Substance Abuse Prevention

PWCS Substance Abuse Prevention & Intervention

The safety of our children is of the utmost importance and PWCS has in place preventative and intervention measures to support our students. All students in grades K-10 receive developmentally appropriate and research-informed instruction based on the Virginia Health Standards of Learning through school counselors (grades K-5), and health and physical education classes (grades 6-10). Additionally, the PWCS Opioid Task Force meets every six weeks to review current trends and develop recommendations for the school division to consider.

MAY 2, 2024

Recognize Fentanyl Awareness Day on May 7 by starting the conversation with your student about its extreme dangers

Spread the word. Save a life. No Random Pills. If it doesn't come from your doctor, don't take it. May 7 National Fentanyl Awareness DayFentanyl, known for its extreme potency and lethality, has impacted communities worldwide, leading to a significant threat to individuals of all ages, including adolescents and young adults. Its presence in counterfeit pills and illicit drug markets makes it difficult to detect and avoid, causing children to be at risk of accidental overdose. 

To recognize this awareness day, take these proactive steps to safeguard our students: 

  1. Education: Educate yourself and your student about the risks of substances, particularly fentanyl, including their potency, methods of use, and potential risks. Knowledge is our first line of defense against substance misuse. 
  2. Open Dialogue: Foster open and honest communication with your children about the dangers of drug experimentation and the importance of making safe choices. Encourage them to confide in you about any concerns or pressures they encounter. 
  3. Awareness of Peer Influence: Be mindful of the influence of peers and social networks on your child's behavior and decision-making. Help them develop critical thinking skills and resilience to resist peer pressure. 
  4. Utilize School Resources: Become familiar with the school's resources and connect with the school-based mental health team (including school counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nursing staff). These professionals are valuable allies in supporting students' mental health and well-being.   

Fentanyl Awareness Day is an opportunity to bring about action, commitment, and solidarity to protect our students from the dangers of fentanyl. Our collective efforts will shape a safer and healthier future. For more information visit the PWCS Substance Abuse Prevention Website, or contact Mallory McKnight, substance prevention specialist, at [email protected].  


Know the risks and signs surrounding fentanyl and overdose

Fentanyl is undetectable and untraceable, and has lead to an increase in teen overdoses. Once it is in the bloodstream, it can take just three minutes to cause a fatal overdose. Visit the Prince William County Fentanyl Exposed webpage to learn more and stay safe by knowing the risks and what to do in case of an overdose.

Could you spot and overdose?
See how fast a fentanyl overdose can actually be.

4 Easy Steps to save a Life From Fentanyl Overdose

Parents play a critical role in preventing and reducing drug use among children. Preventative steps include:

  • Encouraging open conversations about the dangers of using substances.
  • Urging children not to share medications.
  • Conveying your expectations.
  • Encouraging and supporting healthy activities.
  • Keeping medications stored in a safe and secure place.
  • Safely disposing of any expired or unused medications.

PWCS Prevention Programs

In grades K-5, students receive the following:

Grade Lesson Title and Summary

Safe/Unsafe Choices

  • Students review the definition of medicine.
  • Students learn about safe vs. unsafe choices and practice identifying them in different scenarios.
  • Students learn a protocol if they come across an unfamiliar substance: Don’t touch! Don’t taste! Tell a trusted adult!
1st Grade

Medication Safety

  • Students review healthy choices and the definition of medicine.
  • Students discuss why a trusted adult is needed when taking medicine.
  • Students identify (draw) trusted adults at home and at school.
  • Students discuss making safe choices in different scenarios.
2nd Grade

Healthy and Unhealthy Choices: Substance Awareness

  • Students review the definition of a drug.
  • Students discuss harmful effects of drugs.
  • Student practice making healthy vs. unhealthy choices in an activity.
  • Students review the Don’t touch! Don’t taste! Tell a trusted adult!
  • Students discuss appropriate responses to scenarios involving potentially dangerous situations.
3rd Grade

Stop, Think, Choose: Decision-Making and Substance Awareness

  • Students discuss how to make positive decisions.
  • Students learn the Stop, Think, Choose decision-making framework.
  • Students practice using the decision-making framework to make decisions about medicines and drugs in scenarios.
4th Grade

Lesson 1: Peer Pressure and Substance Awareness

  • Students review the Stop, Think, Choose decision-making framework.
  • Students learn the definition of peer pressure.
  • Students discuss how to address and respond to peer pressure.
  • Students work in small groups to practice peer pressure refusal skills.
  • Students learn that we can be positive influences on each other and promote healthy choices.

Lesson 2: Safe at Home, Safe Alone

 *Medicine safety section of the material; in partnership with the VA Cooperative Extension

5th Grade

How Substances Affect the Brain

  • Students learn how different substances affect the brain.
  • Students discuss how to refuse harmful substances.
  • Students act out refusal skills OR work together to create posters about refusal skills/how harmful substances affect the brain.

Elementary school counselors notify families in advance of these lessons to help and encourage families to prepare children prior to the lessons and to begin meaningful discussions about medicine safety and substance use prevention.

View the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) for a complete review of Virginia Health Standards of Learning and Curriculum Guidelines for Instruction on the Safe Use of and Risks of Abuse of Prescription Drugs (Word).

Grades 6-10 receive the following at the appropriate level:

  • Substance abuse prevention education through health classes include some of the following objectives:
    • Differentiate between proper use and misuse of prescription and nonprescription medications.
    • Recognize social influences/influencers on both the reduction and promotion of the use of alcohol, tobacco, nicotine products, and other drugs.
    • Define addiction and substance use disorder.
    • Identify types of opioids.
    • Explain the link between addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; chronic disease; and engaging in risky behaviors.
    • Define prescriptions, controlled substances, nicotine vaping products, hemp, and marijuana-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products, and explain their uses.
    • Identify the types of behavior associated with drug use and abuse that reflect positive norms (e.g., drug use is not cool, drunken driving is stupid, most teens do not use drugs).
    • Describe the short- and long-term health issues and effects on the brain related to the use of alcohol, tobacco, nicotine products, and other drugs, including inhalants, marijuana, cocaine, stimulants, methamphetamines, opiates, steroids, and performance-enhancing drugs.
    • Research signs, symptoms, and causes of addiction and the impact of substance use disorder on relationships and behavior.
    • Explain how alcohol and other drugs increase the risk of injury.
    • Analyze the consequences of binge drinking.
    • Explain facts about opioids and why teens are more vulnerable to heroin and prescription opioids.
    • Research trends and factors that contribute to teen use/abuse and non-substance use of alcohol, tobacco, nicotine products (e.g., e-cigarettes), opioids, and other drugs and their impact on the community
    • Evaluate the causal relationship between tobacco, alcohol, inhalant, and other drug use and chronic disease.
    • Identify unsafe behaviors that may result in unintentional injury while riding in or operating a vehicle
    • Skills practice on how to refuse drugs or alcohol and strategies in responding to peer pressure

View the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) for a complete review of Virginia Health Standards of Learning and Curriculum Guidelines for Instruction on the Safe Use of and Risks of Abuse of Prescription Drugs (Word)

PWCS Intervention Programs

Grades 6-12 Intervention Programs:

  • The Stop and Think: Vaping, Marijuana, and Opioid Education Program is a virtual, one-session educational program for students who have violated a portion of the Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) “Code of Behavior” related to substance use for the first time. The program focuses on the mental and physical effects of substance use, specifically vaping, marijuana, and opioids. The goal is to provide students the opportunity to gain accurate information, honestly assess their involvement with substances, and make personal decisions about behavior changes necessary to ensure their health, well-being, and academic success.
  • Through a partnership with Prince William County Community Services, all high schools (9-12) in PWCS have New Horizons counselors that support students and their families with substance abuse, mental health, and cooccurring concerns. For more information, please contact your student's school counselor.
  • In affiliation with Prince William County Community Services, monthly REVIVE! training sessions are available to PWCS staff on the administration of Narcan®, a naloxone nasal spray used to treat narcotic overdoses in emergency situations.
  • All schools in the school division are stocked with Narcan® – to include school nurses, resource officers, and security officers.

Code of Behavior and PWCS School Policy

Talk to Your Child About the Dangers of Substance Abuse

Talk to Your Child About the Dangers of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can lead to serious problems such as poor schoolwork, loss of friends, problems at home, and lasting legal problems. Below are resources to help families start the conversation about the dangers of substance abuse.

Do You Think Your Child Is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol?

Do you think your child is abusing drugs or alcohol?

Know the signs...sad girl sitting on floor with head in her arms

  • Breaking rules
  • Heightened secrecy
  • Fishy-sounding excuses or outright lying
  • Difficulty thinking or keeping focus
  • Withdrawing from classroom participation
  • Resistance to discipline or feedback
  • Increased tardiness or absence
  • Paranoia, irritability, anxiety, fidgeting
  • Changes in mood or attitude
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Decline in school performance
  • Abandonment of long-time peer group

~ Adapted from Betty Ford Hazelden Foundation ~

Youth and Tobacco Use

Youth and Tobacco Use

Smoking and smokeless tobacco are almost always initiated and established during adolescence and most are addicted by the age of 20. Twenty percent of high school students report having smoked a cigarette in the last month. Tobacco use during adolescence is associated with health risk behaviors such as the use of alcohol, the use of other drugs, and high-risk sexual behaviors.

Boy breaking a cigarette

What are E-Cigarettes?

  • E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol, or mix of small particles in the air.
  • E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes.
  • Most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid.
  • Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items. Larger devices such as tank systems, or "mods," do not look like other tobacco products.
  • E-cigarettes are known by many different names. They are sometimes called "e-cigs," "e-hookahs," "mods," "vape pens," "vapes," "tank systems," and "electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)."
  • Using an e-cigarette is sometimes called "vaping."

3-types-cigarettes drawing

~ Retrieved from Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ~

Vaping Devices (Electronic Cigarettes) DrugFacts

Substance Use Disorder Treatment Facilities

Substance Use Disorder Treatment Facilities

Treatment Facility
(Website Link)
Location Contact Ages Types of Treatment Insurance
Addiction Help Manassas, VA
Rockville, MD
703-485-2000 Adolescents Buprenorphine No insurance: $200 for initial, $180 for each follow up
Catalyst Recovery and Wellness Center Manassas, VA 703-546-1834 14+ Outpatient SA (14+)
MAT services (16+)
Center for Behavioral Health Woodbridge, VA
South Riding, VA
703-492-8939 15+ Individual Therapy
MAT for 18+
Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program Fairfax, VA 1-844-825-0468 Adolescents RTC, PHP, IOP Unknown
Dominion Hospital
(Intersect Program)
Falls Church, VA 703-538-2872 Adolescents Inpatient and PHP Medicare and Medicaid for Partial,
Yes for Inpatient
Embark Tysons Corner, VA 1-866-370-3176 Adolescents PHP, Outpatient Therapy Unknown
Encore Fairfax, VA 703-596-3063 Adults IOP Does not accept Medicaid
Hallmark Youth Care Richmond, VA 804-784-2200 Adolescents RTC Unknown
Health Connect America Alexandria, VA
Sterling, VA
703-680-9527 Adolescents SUD IOP Accepts some Medicaid plans
INOVA Kellar Center Fairfax, VA
Sterling, VA
703-218-8500 Adolescents PHP, IOP,
co-occurring programs
All Medicaid except Kaiser
Living Free Health Services Annandale, VA 703-750-1292 Adolescents IOP, Outpatient Program Unknown
Manassas Addiction Center Manassas, VA 703-239-3602 Adolescents Medication-assisted detox,
outpatient therapy, family
medicine (can act as PCP)
Almost all insurance, including Medicaid
Newport Academy Rockville, MD 1-855-474-7068 Adolescents PHP, IOP, Outpatient
Does not accept Medicaid
North Spring Behavioral Healthcare
Outpatient Treatment Program
Leesburg, VA 703-554-6300 Adolescents-17 PHP, IOP Medicaid
SAMHSA's National Helpline 1-800-662-4357 Adolescents The referral service is free of charge.
Can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept
Medicare or Medicaid.
Sandstone TX Reston, VA
Rockville, MD
703-260-9359 Adolescents IOP, PHP, MAT No Medicaid. Accepts private insurance and TRICARE.
Youth For Tomorrow Ashburn, VA
Warrenton, VA
703-368-7995 13-18 IOP Optima Health Family Care,
VA Medicaid/Magellan Health Care,
Kaiser, Aetna, Anthem Keepers Plus,
Humana, VA Premier, INTotal Health

Last updated April 29, 2022.

REVIVE - Opioid Overdose Recognition and Response Training

REVIVE - Opioid Overdose Recognition and Response Training

In this 90-minute REVIVE! training participants will learn about opioids and how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose with the use of Naloxone. Participants will receive Narcan nasal spray after attending the training. For more information, contact 703-792-7739 or [email protected].

To register for a REVIVE! session, visit Prince William Community Services for a complete list of training options.

Revive! Opioid Overdose & Naxloxone Education in Virginia

Support for Children of Addiction

Support for Children of Addiction

Those hurt most by alcohol and drug abuse are the children of alcoholics and other drug dependent parents. One in four children in the United States is exposed to alcohol or drug addiction in the family.

Substance Abuse –
Let's Talk About It

A recording of a live webinar presented on May 5, 2022. This webinar provides parents and loved ones tools needed to start conversations with their family.


Community Awareness Message

The Prince William County Police Department released a community awareness message with a photo example of the counterfeit Percocet pill, sometimes referred to as perc30s. For full article, please visit InsideNoVa.

Examples of the counterfeit Percocet pills

Drug Enforcement Administration Warns of Brightly Colored Fentanyl Used to Target Children and Young Adults

U.S. Justice Department Drug Enforcement Administration Logo with drawing of an eagle

In recent years, our nation has experienced one of the most fatal drug epidemics in history. Opioids, specifically fentanyl, have impacted the lives of children and young adults and continues to be the primary driver in drug overdoses.

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is used for patients that require high levels of pain relief. Due to its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl has also been illicitly manufactured and is often the main ingredient used in counterfeit pills disguised as Percocet, Xanax, and Oxycontin. Although it can be found in illicitly manufactured pills, fentanyl can also present as a powder or liquid. Recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a warning to the public about an emerging trend of brightly colored fentanyl referred to as “rainbow fentanyl.” These drugs are brightly colored like chalk and candy, potentially making them more attractive to children and young adults.

photo of rainbow fentanyl

photo showing counterfeit oxycodone pills

photo of a lethal dose of fentanyl on the tip of a pencil

Rainbow Fentanyl

Counterfeit Pills

Lethal Dose of Fentanyl

Image Source: DEA


Read more in the DEA article (August 30, 2022)