Category Archives: Underage Drinking Prevention

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:


GUIDE is Gearing Up for the New School Year!

IMG_2480It’s that time of the year again when summer vacation comes to a close and anticipation for the school year sets in everywhere. Teachers begin attending meetings and preparing their lessons and classrooms, students are shopping for school supplies, college dorms are being prepped and cleaned and everyone is getting ready for the upcoming school year.

Here at GUIDE, we have experienced this same anticipation as we have had the opportunity of helping others in the community prepare for the return of their students this school year.

Gwinnett County Health and PE Teacher Pre-Planning Meeting

GC4 (2)GUIDE has a long-standing partnership with the Gwinnett County Board of Education in efforts to prevent substance abuse among youth and the problems associated with it. We are grateful for the relationship we have with the school system and the role it has played in our success in reducing underage drinking over the years.

Around 400 Gwinnett County Health and PE Teachers met last week at Collins Hill High School to plan for the year ahead. GUIDE was invited to come to the meeting and provide teachers with substance abuse prevention materials. We have been hard at work putting together packets of information about underage drinking and the effects alcohol has on the teenage brain, as well as the dangers of prescription drug abuse, both serious issues facing our teens. We provided them with tools that can help prevent teen use, misuse and abuse of these substances.

IMG_2482With these resources, teachers know the facts and dangers of underage drinking and other drugs and can educate their students about the risks. We appreciate these teachers and their willingness to care for their students and promote positive youth development.

Thank you to our partners, CETPA and the GA Rx Drug Abuse Prevention Initiative of the Council on Alcohol and Drugs, for providing us with Rx drug abuse prevention materials. With their help, we are able to work together for safe and healthy communities.

GUIDE looks forward to future success in these efforts to prevent substance abuse in Gwinnett and across the state.

Georgia Gwinnett College Student Worker and RA Training

Georgia Gwinnett CollegeRA Training 2 (GGC) is another one of GUIDE’s valuable community partners. We have worked together with them over the years to provide materials and resources, as well as share research of model programs for alcohol and other drug prevention on college campuses.  GGC does a great job of promoting positive behavior to prevent and reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by offering its students various alternative activities during the week and at night.

We think it is great that GGC supports the community by having developed alcohol-free dorms, which will minimize the availability of alcohol. This is another way that GGC shows its commitment to student success because studies show that alcohol negatively impacts academic performance.

We continue to work with GGC to help make it a healthy and safe place for its students. Over the past couple of weeks, we have planned and conducted two trainings at GGC for some of the college’s student workers and 40 of their Resident Assistants (RAs). During the training, we educated the participants about the dangerous effects of underage and binge drinking, prescription drug abuse and marijuana use.

IMG_2542The student workers and RAs also discussed ways they can use the information as tools for keeping the dorm areas safe and preventing use and abuse of these substances. Now they are more aware of what to look for when it comes to drug consumption and related risky behaviors. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with these incredible young adults and, together, make a difference in our community.

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!

Sticker Shock Campaign Discourages Community from Providing Alcohol to Minors

IMG_0200According to Gwinnett County survey data, alcohol is the substance most used among middle and high school students. The data show that 22% of high school students report using alcohol in the past 30 days. Many students also report that they are able to gain access to alcohol from their family or other adults.1

The prevention of underage drinking and easy access to alcohol for underage youth is a high priority in our county. Gwinnett United in Drug Education, Inc. (GUIDE) understands the importance of alcohol prevention and has numerous efforts underway to address issues regarding underage drinking and easy access to alcohol.

In honor of April being Alcohol Awareness Month, GUIDE along with teams of youth and adult volunteers is conducting a Sticker Shock campaign to raise awareness in the Gwinnett community about underage drinking. The Sticker Shock campaign serves as a reminder to parents and other adults that it is against the law to provide alcohol to anyone under 21.

During April, the teams of volunteers will visit several retail stores in Gwinnett and place “warning” stickers on multi-packs of beer, wine coolers, and other alcohol products. These stickers communicate that it is against the law to provide alcohol to minors and what the penalties could be. The volunteers will also place “warning” glass clings on the stores’ front doors and coolers for a more permanent reminder of this message.

GUIDE’s Sticker Shock Coordinator, Molly Vance, believes that this campaign is important because it not only raises awareness about underage drinking, but also encourages the community to work together to keep Gwinnett healthy and safe. 

GUIDE appreciates the community support for this campaign and recognizes the following retail store participants: the Beverage Superstore and Way Crest Exxon in Grayson, the 29 Package Store and La Hispaña Food Mart in Lilburn, and the Norcross Food Mart and Ruby’s Food Mart in Lawrenceville.


1 Youth health survey. (2011). Lawrenceville, Georgia: Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services. 

3D Month: What You Need to Know to Play it Safe on the Road

As we approach the busy holiday season when more people are on the road, it’s important to know that during this time there are also more impaired drivers on the road.  Last year, 25% of the traffic fatalities in Georgia were related to drunk driving.  Most of these deaths could have been prevented if someone had done something to keep the drunk drivers off the road.  December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month to bring the focus on the problem and what we can do to reduce impaired driving.

Walsh, et al. 2005While drunk driving has decreased somewhat in recent years, more than 10,000 people still die annually in alcohol-impaired driving crashes – that’s one every 51 minutes.  But, wait, there’s more to the story.  Research is now showing that alcohol is not the only problem on the road.  In a recent national study of seriously injured drivers, 27% tested positive for marijuana and 12% tested positive for cocaine.

Young drivers are particularly at risk for being impacted by drunk and drugged driving. The national Monitoring the Future survey indicates that 30% of high school seniors had driven impaired or had been a passenger of an impaired driver in the two weeks prior to being surveyed. Nearly one quarter (23.2%) of high school seniors said they drove or rode with a driver after he or she used marijuana while 15.8% said they drove or rode with someone after having five or more drinks.  Adding to the problem is the fact that youth are still relatively inexperienced drivers and you have a potentially deadly combination.

There are many things we can do to reduce impaired driving.  Here are some strategies everyone can participate in:

  • Never allow alcohol to be provided or served to minors.  It’s against the law and it’s dangerous.
  • If you’re planning an adult party or social event, make sure there are plenty of non-alcohol beverages provided and that they’re prominently displayed.
  • If alcohol is going to be provided, encourage – or insist – that designated drivers be identified early one.  Choosing the “less drunk” person to drive at the end of the night is NOT the same thing!
  • Provide lots of protein and high carbohydrate food and snacks, but steer clear of salty ones that make people want to drink more.  It’s best to have guests eat first so they’re not drinking on an empty stomach.
  • If you’re an adult, and you’re thinking about drinking, be aware that there are times when you are more vulnerable to alcohol impairment.  If you’ve been sick or rundown, you’re taking medicine that increase impairment with mixed with alcohol, or you haven’t eaten, you may want to reconsider drinking for the time being.  If you’re pregnant or need to operate a car or other heavy equipment, choose not to drink at all.
  • NEVER drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and don’t get into a car being driven by someone who is.  Arranging for alternative transportation may just save your life.