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Substance Use Prevention and Intervention

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Substance use and misuse has a major impact on individuals, families and communities. Below is a collection of resources and information to help support prevention and intervention efforts in schools, at home and elsewhere throughout the Commonwealth. These websites may include content that do not necessarily represent the official views of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education ("the Department") and listing them here does not imply endorsement of any kind. The Department assumes no responsibility for, or any obligation to monitor the content, privacy practices, operators, availability, accuracy, quality, advertising, products, services, or other materials of these sites.

Scroll down the page for more information or select any of the following categories to be brought directly to that point on this page.

  1. Substance Use Prevention Resources
  2. Intervention
  3. Treatment
  4. Recovery High School Programs
  5. Additional Resources
  6. Resources from State Agencies
  7. For More Information

Substance Use Prevention Resources

An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention was signed into law on March 14, 2016, as Chapter 52 of the Acts of 2016. The following sections relate to public schools:

Mass. General Laws chapter 71, section 96 (as amended by St. 2016, c. 52, s. 15):

Section 96. Each public school shall have a policy regarding substance use prevention and the education of its students about the dangers of substance abuse. The school shall notify the parents or guardians of all students attending the school of the policy and shall post the policy on the school's website. The policy, and any standards and rules enforcing the policy, shall be prescribed by the school committee in conjunction with the superintendent or the board of trustees of a charter school.

The department of elementary and secondary education, in consultation with the department of public health, shall provide guidance and recommendations to assist schools with developing and implementing effective substance use prevention and abuse education policies and shall make such guidance and recommendations publicly available on the department's website. Guidance and recommendations may include educating parents or guardians on recognizing warning signs of substance abuse and providing available resources. Guidance and recommendations shall be reviewed and regularly updated to reflect applicable research and best practices.

Each school district and charter school shall file its substance use prevention and misuse education policies with the department of elementary and secondary education in a manner and form prescribed by the department. The following information and resources may be useful for schools/districts when creating and updating substance use prevention policies and educating students about the dangers of substance use and abuse.

Requirement for Districts to Implement a Substance Use-Related Screening Tool

The Department's guidance memo explains a state law requiring all public school districts to verbally screen students at two grade levels for substance use disorders. This initiative can assist school staff with prevention efforts and with identifying early risk of substance use and misuse among middle and high school students.

Mass. General Laws chapter 71, section 97 (as amended by St. 2016, c.52, s.15) provides that, subject to appropriation, each city, town, regional school district, charter school and vocational school is required to use a verbal screening tool to screen students for substance use disorders. Funds have been appropriated to the Department of Public Health (DPH) to support school districts in implementing the law, including related training. Beginning in the current school year, districts are expected to:

  1. Conduct screenings on an annual basis at two different grade levels (grades 7 and 9 are recommended),
  2. Notify the parents or guardians of the students who will be screened before the screening takes place, and
  3. Permit a student or the student's parent or guardian to opt out of the screening at any time by giving written notification.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has changed its recommended screening tool from the CRAFFT 2.1 to the CRAFFT +N in order to include important questions on vaping and nicotine use. All screening materials can be found on the Boston University SHIELD website, including SBIRT in Schools Resource Toolkit . All staff members conducting the SBIRT screening must take two updated required DPH SBIRT courses. School districts may choose to use an approach other than the CRAFFT+N by submitting to DESE an alternative substance use prevention program form signed by the superintendent or charter school leader and including a description of the chosen alternative program. For more information, please contact the Office of Student and Family Support via or 781-338-3010.

A Data Brief of the Verbal Screenings for Alcohol and Substance Use in Massachusetts Schools: 2017-2018 can be found on the DPH School Health Screening webpage. This report summarizes the findings from the first statewide screening that took place during the 2017-2018 school year.

Alcohol Use Prevention Resources

  • Stop Underage Drinking: The federal Interagency Coordinating Committee on the prevention of underage drinking.

  • Get the Facts About Underage Drinking: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (

  • Even if You Know About Drinking or Drugs: A booklet from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) that discusses the effects drinking and using drugs have on growing and developing brains. Legal consequences and long-term effects and addiction are highlighted. Ways to avoid alcohol and drugs as well as resources (including online resources) for further information and help are also listed.

  • Preventing Underage Drinking — Social Host Liability Law Q & A: A social host is anyone (adult or minor) who is in control of the premises and who furnishes alcohol or allows it to be consumed on those premises. The legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21. It is against the law to serve or provide alcohol to underage guests or to allow them to drink alcohol in your home or on other property you control. Those who do may be prosecuted criminally. The penalty is a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both. (M.G.L. c. 138, s. 34).

Marijuana Use Prevention Resources

  • More About Marijuana: Get the facts you need to make informed choices. Learn what you can and can't do, and how marijuana can affect your body, mind, and health. Information for parents and caregivers as well as prevention resources provided by DPH.

  • Discussing Marijuana with Your Child: Information and resources available from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

  • Tips for Teens Marijuana: This fact sheet for teens provides facts about marijuana. It describes short- and long-term effects and lists signs of marijuana. The fact sheet helps to dispel common myths about marijuana. Access sources and references cited in this fact sheet provided by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Tobacco/Nicotine Use Prevention Resources

Opioid Use Prevention Resources

Other Prevention Resources


Many youths may show behaviors in adolescence that are suggestive of substance use/misuse , but they also can be considered normal behaviors for adolescents. It is important to recognize if there are several of these behaviors happening at the same time, if there is a sudden onset of the behaviors, and if the behaviors are extreme. The following behaviors in a youth might signal drug or alcohol abuse:

  • A change in mood (temper flare-ups, irritability, defensiveness)
  • A change in academics (skipping school, low grades, disciplinary action)
  • A change in behavior (suddenly avoids eye contact, makes secretive phone calls, disappears for periods of time)
  • A change in friends and a reluctance to have parents/family get to know the new friends
  • A "nothing matters" attitude (lack of involvement in former interests, general low energy)
  • Physical or mental changes (periods of sleeplessness or high energy, memory lapses, poor concentration, lack of coordination, slurred speech, significant weight loss/gain, etc.)
  • Money is missing, or objects have disappeared

Getting help early is essential to protecting youth's health. Schools are strongly encouraged to establish relationships with providers in the community to whom a school can refer a student in need, as well as have resources readily available to offer to parents/guardians.


Substance use disorders can range from problematic use to addiction and can be treated successfully at any stage, and at any age. Treatment should be tailored to the unique needs of the individual and finding the right treatment for that individual is critical. To find out what services are available, contact:

  • The Massachusetts Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline| 1-800-327-5050 This helpline is a statewide, public resource for finding substance use treatment and recovery services. Helpline services are free and confidential. The trained Specialists can help callers understand the treatment system and options.

  • A Quick Guide to Substance Use Services for Young People: A pamphlet which provides helpful information about treatment and support services in Massachusetts for young people needing help with an alcohol or drug problem.

  • SAMHSA National Helpline| 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

  • Make Smoking History: A Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program provided by DPH.

  • Behavioral Health Help Line (BHHL) FAQ | The Behavioral Health Help Line (BHHL) connects families and individuals to the full range of treatment services for mental health and substance use offered in Massachusetts, including outpatient, urgent and immediate crisis care.

Recovery High School Programs

Additional Resources

Resources from State Agencies

  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health — Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS): BSAS oversees the statewide system of prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support services for individuals, families, and communities affected by gambling and substance addiction.

  • Good Behavior Game and Life Skills Training To help prevent the harms of substance misuse from disrupting adolescents' lives and promote academic success, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is starting early. All 3-9th grade Curriculum Administrators, teachers, counselors, and nurses are invited to participate in free one-day certification training in evidence-based prevention. The LifeSkills Training © program also has positive outcomes in social and emotional learning and prevention education. The free training, curriculum, e-learning and student supplies are on-going offered regularly across the Commonwealth. Registration is available online.

  • Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program (MTCP) MTCP is a statewide public health program focused on comprehensive approaches to reduce tobacco and nicotine use. Our mission is to reduce the health and economic burden of tobacco use by preventing young people from starting to use tobacco and nicotine products, helping current tobacco and nicotine users to quit, protecting children and adults from secondhand smoke, and identifying and eliminating tobacco-related disparities.

  • Project Here Middle School Initiative The Attorney General's Office and the GE Foundation launched Project Here, an initiative that makes educational resources available to public middle schools at no cost with the goals of raising awareness about the risks and consequences of substance use, de-stigmatizing the disease of addiction, and promoting healthy decision-making.

  • Promote Prevent Commission In August 2016, Governor Baker signed the Special Commission on Behavioral Health Promotion and Upstream Prevention into law. Referred to as the Promote Prevent Commission, it focused on aspects of the behavioral health continuum of care (i.e. promotion and prevention) that have received limited attention by other taskforces, legislation, and budgetary action. The Commission was comprised of an interdisciplinary group of leaders in behavioral health, prevention, public health, addiction, mental health, criminal justice, health policy, epidemiology, and environmental health. The Commission's Report to the Legislature outlined a plan to promote mental, emotional, and behavioral health and to prevent issues like addition, mental illness, and violence.

For More Information

For more information or assistance, please contact:

Samantha Graham
Substance Use Prevention & Intervention Specialist
Office of Student and Family Support or (781) 338-6305

Last Updated: February 23, 2023

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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