Keeping Georgia Youth on a Healthy Path


A partnership to prevent alcohol and drug use

Georgians for a Healthy Future, the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, and the Center for Pan Asian Communities Services are working together to build a future where Georgia youth have access to substance use prevention and mental health services they need. By joining and supporting our efforts, you will make a positive change in the health and safety of Georgia’s youth.

You can make a difference.


Substance Use Disorders Among Youth in Georgia

Like adults, children and teenagers find many ways to deal with pain, sadness, trauma, and frustration. Young people in any Georgia community may use alcohol or drugs to numb feelings.


The Behavioral Health Challenges
Facing Georgia’s Youth1

One in ten Georgia youth—approximately 82,000 young people—struggle with major depressive episodes each year.

Sixty-three (63%) of these youth never
received treatment for their depression.


Young people who use alcohol and drugs are more likely to:

• Miss more school
• Have lower grades
• Commit acts of violence
• Drop out of school


Some factors make youth more likely to struggle with alcohol or drug use:

• Family history of substance use disorders
• Those with depression and low-self-esteem
• Young people who struggle to fit in
at school
• Those who give into peer pressure easily


Youth in Georgia are experimenting with drugs and alcohol at younger ages2:


7.7% of Georgia’s youth admitted to consuming alcohol within the last month


4.6% of youth in Georgia have used marijuana at least once in their lifetime


2.2% of
school-aged Georgians have used cigarettes
at least once in their lifetime


5.8% of Georgia youth (ages 12 or older) reported having a substance use problem within the past year.


3.6% of Georgia’s youth misused prescription pain relievers within the past year

1  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Behavioral Health Barometer: Georgia, 2015. HHS Publication No. SMA–16–Baro–2015–GA. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Behavioral Health Barometer: Georgia, Volume 5: Indicators as measured through the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services. HHS Publication No. SMA-19-Baro-17-GA. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019.


Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

When a young person’s use of drugs or alcohol leads to health problems or problems at school, in their families or with their friends, they may have a substance use disorder (SUD). Youth who use substances are at a higher risk for developing a SUD because of how drugs and alcohol impact brain development. The large majority of adults with SUD started using before the age of 18.3 The good news is that substance use disorders can be prevented and treated, especially when services are provided early.

3 Olson, G.; De Biasi, A.; Ilakkuvan, V.; Auerbach, J. (2019). Addressing a Crisis: Cross-Sector Strategies to Prevent Adolescent Substance Use and Suicide. Trust for America’s Health -

Substance use prevention is a cost effective investment


Mental health and substance use prevention and early intervention for young people is very cost effective. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that every $1 dollar invested in effective school-based prevention and early intervention programs saves states and local governments up to $18 by reducing future medical, justice system, and other costs.4

4 Miller, T. and Hendrie, D. Substance Abuse Prevention Dollars and Cents: A Cost-Benefit Analysis, DHHS Pub. No. (SMA) 07-4298. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2008. 

SBIRT: Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment

One tool that is used to prevent, recognize, and get a person connected to treatment is called SBIRT. SBIRT stands for Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment.

SBIRT is low-cost, effective, and supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. SBIRT helps trusted adults (like teachers, school nurses, or counselors) to have a structured conversation that identifies if a young person is using drugs or alcohol and connects them to follow-up counseling or treatment if needed.


Changes in Georgia Schools and Health Care

Together the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, Georgians for a Healthy Future are working to make changes in the laws and policies that shape our state’s education and health care systems can keep Georgia’s youth on a healthy path. Policy changes could increase the number of school nurses in schools, expand programs like SBIRT to every school, and require health insurance to cover mental health and substance use issues like other health conditions (like asthma or cancer). These effective and sustainable approaches will keep young people healthy and allow them to succeed.

Partnering for Sustainable Solutions

Together the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, Georgians for a Healthy Future, and the Center for Pan Asian Communities Services are working to prevent alcohol & drug use by Georgia youth. GHF, GCSA, & CPACS work with youth, parents, and communities to strengthen Georgia’s health and education systems. Together we are changing laws, policies, & systems so that substance use prevention, treatment services, and recovery supports are available in schools and health settings statewide.


Addressing Substance Use Services in Georgia Schools

  • Promote student wellness and overall health by replacing no-tolerance alcohol and drug policies (like automatic suspension) with SBIRT services and supports
  • Use the resources available through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to:
    - Put SBIRT in all Georgia middle and high schools
    - Train teachers and school staff to recognize the signs of substance use and refer students to the appropriate health services (like the school nurse)
  • Take advantage of a Medicaid rule that would increase the number of schools with full-time nurses and other health staff who can support substance use prevention & recovery efforts

Improving Substance Use Services in Health Care

  • Expand Medicaid so that low-income Georgians have access to substance use prevention and recovery services
  • Require public proof from Medicaid and insurance companies that they are following the federal law that requires coverage of substance use and mental health services to be equal to coverage of other health issues
  • Pass a state law that makes insurance companies and Medicaid to improve coverage of substance use services
  • Help Georgians and their families understand their rights to substance use services in health insurance

Join the coalition and support our efforts to prevent youth substance use:

• Sign our petition asking state leaders to make
youth substance use prevention a priority

• Start a conversation with local school leaders
about replacing no-tolerance alcohol & drug policies with substance use services

• Have conversations about youth substance use
with people who spend time with youth regularly (coaches, teachers, principals, etc.)

Support Medicaid expansion at