Preventing Underage Drinking

Why this needs our attention 

Youth substance abuse is an important health issue that can lead to poor academic performance and absenteeism, increased risk for injury, increased risk for mental health issues, strained peer and family relationships, and increased risk for involvement in the justice system. Substance use in youth can increase risk of long-term adverse health issues, including substance use dependance and disorders and other chronic health problem.

Over the past ten years, there have been slight declines in youth substance use; however, those declines have leveled off since 2017. According to the CDC’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, substance use among Illinois high school students remains common, with approximately 1 out of 4 reporting current alcohol use, with 1 in 10 reporting binge drinking; 1 in 5 reporting current e-cigarettes use; 1 in 5 reporting current marijuana use, and 1 in 7 reporting opioid use without a doctor’s prescription.

What Lurie Children's is doing to address it

Lurie Children’s leads the Youth Substance Use Prevention Coalition (SUPC), a multi-agency collaboration between community-based organizations, government agencies and stakeholders from across the city – the only citywide coalition of is kinds in Chicago.

This coalition connects partners working in youth substance use prevention across the city, allowing for a more coordinated approach to youth substance use prevention.  SUPC also facilitates training and professional development opportunities to build capacity among coalition members and the larger Chicago community. SUPC also convenes a Youth Advisory Board (YAB) in collaboration with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) to ensure that the work of the coalition remains centered on the needs and experiences of young people in Chicago—a resource that is developed by youth for youth.

Between 2017 and 2020, Lurie Children’s implemented I Got This!, a city-wide communications and community engagement campaign that aimed to increase awareness about the potential harmful effects and consequences of alcohol and empower youth to make good choices for themselves and supported the role of parents and caregivers in helping youth make good choices.

Lurie Children's Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine leads evidence-informed youth substance use prevention education focused on the three substances that most impact young people in Chicago: vaping/e-cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol. These lessons, approved by Chicago Public Schools for use in the classroom, detail the health effects of each substance, but also aim to discuss why youth may turn to these substances -- such as stress and unmet mental health needs. Workshops are also available for parents/guardians and school staff.

Our Adolescent Medicine team also provides trainings on how to use Naloxone, a prescription medication that can temporarily stop the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose, and provides free Naloxone. These trainings are offered in partnership with community nonprofit organizations and are facilitated through our Mobile Health Program or onsite at a community agency.

Our impact

  • The SUPC Youth Advisory Board is comprised of 17 youth providing peer coaching to SUPC partners looking to begin youth boards of their own
  • The I Got This! campaign was featured on CTA bus and train lines and at CTA stations, libraries and Chicago Park District locations citywide, as well as schools, community-based organizations and federally-qualified health centers across Chicago and on social media reaching an average of 268,000 parents of 8th-10th graders each year and 159,000 8th-10th grade youth each year
  • Over 100 Naloxone Kits distributed to community members in greater Chicago, three “Train the Trainer” sessions, and four administration trainings

Clinical care and resources related to substance use are always available through Lurie Children’s Substance Use and Prevention Program (SUPP).