Welcome to Franklin County Caring Communities

Welcome to your Caring Communities!

What’s happening in prevention? Check out the Iceland experience. Can we do this here?

Interested in cannabis research and policy recommendations? New information is available at under the category “alcohol and other drugs.”

Check out our National Take-Back Day video, made in collaboration with our Teen Institute and Northwest Access TV.


Visit our facebook page (@FranklinCountyCaringCommunities) or our calendar to see what else is going on in the coming weeks.

Looking for information on Watershed Mentoring? Visit our page.

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.

Is Vermont really ready for legalized marijuana? Check out this report on the impact of marijuana legalization and commercialization.

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:Safe-Homes-Parent-Network-Color-Logo

  • 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 and to complete the survey.

Check out ParentUp for tips on recognizing substance use in teens, talking to your kids and teens about underage drinking and aamother 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.

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










Posted in Alcohol and Other Drugs, Mentoring, Our Programs and Initiatives, Policy and Environmental strategies | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preventing Student Marijuana Use: Separating Fact from Fiction (from FCD)

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.

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SAFE HOMES Parent Network of Franklin County

SAFE HOMES Parent Network Keeps Youth SAFE   Franklin County Caring Communities and Rural Partnerships invite all parents and guardians of kids and teens to join the SAFE HOME Parent Network of Franklin County.

The Franklin County SAFE HOMES Parent Network program is based on the national SAFE HOMES substance abuse prevention program developed by parents to support parents. The program has been very successful in reducing youth alcohol and substance use in communities throughout the United States by  connecting parents with resources, ideas, and other parents.

Why SAFE HOMES Parent Network?
Our youth face intense societal pressure to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Many young people want to be part of a social “party” scene that is portrayed as glamorous, normal, and a “rite of passage” to adulthood. Family is still the single most powerful influence in a child’s life, and teens tell us that when parents set expectations and enforce boundaries, it helps teens make good decisions and steer clear of dangerous situations.

Are Alcohol and Drugs Really a Problem? The good news is that underage alcohol use has actually dropped significantly between 2o01 and 2011 in Franklin County, but drugs and alcohol are still available, used by kids, and dangerous. About 1 in 5 high-schoolers started drinking before age 13. About 1 in 3 currently drink, more than 1 in 5 smoke marijuana, and 1 in 10 have used a prescription pain reliever without a prescription.

Teen brains are still developing; alcohol and other drugs negatively affect brain development, social wellbeing and academic success.  As parents, let’s take a strong and visible stand and help kids make safe and healthy choices about alcohol and other drug use.

SAFE HOMES Parent Network is designed to:

  • Protect the safety of youth by educating parents about the impact of adolescent alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.
  • Help parents establish a clear “NO USE” of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs message to their children.
  • Encourage parents to openly communicate with one another about parenting concerns.
  • Assist parents in establishing reasonable guidelines for their children’s behavior.
  • Make parents aware of alternative activities for Franklin County youth.
  • Provide a continuing support network for both Franklin County parents and youth.

SAFE HOMES Parent Network Process

  1. Parents complete their registration, either online or by downloading and printing and returning the SPHN Registration survey.
  2. Registration information is entered into the Franklin County SAFE HOMES Parent Network Directory. This directory is available online and in print to members only. (Members can choose to publish only their name and town, or even remain anonymous –name and/or contact information not published in the directory –when they register.)
  3. Parents use the directory information to call each other to make sure their children are supervised at each other’s homes; that families do not allow alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs in their homes; and that families follow the same guidelines for youth safety when hosting other youth at their home. Parents who register will be given a password to access the online directory.
  4. We know that parents have real influence over their children, and that by setting a family policy around alcohol and other drug use and holding their expectations high, they can have an impact on their children’s choices. By joining with other parents for support, they can change community norms.

Are you interested in joining the Safe Home Parent Network? Contact beth@fcccp.org  link to our online registration at www.surveymonkey.com/s/safehomesfc  to get on board or complete the registration survey in print form and return it to:

c/0 Franklin County Caring Communities, 67 Fairfield Street, St. Albans, VT 05478
or by fax to 802 524-3952.

Safe Homes Parent/Guardian Commitment

  • 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.
  • I will welcome phone calls or emails about activities taking place in my home and on my property.

The registration survey is attached. You may choose the level of privacy that meets your needs (that is, you can choose to list no identifying information, only your name and town but not your contact information, or your name, town, and contact information). We hope you will consider becoming a “fully transparent” member so that you and other parents can participate in the benefits of being fully networked. Your information will be shared with other network members ONLY.

Posted in Alcohol and Other Drugs, Get Involved, Our Programs and Initiatives, Parents | Leave a comment

Study: Under-21 Drinking Leads to Lasting Harms, Especially in Women

Under 21

By Molly Black for The Fresh Story, published by FACE and reprinted here with with permission.

A new study shows that drinking before age 21 has lasting, harmful effects, especially in women. The study examined data for people who turned 18 before the nationwide 21-law went into effect in 1984. The study provides fresh evidence to support the much-debated 21-law and further demonstrates that the law saves lives.

The research was conducted by Richard Grucza, an epidemiologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, and results will be published in the February 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Grucza and his team analyzed data from the 1990-2004 U.S. Multiple Cause of Death Files and the U.S. Census and American Community Survey, comparing rates of drug and alcohol problems, drunk driving accidents, homicides and suicides. They found significantly higher rates of alcohol and drug problems in adults who turned 18 between the years of 1967 and 1989, when the legal drinking age was lowered in many states.

In a press release about the research, Grucza explained, “After prohibition, most states had a drinking age of 21. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, as voting rights were extended to people as young as 18, and people of that age were being drafted to serve in Vietnam, a lot of states lowered their drinking ages. But by the late 1970s, we saw spikes in DUI-related deaths among young people and states began to revert to a drinking age of 21. The 1984 federal act was really just a completion of change that was already underway.”

Grucza said the study showed that elevated risks for suicide and homicide in adulthood were especially prevalent in women, but that alcohol contributes to these harms in different ways. “Suicide and homicide are very different,” he said. Grucza went on to explain that higher homicide rates among these women may be attributed to the link between drinking and domestic violence. For suicide, alcohol problems may tip the balance for women by contributing to a higher number of attempts than men.

In conclusion, Grucza said that his research supports the argument for keeping the 21-law in place. “The 21 minimum legal drinking age was initially adopted to reduce the number of DUI-related accidents and other social consequences of drinking involving young people,” he said. “The finding that it may also save lives and reduce problems during adulthood shows the importance of maintaining these laws, and developing other interventions aimed toward reducing drinking among young people.”

Visit our website for more information on the 21-law issue.

“Higher minimum legal drinking ages linked to lower rates of suicides and homicides later in life,” eurekalert.org, November 8, 2011.
“Study: Under-21 drinking has lasting harms for women,” abcnews.com, November 15, 2011.
“Study: Another reason to keep the drinking age at 21,” healthland.time.com, November 16, 2011.

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