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SOMERSET COUNTY & PLAINFIELD YMCA - HomeFor Youth Development; For Healthly Living; For Social Responsibility
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Talk. Connect. Prevent.

Drug Prevention

The Initiative

New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, in collaboration with The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, is introducing a new initiative designed to encourage and support parents in having meaningful and effective conversations with their children to prevent drug use.

Launching November 2017, this effort includes information regarding substance abuse, tools such as a guide and conversation starters (see below), as well as resources where families may obtain additional information and counsel. Materials are available at YMCAs throughout New Jersey. The program is intended to use the Night of Conversation, a national drug prevention initiative started by Dr. Mehmet Oz in 2015, as a springboard to encourage meaningful conversations between parents and their children throughout the year.

As a charitable organization, the Y is focused on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Supporting parents and the community in their efforts to raise healthy, confident, connected children is core to the Y’s mission to help all people grow in spirit, mind and body.
Early in 2017, the New Jersey Legislature passed a joint resolution that was signed into law, designating a Night of Conversation in November of each year. The purpose of the law is to create awareness about substance use and to help families initiate conversations about drug and alcohol addiction. While the Night of Conversation helps to bring this issue to the forefront of parents’ consciousness, New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey wanted to do more, to not only start the conversation, but sustain it throughout the year. 
  • Prescribed opioid use before high school graduation is independently associated with a 33% increase in the risk of future opioid misuse after high school, especially among individuals who have little to no history of drug use.(1)
  • Heroin use has more than doubled among 18 to 25 year olds in the past decade, as heroin has become a cheap alternative to prescription painkillers.(2)
  • From 1999 to 2015, the death rate of teenagers overdosing on drugs more than doubled.(3)
  • In New Jersey, there has been a 214% increase in deaths due to heroin/morphine since 2010.(4)
  • According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20% of 12 to 20 year olds reported drinking alcohol in the past month.(5)
  • Drug use can be part of a pattern of risky behavior and when a teen develops a pattern of repeated use, it can pose serious health risks such as mental health problems.(6)


(1) Miech, Richard, Ph.D., et. al. “Prescription Opioids in Adolescence and Future Opioid Misuse” Aug. 26, 2015. Web. Sept. 20, 2017.

(2) “Today’s Heroin Epidemic” Center for Disease Control and Prevention CDC
Web. Sept. 21, 2017.

(3) “Drug Overdose Deaths among Adolescents Aged 15-19 in the United States: 1999-2015” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web. August 2017.

(4) Stirling, Stephen. “Overdose deaths skyrocket in N.J. as opioid epidemic proves unassailable.” 12.07.2016: 4 pages. Web. Sept. 21, 2017.

(5) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Table 2.83B—Alcohol Use, Binge Alcohol Use, and Heavy Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 12 to 20, by Demographic Characteristics: Percentages, 2014 and 2015. Available at:

(6) “Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide” National Institute on Drug Abuse Web.

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The Guide
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Conversation Starters

Conversation is one of the most powerful and effective tools parents can use in preventing substance use and misuse by their children. Research has shown that regular, meaningful conversations between parents and their children help to reduce risky behaviors by children and can ultimately save lives. This is why New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey have collaborated to create strategies for parents as they try to navigate the challenges of tackling difficult topics. Empowering children with the skills and confidence to make healthy choices starts with a simple conversation.

The following material, informed by experts in the fields of pediatrics, childhood development, child psychology and addiction prevention, while not exhaustive, are intended to provide a starting point for parents in beginning to address with their children substance use and misuse. This material should be considered complementary to any support and counsel parents may receive from other trusted sources. As always, parents should consult their healthcare professionals regarding any concerns with their children.

Get the Conversation Starters below:

Drug Prevention Conversation Starters

Find more information on how to have conversations with children about drug and alcohol use at