team from Australia and the United States. These researchers found that marijuana withdrawal is clinically significant and associated with impairments to normal daily activities. The research team also found that the greater a person’s withdrawal symptoms, the more likely the person is to relapse, despite his or her stated desire or intention to no longer use marijuana.

The compulsive and repetitive use of a substance despite negative consequences such as these, due in large part to persistent psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms, is the hallmark of the disease of addiction.

Fiction: Marijuana is harmless because you can‘t “smoke yourself to death.”Fact: Marijuana use can substantially deplete the quality of life and future well-being of adolescents.

Irreversible health risks of marijuana use, especially for younger people, do exist. In 2008, nearly 400,000 marijuana-related emergency room visits in the United States were reported. Marijuana-induced psychotic episodes and marijuana-related car accidents, which put the mental and physical health of the patients and others at risk, were the cause of most of these hospitalizations. In fact, according to the British Medical Journal, marijuana intoxication doubles the risk of a car crash in the general population, making use of the substance even riskier for new drivers.

The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) also states that marijuana can cause problems with concentration and thinking. Many studies about the teenage use of marijuana back up the ONDCP’s claim.

One such NIDA-funded study at McLean Hospital found that college students who used marijuana regularly had impaired skills related to attention, memory and learning 24 hours after they last used the drug. A second study at the University of Iowa College of Medicine found that long-term daily users of marijuana showed deficits in mathematical skills, verbal expression and memory. Again, these effects are likely to be especially problematic during teens’ peak learning years, when the brain is still developing.

Death is by no means the only measure one should use to determine if a drug affects well-being. Considering the great variety of serious health consequences marijuana can impose on an individual, and particularly a teen, marijuana is not harmless by any stretch of the imagination.

Use of marijuana for medicinal purposes does not change the fact that the recreational use of marijuana among teenagers is so risky.
Fiction: The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes suggests that recreational use poses no risk.Fact: Recreational use of marijuana among teenagers is always risky.

In a medical setting, patients must weigh the potential dangers of a substance’s side effects with the potential medical benefits the substance might produce in relieving their disease symptoms. This risk-benefit analysis allows patients to make informed decisions about whether or not they are willing to put certain pieces of their health at risk in order to benefit others through the use of a substance. These health-based decisions, often made by patients with debilitating and terminal diseases, are almost always very difficult.

Outside of a medical setting, of course, substances have no medical benefit. All that remains is risk. Use in these circumstances provides no medical benefits, is often illegal, and is likely to harm health rather than help it. Use of marijuana for medicinal purposes does not change the fact that the recreational use of marijuana among teenagers is so risky.

Fiction: Marijuana is natural; it’s an herb.Fact: Marijuana disrupts natural brain function like other drugs derived from a variety of sources.

A large variety of addictive substances, from the nicotine in tobacco to the opium in poppies, derive from natural sources. The introduction of these addictive substances within the human brain and body systems, regardless of their source, canlead to negative health consequences including an unnatural dependence on these drugs.

The body does not know or care whether a drug is man-made or grown in the ground. Marijuana use can lead to memory loss, impaired motor skills, slowed social maturation and substance dependence – not natural conditions of a healthy teen.

Fiction: Marijuana is better for your lungs than cigarettes.Fact: Marijuana and tobacco smoke contain many of the same toxic compounds.

Marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke are actually rather similar. Benzopyrene, a known carcinogen, is found in both, but in greater concentrations in marijuana smoke. Marijuana smoking has not yet been unequivocally linked to lung cancer, but there is a greater risk of DNA damage, a precursor to cancer, for a marijuana smoker than a tobacco smoker. Marijuana smoke typically is inhaled more deeply into the lungs and held in four times as long as tobacco smoke, giving toxins greater access to the cardiovascular system. One study showed that a marker for carbon monoxide in the blood was five times higher after an individual smoked a marijuana joint than after the individual smoked a tobacco cigarette of comparable size.

Marijuana contains over 400 chemicals, and smoking marijuana elevates heart rate, suppresses the production of hormones regulating the reproductive system, and unequivocally impairs lung function. All use equals risk, and the healthiest environment for teen lungs is a smoke-free one.

Fiction: “Everybody” is using marijuana.Fact: Everybody is not using marijuana. Relatively speaking, hardly anybody is.

Despite the fact that marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug by students, the majority of teens worldwide have never used marijuana at all, even once in their lives. According to the most recent Monitoring the Future Survey, 66% of U.S. 10th-grade students have never used marijuana during their lifetime, and among European students participating in the most recent European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), 83% have never used the drug.

Regular use of marijuana is even more rare among students. Only 17% of U.S. 10th-grade students, and just 7% of European 15- to 16-year-olds reported having used marijuana in the past month.

Students can rest assured that when they make the choice not to use marijuana, they are in the healthy majority of their peers.

…the majority of teens worldwide have never used marijuana at all, even once in their lives.
Fiction: Marijuana cures cancer. It must be good for us.Fact: Smoked marijuana does not cure cancer; it is, in fact, carcinogenic.

While there are a handful of laboratory studies exploring how some of the chemicals within the marijuana plant may have an influence on tumor growth in animals, these studies are both experimental and inconclusive. To date, there is no evidence that marijuana cures cancer. Most likely, students with the misperception that marijuana cures cancer will not have seen these studies. Instead, students may have heard that some cancer patients use medically prescribed marijuana to ameliorate the grueling chemotherapy process. These students then jump to the conclusion that, instead of reducing the side effects of a cancer treatment process in these patients, marijuana is what is curing their disease.

In fact, the American Cancer Society has been very clear that it does not advocate the use of inhaled marijuana for anyone, nor does it advocate the legalization of marijuana. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made similarly clear statements, asserting that smoking marijuana increases an individual’s risk of coming into contact with cancer-causing agents.

Fiction: Marijuana is a “soft” drug that will not harm a student’s mind like a “harder” drug would.Fact: Marijuana is associated with mental health problems, including psychosis.

Multiple peer-reviewed research studies have linked adolescent marijuana use to psychosis later in life. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) stated in a policy paper that “adolescents are especially vulnerable to the many adverse developmental, cognitive, medical, psychiatric, and addictive effects of marijuana.”

Of great concern to the AACAP is that “adolescent marijuana users are more likely than adult users to develop marijuana dependence, and their heavy use is associated with increased incidence and worsened course of psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders.” The AACAP feels that the medicalization of smoked marijuana in some areas of the world has distorted the perception of the known risks of this drug.

Any drug use comes with risk, and the riskiest addictive, psychoactive substance for young people to use is the substance they perceive to be harmless, and are therefore willing to use over the long term while their brains and bodies are still undergoing critical development.

Fiction: Marijuana use is cool.Fact: Teenagers disapprove of their peers’ use of marijuana.

As Prevention Specialists who spend a great deal of time with students, we are no longer surprised when middle schoolers know all of the lyrics to popular songs that promote the use of intoxicating substances as the key to fun, prestige, self-expression and/or social acceptance. Pop culture may have the effect of making marijuana and other drugs sound cool to teenagers, but we know from research that the many consequences of marijuana use are anything but cool. Though students may enjoy the media they consume, drug references and all, they do not actually approve of teenage marijuana use.

At an FCD client school in Colorado, we asked students whether they would approve or disapprove of their friends’ use of marijuana. While 10% of students said they would approve if their peers used marijuana regularly, 60% of students said that they would disapprove, with most of those students saying that their disapproval was “strong.” Within other school communities across the United States and internationally, students are even more quick to disapprove of peers’ marijuana use. So while adults may be marketing messages to youth that smoking marijuana is acceptable, most youth feel it is not.

Teenagers disapprove of their peers’ use of marijuana.
Fiction: If marijuana was dangerous, I would not see ads for marijuana shops where I live.Fact: Dispensaries and “pot shops” are for-profit businesses employing consumer marketing strategies.

Advertisements for marijuana products do not have to be backed up by an evidence basis, nor will one see any warning labels on marijuana products as have been imposed by regulators of the alcohol and tobacco industries. However, like other industries, the marijuana business will utilize consumer marketing strategies that encourage people to become loyal to their product.

Additionally, in the U.S., the signs a student may see around town promoting marijuana use may not be connected to a particular shop or product, but may be instead endorsing a ballot measure within the next voting cycle. In this case, the assertions that political ads make about a marijuana measure are considered political propaganda and likewise require no evidence basis under free speech laws.

Just as adults have taught students to become media literate about other industries, teachers and parents can help students to see the underlying economic and social interests of marijuana advertisements, lobbying efforts and enthusiast groups.

Fiction: Marijuana is healthier than alcohol.Fact: Given the risks of alcohol and marijuana, neither substance is patently “healthy.”

The marijuana-versus-alcohol debate is a false dilemma. Students need not chose between two addicting, psychoactive substances to gain maturity, have fun, make friends, feel okay with themselves, or get excited about their futures.

Even if students did need to chose, marijuana carries many of its own risks, especially for teens. A 2009 peer-reviewed article in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that young people who first used marijuana in adolescence were twice as likely to suffer emotional problems, and seven times as likely to suffer physical problems, as people who first used the substance as adults.

At FCD, we embrace a health perspective and are very strong proponents of delayed use. Dozens of peer-reviewed studies show that the younger a person begins using a substance, the more likely he or she is to have a problem at some point with addiction.

This is the reality – all use equals risk, and early use predisposes a person to addiction. The way out of the marijuana-versus-alcohol dilemma is not to pick one’s poison, but to encourage delayed use through strong support structures for youth, including solid, community-wide prevention education and substance-free alternatives for student recreation, stress relief, peer bonding and identity exploration.
The Good News When Marijuana Is In the News

In the midst of changing laws and cultural messages, young people’s confusion about marijuana use is understandable, and the need to provide them with health-based information is critical.

The good news is that many students crave the truth about their health and their wellbeing.

The even better news is that we as adults, so long as we are clear about the potential harm of adolescent marijuana use, can help our students and our communities fully understand the risks.

We hope this article has prepared you with facts you can use when you’re faced with some of the common misperceptions and myths surrounding adolescent use of marijuana.


In addition to his role as an FCD Prevention Specialist, which he took on in 2010, Mike Connolly is also the Executive Director of Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention in Aspen, and has served on the Board of The Children’s Health Foundation. Mike is also a part-time stock trader, an on-air personality for NRC Broadcasting, and a competitive cyclist and avid skier.

A 30-year FCD veteran, Renee Soulis has served in a variety of positions for the organization, including health educator, scheduling director, curriculum coordinator, education director, director of client relations, and her current positions as a Senior Prevention Specialist and Regional Officer. A graduate of George Williams College in Chicago, Renee earned a BA in humanities with a concentration in group dynamics. She has authored articles and papers on prevention education topics and has presented at conferences around the world.

Source: Denver Post
By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter

Seeing beer and liquor ads on TV may promote drinking as early as seventh grade and lead to alcohol-related problems just a few years later, a new study suggests.

The more ad exposure the teens reported – and the more they enjoyed the commercials – the more they drank by 10th grade, the researchers found.

“This study provides evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising in seventh grade and liking those alcohol advertisements on television is associated with higher levels of drinking in the eighth and ninth grades,” said lead researcher Jerry Grenard, an associate professor in the School of Community and Global Health at Claremont Graduate University in California.

This early drinking is in turn associated with the development of alcohol-related problems, such as fighting or academic decline, by 10th grade, he said.

“Examples of problems include failing to do homework, attending school drunk, passing out and getting into fights,” Grenard said.

While the research doesn’t prove that liquor advertising caused the drinking, Grenard said drinking by young teens was less prevalent before the heyday of TV liquor advertisements.

Policy makers should work with the alcohol industry to limit adolescents’ exposure to alcohol advertising, Grenard added.

“Parents and schools should teach children about the design of persuasive messages in the media to help them avoid undue influence by the media on their behaviors,” he said.

For the report, published online Jan. 28 in the journal Pediatrics, Grenard’s team recruited nearly 4,000 seventh graders and questioned them about use of beer, wine or liquor and exposure to liquor advertising. They kept tabs on many of the students through 10th grade.

Overall, the more ads seventh graders watched and the more they liked them, the more they drank from seventh to 10th grade, they found.

Seventh graders who watched these ads, especially girls, were more likely to start drinking.

And boys who liked the advertisements were more likely to develop alcohol-related problems, Grenard’s group found.

Grenard believes the ads influence seventh graders to drink as they move on in school. Of the seventh graders recruited for the study, 57 percent had never tried alcohol or only a little, he noted.

“Therefore, we were able to assess exposure to advertising before many students began to drink alcohol regularly,” Grenard said.

Other experts agreed that schools, parents and doctors should help children understand that what they see on TV or on the Internet isn’t always true.

“This study contributes to existing research on advertising and alcohol use among youth by showing an association with exposure to alcohol ads on TV and later alcohol use as well as problem behavior due to drinking,” said Jennifer Manganello, an associate professor at the University at Albany School of Public Health.

Based on these findings and earlier research, “media literacy programs” are needed to educate youth about advertising claims, she said.

“Also, parents should be familiar with where their children may be exposed to alcohol ads, including places like social media sites and mobile phones,” Manganello said. They should also discuss alcohol advertising with them, she added.

But Dr. Metee Comkornruecha, who practices adolescent medicine at Miami Children’s Hospital in Florida, doesn’t believe liquor ads play an overwhelming role in getting kids to drink.

“I think it’s a minor role,” he said. Total media exposure, however, does have a significant role, and this includes what children see in movies, TV programs and online, he added.

Comkornruecha doesn’t think liquor ads should be banned from TV as tobacco ads are. “A lot of responsibility is to teach kids about media literacy,” he said.

“While we can’t shelter all our kids from everything, the important thing is teaching them how to react and how to interpret the messages they are seeing,” Comkornruecha said.

Another paper in the same journal issue found that too few doctors counsel adolescents about the dangers of drinking.

That 2010 study of 10th graders – led by Ralph Hingson from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development – found that 36 percent drink, 28 percent binge-drink and 23 percent were drunk in the past month.

Although 82 percent had seen a doctor and 54 percent were asked about drinking, only 17 percent were counseled to reduce or stop drinking, the researchers found.

The researchers concluded that “efforts are warranted to increase the proportion of physicians who follow professional guidelines to screen and counsel adolescents about unhealthy alcohol use and other behaviors that pose health risks.”

From FCD e-journal:
Our Students’ First Teacher: Advertising

Advertising is memorable – and everywhere. One substance use prevention commercial features a young boy, wandering through a convenience store casually viewing alcohol and tobacco advertising. The ad ends with a resonant voiceover stating, “If you’re not talking to your kids about drugs, who is?”

Prevention is all about communication, including non-verbal cues and modeling. Advertisers do a terrific job of “modeling” the use of the product they are trying to sell by pairing it with “normal” people and associating good feelings with its use. Impressionable children and maturing adolescents are perfect targets for this marketing. “Feeling unsure of yourself? Clearly typical, happy people use this product! If you are not currently satisfied, successful or popular, you can use this product, too, and you soon will be!”

Prescription Drugs

Pharmaceutical companies spend more than twice as much money on marketing as they do on research and development.  For these companies, however, this is money well spent.

The audio-visual input that young people experience during these commercials shows patients – people with the advertised condition – as vibrant, thriving, and accepted among their peers. These images and ideas are often displayed without the context of the medical condition from which those pictured are actually suffering. Additionally, the advertisers downplay the risks and potential side effects of the substance marketed. The use of medication to feel better is normalized, and interest in the drug increases.

What is the result in society? A recent survey of physicians revealed that 92% of patients had requested information about a drug they had seen advertised. What is the result among our students? When young people view commercials for medications, they can become increasingly accustomed to living in a culture that embraces “a pill for every ill.” They may begin to feel that at the first sign of life’s discomforts, a substance is the preferred way to escape.

Tobacco and Alcohol

Effective advertising is memorable, and no one does it better than the tobacco and alcohol industries.

Tobacco companies spend an estimated 15 billion dollars per year on advertising; alcohol, 6 billion. Research repeatedly shows that advertisers appeal to youth through sexualized images and the association of substances with active lifestyles. Enticing young people to use products remains the base of industry revenue. Once individuals get hooked on an addictive substance, chances are good that they will remain a customer for life.

If direct advertising teaches young people about the world, product placement, “adult themes” and substance use in movies advance that knowledge. Teenagers make up about 26% of movie-goers. Numerous studies have confirmed that exposure to smoking on television and in movies is a key factor in prompting children and teens to begin smoking. It is estimated that this type of exposure accounts for approximately half of teenage smoking.

According to a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, greater exposure to alcohol advertising contributes to increases in alcohol use among youth. This same study revealed that, after viewing several dozen alcohol ads a month, a young person is 1% more likely to consume alcohol for every additional ad he or she views.

The Impact of Technology

Even though advertising and point-of-sale laws have tightened over the last decade, students in search of forbidden products can purchase them on the internet with relative ease. Additionally, online they may be introduced to new and risky products with their accompanying marketing materials. Technology of all kinds has increased exposure to a variety of substances to individuals all around the world.

The Overall Media Impact

Commercial marketing paints a pretty and inviting picture for the express purpose of leading us to become highly loyal to products and services. However, when a product is marketed to our youth, and it has the potential to alter their brain chemistry and cause addiction, there are key dangers associated with its promotion. Prevention becomes about taming the potential influence of mass media with the voices of many caring, healthy adults.

When Should Prevention Begin?

Prevention of substance abuse should begin before exposure to the promotion of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs starts occurring in our children’s lives. Or, because this promotion of use is a constant, prevention should begin right now, in as much of an ongoing manner as substance use promotion occurs.


Advertisers, movie makers, spokespeople, celebrities, sales people: they are talking to kids about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. They do it often, they do it well, and they do it everywhere. Prevention includes everything we do to make sure our guidance, opinions and facts are heard alongside these messages.

Knowing how much children are influenced by TV, movies and other media can cause frustration for educators. We hear you say, “But I only see the students a few hours a day! What can I do to help prevent substance abuse?” Do not fret; you are already doing many of these things.

The Primary Years

For some, it may seem a bit too soon to start talking to our students about drugs as early as six or seven years old. The good news is that we do not necessarily need to introduce those topics now. The focus at this age can be on healthy decision making, learning how to resolve conflicts in a productive manner, and, the obvious one, encouraging academic success. Lower school strategies for prevention can be simple and fun:


Focus on healthy choices. Develop age-appropriate lessons that teach healthy decision making regarding food, exercise, TV and video games. It is not a very far leap from there to making healthy decisions about tobacco and alcohol.

Talk about friends. Center activities on students’ understanding of what a healthy friendship looks like, who we choose as friends and why, what it means to be a good friend to others, and how to say “no” to friends.

Work things out with conflict resolution.
 Studies show that a major risk factor for substance abuse is poor social skills. Enhanced coping skills in family and peer relationships help to strengthen a young student’s self-esteem and therefore the ability to make healthy choices about substances in the future.

Keep it academic. It may go without saying that a child who struggles academically is more at risk for disengagement and eventual drop out – both significant risk factors for substance abuse. As you focus on a child’s academic success, you can rest assured that you are also focusing on his or her health, too.

The Middle Years

Research shows that the middle years are the time when children start to form solid ideas about using substances like tobacco and alcohol. In fact, studies show that the peak years for first use of cigarettes are the sixth and seventh grades. This is a perfect time to expand the discussion about healthy habits and choices to include more common drugs like tobacco, alcohol and possibly marijuana through the following methods:


Science. Make sure that your Science, Health and Physical Education curricula contain some information about the developing adolescent brain and how that development is compromised by chemicals.


More media. As you talk through healthy choices regarding TV, video games and social media with preteens, include a discussion about media messages as they relate to alcohol and other drugs. Talk through how substances are advertised and what it is that ads are actually selling. Make sure you are correcting any misconceptions about what is safe and moderate use for adults.


Getting them involved. Strengthen students’ connection to the school through extra-curricular activities. Is the school providing many and varied opportunities for students to feel like a part of the institution outside of class time? A sense of belonging and connection to the school is a protective factor and can help prevent a child from choosing substances as a way of fitting in.

The Upper School Years and Beyond  


At this point, depending upon your geographic location, you may feel like students have already made up their mind about substances, and may already be able to use them legally. Never give up! Age- and developmentally-appropriate prevention programs can, and should, be repeated regularly. Anybody who works with children knows that most students need to hear things many times before they are fully absorbed. Solidify the expectation that students can continue to make healthy choices now and as they go forward:


Correct false perceptions. Students at this age often view more mature movies, TV and video games. They may hear stories about their peers’ wild parties on weekends. It can become easy for students to feel like “everybody” is using substances, and they may start to feel left out. Deconstruct these ideas when you hear them expressed. Posing a simple question like, “Doeseveryone really get drunk at the parties on the weekends?” can begin a very fruitful discussion.


Stage hallway interventions. Get skilled at overhearing conversations about what the students are doing in their off time. When you hear students discussing unhealthy or dangerous behavior, make your voice a part of the conversation. You can simply state that a behavior sounds particularly dangerous or unhealthy to you, or get into a more detailed conversation about why you may be concerned. When students know that the adults in their lives disapprove of unhealthy behavior, it means a lot.

Keep students involved. As academic and social demands become more significant, students may be tempted to drop any “just for fun” extra-curricular activities. Encourage young people to stay involved and connected – to their school, their recreational and stress-relieving activities, and to the trusted adult coaches and advisors in their lives. Involved kids oftenhave more successful outcomes.

Be clear about school expectations.
 Even when they do not show it, students want and need the adults in their lives to set and keep clear boundaries. When enforcement of a school’s substance use policy is tantamount to asking students to skim over a handbook statement, the message is less than clear. Do your students know exactly what the school’s expectations are regarding substance use on campus and during school-sponsored events? Are the adolescents you teach clear about what the punishment will be if they break the rules, or is it possible that they feel can get away with use within the school environment? Some schools are very clear about what happens if a student fails academically but not always so clear about their substance policy. Make it your commitment to clarify these school rules in ongoing ways as a show of care, concern and adult responsibility for your students.

At Any Age   
Research shows that every year a student delays his or her first use of alcohol, he or she can reduce the risk of a later problem with substances by significant margins. You can teach your students to value their health and their future by encouraging them, whenever possible, to delay their use of any substance as long as possible.

Valued Adults     
Week after week students remind us that they value the opinions of the adults in their lives. They tell us that their number one reason for avoiding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is not wanting to disappoint the adults around them. Yes – the children in your life care deeply about what you think of the choices they make. They want you to be proud of them. They are proud of you! We know this because they often quote you, and offer up a trusted adult’s opinions as their own. Continue to influence them by preventing the risks of substance abuse at every age.
References and Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics. “Policy Statement – Children, Adolescents, Substance Abuse, and the Media.” (2010). Available Online: <http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/126/4/791.full.pdf+html??>


The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. Available Online: <http://www.camy.org/>


Deirdre Flynn, a mother of two adolescent sons, joined FCD as a Prevention Specialist in 2012. She holds a Teaching Certificate for the State of New Jersey and has worked as a substitute teacher in grades kindergarten through 12, as well as an exercise instructor for adults. She is active in the Parents’ Association of the international school where her sons attend and has been an athletic coach. Deirdre holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and is fluent in German.

A Senior Prevention Specialist, Stephanie Haines has taught thousands of students at hundreds of schools across five continents. Before joining FCD in 1999, Stephanie was a licensed occupational therapist working with students ages four through 12. Stephanie holds a BS in Behavioral Science from Granite State College and an MEd in Health Education from Plymouth State University.

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