Alcohol and Youth: What’s the big deal?

By Julia Geigle, MSW, LICSW 
YSB Chemical Health Specialist & Program Director

Underage substance use, whether it be marijuana, alcohol, or another drug can be a barrier to children leading healthy and fulfilled lives and transitionally successfully into adulthood.

As you may know, YSB has four school-based Chemical Health Specialists working to prevent and reduce youth substance use in each of the school districts they are contracted to work in: Districts 622, 833 and 834. Our staff help support youth as they face challenging decisions and peer pressure each day. But did you know our team also provides information and resources for parents?!

Because April is Alcohol Awareness Month, this seems like a relevant time to discuss the dangers of underage drinking and offer strategies to prevent and reduce youth alcohol use.

In recent months, there has been a lot of media attention on the rise of electronic cigarettes among youth, the legalization of recreational marijuana in more and more states, and the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic. While these are very important public health issues that warrant attention and resources, what seems to be missing from these conversations is the continued, widespread use of alcohol among youth.

The good news is that the rate of teen alcohol use has declined since the mid-1970s, however teens still drink alcohol more than they use any other substance. In fact, teen alcohol use kills 4,300 people each year – more than all illegal drugs combined. WHY?

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“Talk, They Hear You”

From: Gina Johnson, B.A.,
YSB Chemical Health Prevention Specialist – District 833

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a Federal agency that leads public health efforts.

“Talk, They Hear You” is a campaign to educate parents on how and when to talk to their kids about underage drinking. Attached are 5 conversation goals for parents to talk to their kids! Find more resources at

Combating the ‘Need’ for Caffeine

By: Gina Johnson, B.S.
YSB Chemical Health Prevention Specialist

I need to have caffeine in my life.

Have you ever thought something like this to yourself or out loud? Well, you are not alone.  Caffeine has become “the socially acceptable mind-alerting drug.” That’s why March Is Caffeine Awareness Month.

Caffeine is a natural stimulant –  a type of drug that increases activity of the body, by alerting the brain and spinal cord (Central Nervous System).

There are multiple types of stimulants that you may be aware of like cocaine, amphetamines (Meth and Adderall), and caffeine.

Caffeine is naturally found in tea, coffee, and dark chocolate. It is now manufactured to be in energy drinks, jerky, weight loss medicine, waffles, gum, etc. The most common way Americans get their caffeine consumption is through coffee but the highest levels of caffeine are found in energy drinks.

There are many potential benefits to drinking caffeine such as; it may boost memory, increase alertness, and can even help with recovery after a work out.

There are also potential negatives, especially in youth.

Caffeine may produce mild symptoms like restlessness, an increased heart rate, and insomnia. In higher consumption it can lead to dizziness, racing of ones’ heart, dehydration, and may increase anxiety. Pediatricians recommend young children to avoid caffeine consumption and adolescents to limit their consumption to 100 mg (one regular cup of coffee) a day.

New research being published shows the relationship between heavy caffeine consumption from energy drinks in high school students and drug use, due to the developing adolescent brain. 

Caffeine use may prime the brain for later drug use.* This is because of our brain’s reward center. The brain becomes used to the levels and begins to crave more of the stimulant, ultimately leading to higher dosage.

Caffeine has positives and negatives, so it is important to observe how much someone under the age of 18 is consuming due to their developing brain.

Prevention Tip: There are a lot of natural ways to raise your energy level. These tips below can help adults and youth learn healthier alternatives to high consumption of caffeine:

  • An apple in the morning is said to have the same effect as one cup of coffee.
  • Exercise: Jump rope, yoga, dance, or go for a walk.
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep
  • Morning shower. Blast yourself with cold water for 5 seconds at the end.

YSB Chemical Prevention Specialists also give classroom presentations to youth in local schools to educate youth about safe limits and offer alternative strategies to drinking caffeine for ‘energy’.

If you are interested in scheduling a Caffeine-related presentation in your community or youth group , call 651-735-9534  or email: