Image of a man talking to someone



Talk About Substance Abuse

Drugs and alcohol affect the mind and body in unpredictable ways. Talking to someone about substances can be difficult, but it can save a life.

Get the Conversation Started:

  • Take advantage of community resources. Your family doctor, teachers, school personnel, local law enforcement, and your local prevention provider are resources that can help.
  • Eliminate distractions. Have conversations when you are both attentive and away from distractions.
  • Gain respect. Listen to what people are saying and encourage a two-way conversation.
  • Make your expectations clear. Explain that addiction is a progressive chronic disease and that you will not tolerate alcohol or drug use.
  • Be a role model. Lead by example.
  • Teach them how to say no. Role play effective ways to say no to drugs and alcohol.
  • Talk openly. Be prepared to answer tough questions.


The "Ws" of Talking About Substance Use:

  • Who: Parents, adults, teachers and coaches should discuss heroin, drugs and alcohol with young people. Even if the individual does not presently use drugs or alcohol, take a stand before they are influenced by their peers.
  • What: Talk about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Take advantage of available resources to assist you with initiating the conversation.
  • Where: Talk wherever you are most comfortable and distraction-free.
  • When: The sooner the conversation begins, the sooner you can help someone struggling with addiction.

Conversation Resources

NYS Office of Alcoholism worked collaboratively with the NYS Department of Health and the State Education Department to make materials available on a thumb drive for coaches, school nurses, and educators to help prevent and address substance use disorder.  The materials can be used to have conversations, with students and in community forums. 
The flash drive includes a variety of resources
Order form 

Kitchen Table Toolkit

The Kitchen Table Toolkit was developed to assist parents, teachers, counselors and the community with guidance on how to initiate conversations about heroin and opioid abuse. The information in the toolkit may also be applicable for alcohol and other drugs. Videos and guidance documents were developed to assist with a community forum or a personal conversation. 



The Talk2Prevent website gives parents the tools to talk to your children about the risks of underage drinking. The toolkit for parents includes:

  • Conversation starters
  • Ways to text your child about keeping safe
  • List of warning signs for underage drinking
  • An agreement that both parent and child can sign to establish a clear understanding of family rules around underage drinking

The Talk2Prevent website also has resources for community prevention coalitions and links to more than 400 town and county level alcohol prevention and treatment service providers across New York State.


Operation Prevention

The DEA and Discovery Education have joined forces to combat a growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use nationwide. Operation Prevention's mission is to educate students about the true impacts of opioids and kick-state lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom.

Key Steps

Substance abuse is a major public health concern in New York State. To help address the problem it's important to educate yourself on the basic facts and ways to prevent addiction. You can also help prevent the spread of substance abuse by following these key steps:

Open communication. Talk about the dangers of substance abuse and keep the lines of communication open so the person who is struggling feels comfortable coming to you in a time of need. 

Be involved and engaged. People who are involved and engaged in others' lives are more likely to notice the warning signs of substance abuse and are able to intervene before it happens.

Prevent the misuse of prescription medications. Store prescription medications safely, keep an inventory of your medications, and dispense as prescribed and dispose unused medications appropriately at home or taken them to a local medication drop box location. Visit the NYS Troopers and Department of Health websites to find a drop box.

Image of Map of Drop Box Locations
Map of Drop Box Locations


Learn about opioid overdose prevention. Opioid-related overdose has increased, which has led New York State to pass a life-saving law making it legal for non-medical persons to administer Naloxone to someone experiencing an opioid or heroin overdose. 

Sign up for a free, open-to-the public training:

​Reduce harm. Harm reduction initiatives are essential in keeping heroin and opiate users alive and safe until they are ready to take action and seek treatment. Proper syringe access & disposal, as well as overdose prevention can help address the immediate health and safety concerns faced by people who use heroin and opiates.

Learn the Laws

The 911 Good Samaritan Law provides significant legal protection against criminal charges and prosecution for possession of controlled substances, marijuana and drug paraphernalia. This protection applies to both the person seeking assistance in good faith, as well as to the person who has overdosed. 

When in doubt, call 911. It may be a matter of life or death.