This section includes resources to build youth-serving providers’ knowledge to share information or “the facts” about substances and marijuana legalization ‒ and why other young people choose not to use substances ‒ with the young people they serve.
Substance Fact Sheets
When engaging in conversations of substance use, youth are likely to have questions and want to know more about the risks and impacts of drugs and alcohol. Therefore, it’s important that youth-serving providers are aware and knowledgeable about the most commonly used substances. The fact sheets below are intended to educate youth-serving providers and facilitate knowledge sharing with young people when delivering prevention messages and discussing substances.
In addition to the names noted on the fact sheets, many of these substances also have “street” names — slang or code terms — to refer to the different substances. To learn more and see some of the most common slang terms, check out the Drug Enforcement Administration’s comprehensive guide.
Looking to learn more about a specific substance or one that doesn’t have a fact sheet? Check out the National Institute on Drug Abuse for more facts and information.
Understanding State Marijuana Policies
Legalization of nonmedical and medicinal marijuana for adults is ever-evolving with more states changing legislation. Providers should be aware of their states’ policies as the evolving landscape can be confusing and send conflicting messages to youth and adults alike. It’s important to remember that marijuana, for any purpose, is illegal for individuals under 21 years of age under federal law.
Risk factors are conditions or characteristics that can increase a young person’s likelihood of initiating substance use and experiencing harms or other problems associated with use. Protective factors are conditions or characteristics that increase resilience, help people deal with stressful events and reduce the impacts of risk factors.
Because prevention efforts focus on reducing risk factors and strengthening protective factors, this worksheet, My Protective Factors (also available in Spanish), is intended for youth-serving providers and youth to complete together to identify the young person’s own protective factors and select others they would like to strengthen.
“Share Your Why” Videos
This three-part video series of six young people from across the country sharing their stories of why they choose not to use drugs or alcohol and how they cope with life’s stressors can be a complimentary tool to reinforce prevention messaging. Providers may post these peer-to-peer videos on social media and share with the youth they serve in hopes of increasing youth receptiveness to such messages.
In addition to sharing these videos with youth, providers can also encourage youth in their communities to “share their why” by recording a video or creating a post on social media using any of the prompts below as a guide with the hastag, #shareyourwhy.
There are several reasons youth may be motivated or inspired to “Share their Why”:
- They want other young people to know they are not alone and that they can get help.
- They are motivated by having felt alone and/or have identified trusted adults who have been a support to them when feeling alone or challenged.
- They want to be a voice to help others make change in their communities.
- They believe all young people deserve access to care and support.
- They want to address stigma associated with alcohol and drugs.
- They want to focus on preventing future substance use and provide solutions for those that may currently be experiencing challenges with drug and alcohol use.
How Right Now: Finding What Helps
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruptions to the lives of providers, the youth they serve and their families. These disruptions complicate emotions and the ability to access resources and help – that’s where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s How Right Now: Finding What Helps comes in. This resource, available in English and Spanish, provides tools for anyone to start an honest and productive conversation about their feelings, as well as information to support coping during the pandemic and promote resilience no matter what emotion an individual may be experiencing.
Make Your Voice Heard
Make Your Voice Heard is an index of national and regional advocacy and leadership opportunities for youth to get involved in prevention and advocacy efforts. The list below (also available in Spanish) aims to connect youth with mental health, substance use prevention and advocacy organizations that seek to end addiction and promote mental wellbeing, while supporting the youth involved by building their knowledge and skills to become changemakers within their communities. The list of opportunities is also available in Spanish.
Are you a part of an organization or initiative that you would like to see included in this list? To submit your organization for consideration, contact GettingCandid@TheNationalCouncil.org.
National organizations that provide opportunities for youth to promote mental wellbeing nationwide and within their communities.
Substance Use Prevention and Cessation
- Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA) Youth Leadership: CADCA is a leading nonprofit focused on strengthening the capacity of community coalitions to create and maintain safe, healthy and drug-free communities globally. CADCA’s Youth Leadership initiative empowers youth ages 13 – 22 to tackle substance use in their communities through engaging, developing and inspiring youth to be agents for social change.
- Partnership to End Addiction: Partnership to End Addiction aims to transform how the nation addresses substance use disorders by empowering families, advancing effective care, shaping public policy and changing culture. Partnership to End Addiction’s advocacy resources outline strategies and tools for youth and adults to erase the stigma of substance use and substance use disorders, raise awareness, educate others and advocate for policy change both locally and nationally.
- Advocacy Toolkit provides comprehensive guidance for building relationships and effectively communicating with members of Congress, advocacy needs in the field of substance use and substance use disorders and tactics to advocate at the local, state and federal levels.
- Shatterproof: Shatterproof is a nonprofit dedicated to ending the substance use disorder crisis in the United States. Their advocacy resources provide strategies for youth and young adults to fight the stigma of substance use disorders and substance use challenges.
- Truth Initiative Youth Activism: Truth Initiative is America’s largest nonprofit public health organization dedicated achieving a culture where young people reject smoking, vaping and nicotine. Truth Initiative has three programs open to various age groups – College Leaders, Truth Ambassadors and Community Leaders to empower, inspire and train youth and young adults to make tobacco and nicotine use a thing of the past.
- Take Action: Join the movement to end tobacco and nicotine use for good. Truth Initiative’s Take Action resources include information and activities for young adults to spread the message about the danger of nicotine, tobacco and vaping.
- Young People in Recovery (YPR): YPR provides life skills and peer supports to help youth and young adults recover from substance use disorders and challenges and reach their full potential. YPR’s has opportunities for youth and young adults to join or start a chapter of YPR in their community.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Active Minds: Active Minds works to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health by creating communities of support through award-winning programs and services on campuses and in the workplace. Active Minds has numerous advocacy resources for youth and young adults to inspire action for suicide prevention and youth mental wellbeing.
- The Jed Foundation Volunteer Program (JED): JED is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. The volunteer program is open to youth and young adults who are interested in raising awareness around the importance of mental health.
- Student Ambassadors: JED Student Ambassadors are college students who bring emotional health and suicide prevention resources to their campuses to support their peers’ wellbeing.
- Rise Together: Rise Together focuses on community-level change by implementing unique strategies based on local needs determined by community assessments, surveys, feedback and evaluating efforts around substance use and mental health. Rise Together’s Take Action initiatives provide opportunities and resources for youth and young adults to become change-makers within their communities around youth mental wellbeing.
- To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA): TWLOHA is a nonprofit dedicated to assisting youth and young adults struggling with depression, substance use challenges, self-injury and suicidal thoughts. TWLOHA provides resources for young people to get involved in their community by bringing educational programs, curriculums and speakers to campuses to educate on topics of depression, substance use, suicide, anxiety and eating disorders.
- The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project is a nonprofit providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth under 25.
- We R Native Ambassador Program: We R Native is a comprehensive health resource for Native Youth, by Native Youth, that strives to promote holistic health and positive growth in their communities. The We R Native Ambassador program is open to American Indian and Alaskan Native youth 15-24 years old. We R Native Ambassadors can join the development team, get involved in community organizing and create positive change by promoting positive health behaviors and topics that are important to youth.
- Advocates for Youth: Advocates for Youth works alongside young people in the U.S. and around the globe as they fight for sexual health, rights and justice. In collaboration with economic and social justice organizations, the organization seeks to address social and economic conditions that influence an individual’s health status by engaging, empowering and mobilizing young people from marginalized communities to serve as activists and leaders.
- Muslim Youth Leadership Council (MyLC): MyLC is a group of Muslim-identifying youth ages 16-24 from across the country, working locally and nationally as activists, organizers, writers and leaders on intersectional issues affecting young Muslims, including substance use.
- YouthResource (YR): YR is a year-long development and leadership program for LGBTQ+ youth of color ages 14-24 to elevate their voice and shift culture and policy. YouthResource leaders are responsible for providing their communities and communities around the country with information, resources and education to address intersectional issues related to LGBTQ+ health and rights, including substance use.
- America’s Promise Alliance: America’s Promise Alliance brings together hundreds of national nonprofits, businesses, communities, educators and ordinary citizens to help create the conditions necessary for success for all youth in America.
- Power of Youth: The Power of Youth Challenge provides resources and support for youth ages 13-19 as they demonstrate their leadership and execute their passions through service to others. Young people receive grants to implement an impact project, which can be focused on substance use prevention, in their community.
- The Voices of Young People: The Voices of Young People is an initiative that creates a safe platform for young people ages 6-25 years to share their experience on topics and events that are relevant to their lives and communities, including substance use and prevention efforts.
- Youth MOVE National: Youth MOVE is a youth-driven, chapter-based organization dedicated to improving services and systems that support positive growth and development by uniting the voices of individuals who have lived experience in various systems – including mental health, juvenile justice, education and child welfare. Youth MOVE’s advocacy and “share your voice” resources provide opportunities for youth and young adults to join or start a chapter and materials to share their voice safely and effectively.
State and city-specific organizations across the country that provide opportunities for youth to promote mental wellbeing within their communities.
Substance Use Prevention and Cessation
- I got this!: I got this! is an initiative to prevent underage alcohol use among youth in Chicago, Illinois. I got this! provides resources to Chicago youth and their parents that reinforce what they’re already doing to prevent underage drinking and builds resilience in Chicago youth to avoid drinking.
- Minnesota Youth Council (MYC): The Minnesota Youth Council (MYC) is a collaborative of youth leaders that mobilizes their fellow middle and high school peers across the state to create equitable systems through youth-led outreach, education and advocacy. The MYC members focus their impact on four issue areas: health and wellness, environmental justice, education equity and juvenile justice.
- Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE): Voices of Youth in Chicago Education is a youth organizing alliance for education and racial justice led by students of color from across Illinois. The VOYCE Youth Leadership Development program provides community engagement opportunities focused on expanding access to behavioral health services in and out of schools for Illinois youth.
Substance Use Prevention and Cessation
- Turn It Around: Turn it Around is a youth-led organization run by the Charlestown Coalition that raises awareness about the dangers of unhealthy prescription drug use. Youth in Charlestown, Massachusetts can join the Coalition and participate in community events, stay engaged in positive activities, build relationships with positive adult figures and support their community by advocating for lives free from unhealthy substance use.
- Communities That Care (CTC): CTC empowers youth in Ossining, New York to live a substance-free life. Its summer leadership program helps youth develop leadership skills, build community relationships and share their ideas around social unity and equity around mental health issues and substance use prevention in their community.
- Living the Example: Living the Example is Mentor Foundation USA’s youth program that works with innovative, evidence-based interventions to prevent youth substance use and promote health and wellbeing. High school juniors and seniors in the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland can become Youth Ambassadors to implement a peer-driven curriculum within their school to spread facts about drugs and promote healthy life choices.
- The 8ighty 4our (The 84): The 84 is a statewide movement of youth fighting tobacco use in Massachusetts. Members of The 84 educate community leaders, legislators and their peers about the tobacco industry’s dangerous tactics to and help advance local strategies to reduce the influence of the tobacco industry on youth.
Substance Use Prevention and Cessation
- Be the Change 406 Youth Coalition: Be the Change 406 Youth Coalition’s mission is to create a culture of health for youth and families that supports a lifestyle free of unhealthy substance use. The Youth Coalition is open to middle and high school students in Beaverhead County, Montana who are committed to the prevention and intervention of unhealthy substance use.
- Idaho Drug Free Youth (iDFY): Idaho Drug Free Youth is a statewide substance use prevention nonprofit that empowers youth by providing them with fun, knowledge, support and inspiration to make positive choices. iDFY helps youth in middle and high school discover their passions, embrace their individuality and navigate through their younger years in the healthiest way possible.
- New Orleans Youth Alliance (NOYA) Youth Leadership Fellowship: The New Orleans Youth Alliance works to cultivate a system of high-quality, well-resourced youth development organizations that center youth leadership and racial equity in their work with young people. The NOYA Youth Leadership Fellowship prepares young adults to assume leadership roles in the design, decision-making and implementation phases of systems, programs and initiatives – such as mental health, education, criminal legal system and gentrification – that impact young people and their families in New Orleans.
Substance Use Prevention and Cessation
- California Health Collaborative Asian Pacific Islander Partners & Advocates Countering Tobacco (API PACT) Program Youth Coalition: The API PACT program is an initiative from the California Health Collaborative whose goal is to give everyone a chance to live a healthy and tobacco-free life. The API PACT Youth Coalition provides opportunities for AAPI youth ages 13-17 in and around Livingston and Visalia, California to become student leaders in their community driving change to end tobacco use. Student leaders participate in fun, interactive trainings to develop public speaking and professionalism skills to advocate and prevent tobacco use.
- North Coastal Prevention Coalition Youth Coalition (NCPC): The North Coastal Prevention Coalition is a nonprofit that implements a variety of programs to reduce the harm of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs through community action, support and collaboration. NCPC’s Youth Coalition provides opportunities for high school students in the San Diego, California area to receive community service hours, develop leadership and advocacy skills and participate in community activities.
This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $2,000,000 with 100% funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government.