Category Archives: Awareness

Healthy Relaxation Techniques for Youth Stress

Today’s youth face more stress than ever before. From academic stress including classes, homework, papers, grades and growing competition to family stress including parent expectations, conflicts, siblings and changes in structure, youth feel stress in numerous aspects of their life. Because youth are not equipped with effective relaxation techniques, they sometimes rely on unhealthy responses, like illegal drugs and alcohol use. Partnership for a Drug Free America states that 73% of teenagers reported school stress as the primary reason for drug use. Youth are often seeking psychological or physical pleasure, but are not aware of how dangerous drug use can be, especially prescription drugs not prescribed to the individual. In a recent study, young adults stated they use prescription drugs to study, deal with problems and feel better. To learn more about stress and it’s correlation to drug and alcohol use, The Medicine Abuse Project is a great resource. 


According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, other common factors that cause stress in youth include the following:

  • Negative thoughts and feelings about themselves
  • School demands and frustrations
  • Changes in their bodies
  • Problems with friends and/or peers at school
  • Unsafe living environment/neighborhood
  • Separation or divorce of parents
  • Chronic illness or severe problems in the family
  • Meath of a loved one
  • Moving or changing schools
  • Taking on too many activities or having too high expectations
  • Family financial problems

A lot of youth are not equipped with the stress management tools to effectively handle the large amounts of stress they face daily. If stress is not managed effectively, it can lead to negative self-talk, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, aggression, physical illness and illegal drug and alcohol use. When the human brain responds to stress, a physiological response occurs in both our brain and throughout our body. This is known as the “fight or flight” response that includes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and production of adrenaline. The response may also cause upset stomach and cold or clammy hands and feet.

The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital focuses copious amounts of research on Relaxation Response. There, Dr. Herbert Benson’s research indicates that the relaxation response is just as important for the body as the original stress response. Once the individual decides the stressful situation is no longer dangerous, the brain and body help us begin to relax. This includes a decrease in each response, especially a reduction in blood pressure. Youth who practice relaxation techniques have been shown to be healthier, happier and calmer. Just by learning to take a deep breath before a stressful situation, youth can be better prepared throughout their lives to handle any stress triggers they are facing.

Fortunately, parents and those working with youth can help aid in the reduction of stress. According to Stress Free Kids, adults can help youth in the following ways:

  • Monitor if stress is affecting their teen’s health, behavior, thoughts, or feelings.
  • Listen carefully to teens and watch for overloading.
  • Learn and model stress management skills.
  • Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities.

Teens can help themselves by decreasing stress with the following behaviors and techniques:

  • Avoid illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
  • Exercise and eat regularly.
  • Avoid excess caffeine intake, which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation.
  • Learn relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques).
  • Develop assertiveness training skills. For example, state feelings in polite and firm and not overly aggressive or passive ways such as “I feel angry when you yell at me,” and “Please stop yelling.”
  • Rehearse and practice situations which cause stress. One example is taking a speech class if talking in front of a class makes you anxious.
  • Learn practical coping skills. For example, break a large task into smaller, more attainable tasks.
  • Decrease negative self talk: challenge negative thoughts about yourself with alternative neutral or positive thoughts. “My life will never get better” can be transformed into “My life will get better if I work at it and get some help.”
  • Learn to feel good about doing a competent or “good enough” job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others.
  • Take a break from stressful situations. Activities like listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress.
  • Learn to say “no.” It is important for youth to understand they do not have to participate in everything they are asked to do.
  • Get enough sleep. Youth need as much sleep as small children, about 10 hours each night.
  • Build a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way.

Learning relaxation exercises including abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques are skills that all youth should be equipped with. They can practice them before a big test or during a stressful family situation. PTSD Online Coach provides online resources to help work on worry and anxiety. By utilizing the following techniques and practicing them often, youth will be one step closer to feeling less stress:

  1. Be in the present moment.
  2. Put your phone away.
  3. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and put your hand on your thighs.
  4. Keep your head straight ahead.
  5. Close your eyes.
  6. Focus on counting.
  7. Feel the inhale and exhale.
  8. Note your stray thoughts and release them.
  9. You are in a safe place.
  10. Ignore everything around you.
  11. Breathe in/out.
  12. Up to your nose, out to your diaphragm (3 min.) try to get to 10 minutes.

By utilizing these and other techniques that are effective for the individual person, youth can and will begin to properly manage stress. Working with them to identify what works best will set them up for a lifetime of success in handling stressful situations. With Red Ribbon Week around the corner, we hope you will adopt drug-free relaxation techniques, as well as share them with youth in your life and encourage the same positive, healthy behaviors.


Marijuana & Rx Drug Abuse: Myths and Issues

As you may know, in honor of Red Ribbon Week, GUIDE is leading Walk the Talks at different parks around Gwinnett County this month!

We are having our second Walk the Talk today where we discuss the myths and issues around marijuana use and prescription drug misuse and abuse.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE to see what you know about marijuana and prescription drugs.

  1. Marijuana is not harmful.

True or False?

  1. Marijuana is addictive.

True or False?

  1. Marijuana must be smoked or eaten to receive medical benefits.

True or False?

  1. One in five kids who reports having misused or abused a prescription drug has done so before the age of 16.

True or False?

  1. Every 19 minutes, someone dies from overdose deaths in the United States.

True or False?



  1. False- Marijuana is more harmful than you think!

According to SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana):

  • There has been an increase in ER visits because of marijuana use.
  • “Marijuana use directly affects the brain, specifically the parts responsible for memory, learning, attention, and reaction time. These effects can last up to 28 days.”
  • Studies show marijuana is related to dropping out of schools and subsequent unemployment.
  • A study in 2012 found that, among the adolescents who used marijuana persistently and heavily, their IQ dropped by as much as eight points.
  • Marijuana use doubles the risk of car accidents.

Graphic 1

If you take a look at this infographic from National Families in Action, it illustrates data about the problems Colorado had with marijuana even before it was legally sold. School expulsions, ER visits, and pot-related charges all increased.

Their data also shows that marijuana use has doubled and belief in harm has plummeted since the drive to legalize marijuana as medicine began.


  1. True- Marijuana is addictive.
    • 1 in 10 people who try marijuana will become addicted and experience withdrawal and cravings from the dependence.
    • The chances for addiction are 1 in 6 if marijuana use starts in adolescence.
  1. False- Marijuana does not have to be smoked or eaten in order for someone to receive any medical benefits. Many people don’t realize that certain components of the plant can be extracted and delivered safely in a pill form without the dangerous effects of THC.

Even scientific and medical communities say that smoked marijuana is not medicine.

In many places with medical marijuana dispensaries, there are edibles, various edible food products infused with marijuana, which have created problems and can have dangerous effects.

Graphic 2






  1. False- According to the Medicine Abuse Project, “one in five kids who reports having misused or abused a prescription drug has done so before the age of 14.”

Graphic 3Prescription (Rx) drug abuse is another issue affecting our young people, and its abuse is increasing nationally. Some even call it an epidemic, which is shown in the infographic from



  1. True- “One person dies every 19 minutes from overdose deaths in the United States.” 

Abusing Rx drugs is dangerous and can be fatal from overdose, mixing different medications together, and/or mixing prescription drugs with alcohol.

The Think About It campaign tells us that family and friends are the biggest suppliers of abuse prescription drugs.


So…what can we do?

We can help fight this epidemic of prescription drug misuse and abuse.

Learn more about the different ways you can help prevent prescription drug abuse by safely storing and disposing of your medications.

Graphic 4

For more resources and information, see the GA Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Initiative.

The Truth about Youth… Alcohol Use

IMG_3373 (1)On any given Friday during the school year, social media lights up about the upcoming weekend events and parties. Word spreads quickly and plans are excitedly made.  

On Monday, stories are told of where students went over the weekend and what they did. Often the stories that are perpetuated are the ones where there were drinking and wild, dangerous or, at best, sketchy things that happened. Because these are the stories that tend to be repeated over and over, it often is perceived that “everyone” was there and “everyone” was drinking. 

Misperceptions are created through these types of stories. Teens actually think that most of their peers party and drink. Teens who do not drink alcohol often start drinking because they feel pressured to fit in with what they think is the norm. This is why it is so important that everyone knows that MOST teens in Gwinnett County do NOT drink alcohol. In the latest youth survey conducted in Gwinnett, only 19% of 9-12th grade students reported that they drank alcohol in the last 30 days. 

These misperceptions are not just among students. In a recent survey conducted among parents and other adults in Gwinnett, 75% of the respondents believed that a majority of teens in the county had a drink of alcohol in the last 30 days. This means that parents and other adults believe that a LOT more teens are drinking than really are. They also believe that most parents of teens let them drink at home and allow them to go to parties where alcohol will be served. The fact is that among the teens in Gwinnett who drank in the past month, only about half of them said their parents allowed them to drink at home. That means that about 90% of the teens in Gwinnett have parents who do NOT let them drink at home. Parents and other adults should know that the norm in Gwinnett is NOT allowing underage drinking.

While this is good news, it’s important to note that youth who drink usually do so at their homes or at the homes of friends. These parents may believe that allowing their teens to drink at home will result in more responsible, lower risk drinking behaviors. The opposite is true. It actually encourages alcohol use. Research shows that allowing adolescents to drink alcohol under adult supervision leads to more drinking and more alcohol-related consequences. 

We all need to share the truth about youth and alcohol use. The majority of our youth choose NOT to drink alcohol, and MOST parents do not allow their teens to drink at home and/or go to parties where alcohol is served. To those parents, we say a big THANK YOU… for being parents and NOT bartenders!

By getting the word out, we can correct the misperceptions that lead some teens to feel that they have to drink to fit in and make some parents think they have to allow it.

Interested in prevention and want to get involved? Check out what GUIDE is doing for Red Ribbon Week 2014 and join the action:

Join GUIDE in Celebrating Red Ribbon Week 2014

Paint GA RedSave the date! Red Ribbon Week is right around the corner, from October 23-31. Year after year we celebrate this special campaign to share with our peers and community the significance of being drug free. The National Red Ribbon Campaign serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. We at GUIDE are REALLY excited for Red Ribbon Week this year, and we hope you will show your support of a drug-free lifestyle and join in on the fun activities we have planned.

In 2014, GUIDE plans to celebrate Red Ribbon Week all month long. For the whole month of October, we are celebrating by implementing our brand new campaign, Paint Georgia Red. The premise of the campaign is to get as many people as possible to represent their communities across the state of Georgia and tell us why they choose to wear red and be drug free. Using #31daysofred, we are asking YOU to post a photo of yourself on social media (Instagram, Twitter or Facebook) wearing red somewhere in your local community. You should tell us your name, where you are located and why you choose to be drug free. Please tag us (@guidegti on Twitter and Instagtam and @GUIDE, Inc. on Facebook) in your post and don’t forget to use #31daysofred — that’s the only way to ensure we will see your photos! If you aren’t on social media and still want to participate, please email your photo and description to

By the end of the campaign, we hope to have painted Georgia red by having as many counties and cities of Georgia represented with their drug-free support.

Here are some examples of what we are looking for:

photo 2 (27)Mandee Jablonski at Marietta Middle School in Marietta, GA – I wear red because I want my students to be the best they can be and always be drug free! #31daysofred

photo 1 (31)Elliott Walker in Smyrna, GA (Cobb County) – I wear red because I have so many lives to influence inside the classroom. #31daysofred

Wait! That’s not all! If you participate and provide all of the required information, you will be entered to win a pair of red Beats by Dre headphones AND $250 for your school, Youth Action Team or other organization that supports prevention. The winner will be chosen via a random drawing on Monday, November 3, 2014. Each complete entry will earn you a chance to win! We are accepting entries October 1-31. Scout out your locations, get your red gear together and start thinking about why you’re drug free. Have fun!

If you have any questions about the Paint Georgia Red campaign or the contest, please email us at

Want to join GUIDE for other Red Ribbon Week activities? We will be hosting Walk the Talk events at parks around Gwinnett County all month long. In addition to seeing us and getting some great exercise, we will talk about various prevention-related topics in honor of Red Ribbon Week. Check out our schedule here. We hope to see you there!

A Deeper Look into Social Norms


  • go a few miles over the speed limit?
  • never wear white after Labor Day?
  • refrain from picking your nose in public?
  • ask someone how they are doing and keep walking past them?
  • talk to someone in another stall in the bathroom?
  • eat off other peoples’ plates?
  • choose not to use all capital letters when you text because you know that is considered “shouting”?

What do all of these behaviors have in common?

They are all social norms, rules and accepted behaviors for how people should or should not act in a given group or society. We don’t even think about why we do all of these things. We have always done them. Some social norms are spoken and defined while others are unspoken and undefined. They can change with time, and they can change depending on the group, society, or culture.

Social norms drive our behaviors. We do them because we think that the majority of people are doing them, and it is the normal thing to do.

But sometimes, people may misperceive a social norm and think that a behavior occurs more often than it really does.

When it comes to alcohol and other drugs, this can be a slippery slope. For example, teens are out at a party where alcohol is being served. If they think that most of the people their age drink alcohol, then they will feel greater pressure to belong and take a drink. Why do they think that most of their peers drink, and how does that influence their behavior?

This will help explain why:









Social norms campaigns help to clarify misperceptions of certain norms by communicating the truth that most do not engage in those behaviors. Studies show that, as a result, these campaigns can actually reduce this type of risky behavior. By focusing on the positive, we can help protect our youth and keep our communities safe!

Below are some examples of social norms campaigns that have done just that!









LCBAG Social Norms






Do you have any resources on social norms campaigns that you’d like to share? If so, let us know!

Get Involved During National Prevention Week 2014

You are cordially invited to become a proactive partner in the prevention of youth substance abuse.

A common answer to this invitation may sound something like this: 

Voluneering Clip Art“No, thank you.

I’m pretty busy with my own job which has absolutely nothing to do with substance abuse prevention. In addition to that, I’m a parent, a spouse, an adult child of aging parents and a sibling. I’m active at my church, belong to several civic and professional organizations and volunteer with my child’s sports league. So, you see, I’m way too busy to take on anything else, especially something I know NOTHING about. So, thanks, but…

No Thanks!”

Wait a minute!  Let me ask you a few questions. Have you ever:

  • Kids Sports Clip ArtTalked to your child about why drinking alcohol or using other drugs is harmful and should be avoided?
  • Encouraged your family to eat dinner together regularly?
  • Refused to serve alcohol at a party for teens?
  • Involved your family in volunteering and community service?
  • Provided opportunities for your child to engage in positive free time activities such as sports or the performing arts?
  • Offered to be the designated driver when you went to an adult function that involved drinking?
  • Explained to a friend, relative or colleague why you think it’s not a good idea to legalize marijuana or other drugs that are illegal?
  • Participated in a health fair at your place of work or worship?
  • Asked your aging relatives to keep their prescription medications in secure places so that they’re not available to children?
  • Chaperoned a group of kids to make sure they were safe and supervised?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then guess what? You’re already involved in substance abuse prevention and you didn’t even know it. Prevention can be as simple as taking the time to talk to your children as they grow and mature about all the reasons it’s better for them to stay away from alcohol and other drugs. It doesn’t take an advanced degree or full-time job to be a prevention proponent. Everyone can contribute to prevention in various ways throughout their lives. 

Eating Dinner Clip ArtFamilies that eat dinner together regularly are less likely to have children that get involved in drugs or other high risk behaviors. Children who have opportunities to volunteer are less likely to use drugs and often become lifelong volunteers. Individuals that are concerned about their health and well-being are less likely to abuse substances of any kind. Children and teens who are engaged in positive after-school programs and extra-curricular activities are more likely to stay away from drugs. 

This week is National Prevention Week. Follow #NPW2014 on social media sites to find out more about prevention strategies that really work and why they are so important. It’s a week to celebrate people involved in prevention around the country. So, we’re actually celebrating YOU because you’ve taken the time and effort to do many of the little things in life that make a big difference. THANK YOU!!

Teens Talking Clip ArtDon’t believe those who say, “We’ve lost the War on Drugs.”  Prevention is alive and well and making a huge difference in communities across Georgia and the rest of the country. Prevention works!  It’s encouraging young people to do their best and have a vision for their future. It’s providing opportunities for children and youth to succeed in school, consciously make good decisions and hang out with peers who are engaged in healthy, positive activities. It’s reporting stores that sell alcohol to minors without checking their IDs. It’s making sure there are places for kids to socialize that are safe, supervised and alcohol/drug-free. It’s talking to your elected officials so they know how you feel about keeping kids safe from illegal drugs. 

Want to know more?  Becoming a prevention champion is only a click away!  Visit our website, and if you’re on social media,  follow and like us. Share, re-tweet and re-pin information you find interesting or helpful with others. We want you to get hooked… on prevention!! 

Connect with us by clicking on the icons below.      

Let’s not jump the gun with marijuana legalization in Georgia

By ELLEN GERSTEIN, Gwinnett Health and Human Services,
and ARI RUSSELL, Gwinnett United in Drug Education

LAWRENCEVILLE, Jan. 31, 2014 — It’s all we hear: “Let’s legalize marijuana.” Or “What harm can it do?” 

Gerstein RussellMarijuana legalization proponents are tugging on our heartstrings by highlighting how critical medical marijuana is for certain individuals. This seems like a new argument, but it’s not. Since the 1970s, NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) has been supporting medical marijuana laws as the best strategy to achieve overall legalization of the drug. Their ploy has worked. Public support for legalization has increased.

But there is more to the story than this. Don’t be fooled by social media posts that discard concerns about the drug. These very vocal proponents of legalization are sharing their opinions, not facts.

To say that marijuana is no worse than alcohol is like saying that being murdered by a gun is no worse than being murdered by a knife. Alcohol is addictive; so is marijuana.

Driving while intoxicated is dangerous; so is driving stoned. The earlier you start drinking, the more likely you will become dependent; ditto for marijuana. Today’s pot is stronger than ever, increasing problems associated with it. Pot negatively affects perceptions, coordination, motivation, memory and learning. Teens who smoke marijuana regularly may actually experience a permanent reduction in IQ. Marijuana use by high school seniors has doubled since the drive to legalize medical marijuana began in earnest because their perception of harm has changed.

Since Colorado first legalized medical marijuana, it has been among the top seven states for marijuana use, especially in the 12-25 age groups. During the first four years, fatal marijuana-related car crashes doubled while overall fatal crashes went down. Last year, they legalized pot for recreational use. In only a few months, 27 percent of impaired drivers tested positive for marijuana, a seven point jump.

Marijuana-related suspensions/expulsions from school have almost doubled statewide. Colorado bureaucrats supported legalization thinking the tax revenue would be beneficial. However, there is still a huge black market trade of marijuana because it’s cheaper than store-bought pot. As with alcohol and tobacco, they soon realize that taxes are not going to offset the cost of problems associated with increased use like health problems, addiction treatment, school and college dropout, traffic injuries and deaths and more.

Cannabidiol, the part of marijuana used in medicine, isn’t smoked and doesn’t get you high. It has been available in pill and oil form for years. It would be more prudent to make these available by prescription to patients who really need them rather than legalizing marijuana and allowing dispensaries in Georgia.

In states that allow dispensaries, more than one-third of 12th-graders reported getting their pot from someone else’s medical marijuana recommendation. If this happens in Georgia, we will certainly see the same increases in teen use, addiction, traffic fatalities and related problems as they have seen in Colorado and other medical marijuana states.

Do you really want to make marijuana more available to youth, contend with drivers impaired by the drug, and see your employees’ work performance negatively affected?