News from Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist

For further information on any of the below topics, please reach out to the Lake Braddock Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist, Jessica Giffin, LMSW.


Required Substance Abuse Prevention Lesson for Grades 7-12

Printable PDF presentation.


Required Substance Abuse Prevention Lesson

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May 2023 Mental Health Awareness Month__0.pdf - printable PDF

Mental Health Awareness Month

The month of May is a time to pause and raise awareness of the fact that many people live everyday with mental and behavioral health issues and there is a need to reduce the stigma attached with the experience. Post-COVID the reality is that millions of Americans are dealing with an increase in mental, behavioral, and substance misuse illnesses in their families (NAMI). Additional mental health challenges by the COVID-19 pandemic have also increased youth related substance use, mental health struggles, and suicide (HHS).  According to HHS, suicide is still the second highest cause of death in youth ages 10 to 14 and adults from ages 24 to 35. This prompted the July 2022 launch of 998 the new three digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.


The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 call, text, and chat access to crisis counselors. It is for anyone experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crises or emotional distress. Concerns about loved ones may also be addressed using the 988 dialing code. SAMHSA has described the new 988 dialing code as an important step in transforming how crisis and trauma situations are handled in the United States. Please note that the 800-273-8255 number still works, 988 is just built off of the 10-digit number.



Substance Use Prevention and Encouraging Healthy Brain Development

Together for Mental Health

Fact Sheet: Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month 2022

988 Frequently Asked Questions


For general questions about the FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Program, please contact the Office of Student Safety & Wellness at: (571) 423-4270. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @FCPSSAPS.

For further Information & support:

Jessica Giffin, LMSW

Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist

[email protected]

Drug Additives to Be Aware of: Xylazine "Tranq"

Xylazine aka Tranq (2).pdf -printable PDF

Drug Additives to Be Aware of: Xylazine“Tranq”

In our continuing efforts to educate the community, we have been tracking a new trend in the region known as Xylazine or Tranq. Tranq, a non-opioid tranquilizer, is often mixed with other drugs giving the user a fentanyl-like high for an extended period of time. Considering the rise in opioid-related overdoses, it is important to know about various additives such as fentanyl and tranq that can be mixed in, unbeknownst to the user. Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer which is not approved by the FDA for human consumption; it affects the central nervous system by suppressing breathing and slowing down vital functions in the body. Tranq has recently been detected in several fatal overdoses related to cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl in unsuspecting users. Narcan/Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, will not reverse the overdose in a person who has taken Tranq thus resulting in potential death. Continued use has  resulted in lesions, ulcers, and other health related issues resulting in loss of limbs from untreated abscesses.

While alarming, education is key to keep our communities safe. Here is some recent data showing the trend in our region. Xylazine was present in 19% of drug overdoses in Maryland in 2020 alone; with trends increasing in Pennsylvania by 26% and in Connecticut by 10%. In areas of higher populations Xylazine has been present in 1 of every 5 deaths that have been reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Xylazine was present in 64.3 % of deaths when it was detected. 38 states including the District of Columbia have seen a rise in “Tranq” in and around their communities.

For more information please, contact myself or the Student Safety & Wellness Office at (571) 423-4270. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @FCPSSAPS.

Sources & Resources:

NIH: Xylazine

DEA: Xylazine 

DEA: Fentanyl Mixed with Xylazine

CDC: Xylazine

Overdoses in Philadelphia

FCPS Webinar: Everything You Need To Know About Opioids

For further Information & support

Jessica Giffin, LMSW

Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist


Drug & Alcohol Facts Week - March 20-26

Drug & Alcohol Facts Week-printable PDF

Drug & Alcohol Facts Week

Quick Facts:

National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week is March 20-26, 2023

Opioids are the number one cause of unnatural death in Fairfax County. Young adults aged 25-34 are the most common demographic seen in the emergency room for fatal opioid overdoses.

Nationwide there were over 100,00 overdose deaths from April 2020- April 2021.

Using opioids after a period of abstinence, mixing drugs, IV use, and serious medical problems all contribute to an increased risk of opioid overdose.

90% of substance users began using prior to 21-years-old.

Alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine are usually the most common substances used by adolescents.

Fairfax County police stations, pharmacies, and medical facilities provide permanent drug disposal drop boxes for residents to safely dispose of their unused/expired medication. DO NOT flush your medications.

Reframing Our Thinking:

Changing our state of consciousness is part of the human experience (kids spinning in circles to induce dizziness, meditation, runner’s high, and more) but using substances has more negative than positive side effects. Alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine use prevention strategies are also opioid overdose prevention strategies since opioid users likely used one of these three substances first. Every opioid overdose does not lead to death, but it increases the chances of an eventual overdose fatality. Although most opioid users began with alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine, these three drugs are not “gateway drugs”. The term “gateway drug” implies all alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine users will eventually use other drugs, but that is not the case for most, so the time to act is now. Treat your medication as a loaded gun; lock it up and properly dispose of any medications you are no longer using.

Sources & Resources:

Fairfax CSB Opioid Info

REVIVE Training for Opioid Overdoses     

Medication Disposal

Teen Substance Use

FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Program

Everything You Need to Know About Opioids

For general questions about the FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Program, please contact the Office of Student Safety & Wellness at: (571) 423-4270.


For further Information & support:
Jessica Giffin, LMSW
Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist

Healthy Relationships with People and Substances-February, 2023

Healthy Relationships with People and Substances-printable PDF

Healthy Relationships With People and Substances

Relationships are important components in the development of living a fulfilling life. Valentine’s day occurs in the month of February, causing a frenzy of purchases and planning between loved ones to show appreciation and love. Forming and maintaining healthy relationships is difficult but vital for those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Healthy relationships are a factor in helping people maintain sobriety (Addiction Center). Bonds and companionship provide emotional support and are effective in increasing health and wellbeing. Emotional support decreases fears and helps people to thrive.

There is value in healthy relationships. Healthy relationships decrease people struggling with addictions from engaging in toxic attachments that create feelings of frustration, stress, and conflict. Negative attachments can bring out the worst in people and create feelings that can lead to increased use of alcohol and substance misuse and abuse. Positive relationships encourage growth, comfort, and the creation of emotional bonds that provide feelings of joy and support. Open communication and commitment are two of the best ways to foster the ideal type of relationships most people strive for.

Common values to develop in healthy relationships include:
● honesty
● reciprocity
● effort
● respect
● safety & security
● laughter
● acceptance
● healthy boundaries
● unconditional love
● friendship
● non-judgmental

As the world celebrates love, it is important to do our part in the creation of positive partnerships, social circles, and healthy connections. Encourage the support and inspiration of those that may be silently vulnerable and struggling to feel safe.


Healthy Relationships

Substance Abuse & Intimate Relationships

For general questions about the FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Program, please contact the Office of Student Safety & Wellness at 571-423-4270.

For further information & support:

Jessica Giffin, LMSW

Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist



New Year's Resolutions-January 17, 2023

New Year's Resolutions-printable PDF

New Year’s Resolutions

In December, many people will head to their local Target or Michaels to find a new planner. The crisp, fresh feeling of new paper to write new and improved goals gets some of us excited. When thinking of your goals consider making them SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound), this method breaks your goals down into specific objectives and makes it easier for you to track your progress. What goals would you like to share with your child, to show them examples of healthy adult introspection? Introspection, looking within, is necessary to learn how to manage stress in a healthy manner. What regular coping skills can be implemented into your daily/ weekly routine? Some goals may be physical, spiritual, financial, or emotional. Would it be easier to have serious conversations over a family dinner? Or maybe regular family dinners, spark joy and connection that’s often missing.

Research has shown that family therapy is the best treatment option for young people who misuse drugs and alcohol (SAMHSA). Many people use drugs to manage life’s hardships when they feel disconnected from themselves or others. The opposite of addiction is connection, and young people benefit from connection with their families. Families who have a common mission based on autonomy and openness instead of secrecy and silence thrive. Families teach young people how to manage stress when they communicate honestly and openly with one another. Learning how to manage stress early in life could be a major factor in whether or not a young person decides to use drugs.

For general questions about the FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Program, please contact the Office of Student Safety & Wellness at: (571) 423-4270.

Sources & Resources

Why Small Conversations Make a Big Difference

SMART Goals Quick Overview

Knowing the Signs: Substance Abuse & Today’s Youth


For further information and support:

Jessica Giffin, LMSW
Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist

Mental Health, Coping & Addiction-December 9, 2022

Mental Health, Coping & Addiction-printable PDF

Mental Health, Coping & Addiction

One in four Americans suffers from a mental illness. Almost 3 in 5 people with mental illness will receive no treatment or medication. In 2019, an estimated 47.6 million adults (19% of the country) had a mental illness, but only 43% received any kind of mental health care (Johns Hopkins). There are many reasons why a person may turn to drugs or alcohol initially, including using these mind-altering substances as a coping mechanism for stress, difficult emotions, physical ailments, and other issues. Drugs and alcohol can provide a temporary respite from reality and everyday life. They can enhance pleasure and decrease inhibitions and anxiety.  Drug use can be an unhealthy coping mechanism. Coping mechanisms are habits formed over time that serve to help a person manage situations or stress levels. Not all coping mechanisms are maladaptive or destructive; however, addiction is both.

Before using drugs as a coping strategy here are some recommendations for a healthier mindset. The goal is to identify the “void” or issue and work towards healing. In the meantime, experts recommend diet and exercise as great places to start. See your Primary Care Physician and a therapist if needed. Quality sleep is also a major factor in a healthy mind. Surround yourself with good people and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

For general questions about the FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Program, please contact the Office of Student Safety & Wellness at: (571) 423-4270.


Substance Use Disorder info

FCPS Social Work

For further information & support:
Jessica Giffin, LMSW
Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist
Email: @email
Phone: 703-426-1194

Alcohol & The Holidays-December 2, 2022

Alcohol & The Holidays-printable PDF 

The holidays usually involve family time, games, movies, food, and possibly drinks. The holidays may involve less family members this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean less alcohol for some. Alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic and when ABC stores were deemed essential it didn’t help lower those rates (ABC News, September 29, 2020). Many people are still trying to figure out how to navigate our “new normal” since a global pandemic wasn’t on our to-do list in 2020, but we encourage you to consider a few things during these trying times.

Questions to consider when drinking with your family:

  1. What message am I sending if I drink in excess around my underage child?
  2. Have I had conversations about responsible drinking with them?
  3. Are the conversations I have about alcohol realistic?
  4. Do my conversations with others reinforce alcohol use as a coping skill during stressful times?
  5. What messages am I sending my underage child if I allow them to drink with me or another adult in the house?

Info to consider:

“One-third of Fairfax County students (33.7%) reported drinking alcohol at least once in their lifetime, ranging from 18.8% of eighth-grade students to half of twelfth-grade students (49.4%). One in seven students (15.2%) reported drinking alcohol in the past month, ranging from 4.5% of eighth-grade students to 27.7% of twelfth-grade students.” (FCPS Youth Survey 2020)

“Female students reported higher rates of alcohol use in their lifetime (36.1% compared to 31.2% of male students), in the past month (17.1% and 13.1%, respectively), and binge drinking in the past two weeks (7.3% and 6.5%, respectively)” (FCPS Youth Survey 2020).


Holiday Stress

Helpful Info to Quit Vaping

FCPS video on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

Substance Abuse Prevention (Spanish)

For general questions about the FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Program, please contact the Office of Student Safety & Wellness at: (571) 423-4270 and be sure to follow us on Twitter at @FCPSSAPS.