Substance Use Awareness Month – October

October E-Newsletter – Substance Use Awareness Month

This month’s e-newsletter spotlights Substance Use Awareness Month. According to 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data, over 1 in 5 (22%) Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) high school students drank alcohol in the past 30 days. Lifetime use among middle schoolers increased from 2017 to 2019, with 22% reporting having ever drunk alcohol. Early alcohol use can impact lifetime substance use; according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), youth who begin drinking by age 13 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol dependency problem later in life than someone who drank at 20. Lifetime marijuana use also increased from 2017 to 2019 among CMS high school students with over 2 in 5 (41%) reporting using at least once in their lifetime.

Adolescent substance use can have far-reaching impacts on an individual and, as a result, the greater community. The U.S. Department of Justice notes that youth who persistently abuse substances experience academic difficulties, health-related problems (both physical and mental), and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Underage drinking can lead to an increased risk of physical and sexual assault, impaired brain development, and suicide and homicide (NIAAA).


The COVID-19 pandemic introduced an unprecedented set of challenges to teens in our community. Between uncertainties with school, isolation from friends, and canceled milestone events such as prom or graduation, many adolescents experienced an increase in anxiety and depressive symptoms – risk factors for substance use. In the United States, over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to data from the CDC. Surprisingly, however, research has found that adolescent marijuana and alcohol use among teens has remained steady throughout the pandemic, even as reported ease of access declined (Miech R, et al., 2021). This speaks to the pervasiveness of the availability of these substances as well as the importance of prevention efforts to reduce demand moving forward. As our community returns to normal, prevention efforts remain critical as access will rebound, but demand may have grown even more from teens looking to combat stress, anxiety, and depression spurred by the pandemic.

Spotlight On: The Importance of Teen-Led Prevention

Amber Jones, Youth Drug-Free Coalition & Teen Advisory Board Coordinator

The Teen Advisory Board is designed to empower teens to address issues they face in our community by utilizing the youth-led, adult-guided framework. We believe in the power of teens and feel that if we are going to make an impact on preventing substance use, then we need to empower them to lead those efforts. By developing their knowledge, skills, and attitudes, we are giving them the tools they need to create positive change in our community. It is through this development, that a spark is created that emboldens them to plan and implement impactful services and programs. We facilitate this process by hearing directly from teens on how to address issues in our community. We give them a voice, and they are involved in the entire process from beginning to end. This approach is very effective; when teens are at the center of the process they are engaged and committed to the cause. Not only are we developing leaders, we are making a positive impact on our community.

Alexa Ziegler, Teen Advisory Board Member

As a member of the Teen Advisory Board, I take great pride in serving my community and using my voice as a representation of the ideas of my peers. One of the most important things I have learned through this teen-led board is how to take initiative during service projects and in communication. For example, I can use my voice and opinions to discuss with members of the Teen Advisory Board about what kind of meaningful service projects or outreach opportunities would stimulate the most meaningful responses. One thing I feel very passionate about is substance use prevention, and by serving on the Teen Advisory Board, I can actively write about these topics and make a tangible difference to my community!

Parenting Classes

Oftentimes, starting the conversation about substance use with your teen can be difficult. Teen Health Connection is here to help. Register today at for our virtual “Substance Use Prevention: What Parents Should Know” class on Tuesday, October 12th at 6:30 pm. Taught by our parenting expert, Kris Hawkins, this no-cost class provides a forum to learn about teen substance use and develop practical strategies and goals for your family.