Youth Substance Abuse Safety Program (YSASP)

I have a good future and direction ahead of me, as long as I keep my focus on it and work hard…to throw it all away for a simple buzz will never be worth it. This ticket was my rock bottom. It’s sad it had to get to this point for me to open my eyes, but at least I’ve now got the help and education on this topic I need. I can now get my life back on track, and do right. — Participant in Vermont’s Youth Substance Abuse Safety Program

Vermont’s Youth Substance Abuse Safety Program (YSASP) is designed as a way to hold young people accountable for breaking the law against underage drinking and possession of marijuana (an ounce or less), to educate them about the consequences and risk of substances, and to identify youth with potential substance abuse problems so they might receive treatment.

Individuals are referred by law enforcement to YSASP, which is run by Court Diversion. Those who choose to participate in YSASP and are successful avoid having their driver’s license suspended.

Participantspay a fee, meet with a licensed or certified substance abuse counselor for a screening or assessment (and must follow the recommendations of the counselor), and may participate in an educational program and perform community service. Participation is voluntary. If an individual chooses not to participate in the program or fails to complete the program, a ticket is issued and sent to the individual and the Vermont Judicial Bureau.

The Vermont Judicial Bureau levies a fine and informs the Department of Motor Vehicles, which suspends the individual’s driver’s license. Youth may contest the ticket through the Judicial Bureau.

There are risks associated with drinking alcohol, for young people in particular. Many of us are aware of the dangers associated with drinking and driving, and alcohol-related traffic crashes are the leading cause of death and disability among teenagers. In addition, according to The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking (2007), underage drinking:

  • Increases the risk of physical and sexual assault.
  • Is associated with poor grades, illegal drug use and tobacco use.
  • Can cause a range of physical problems ranging from hangovers to death from alcohol poisoning.
  • May affect a teen’s developing brain, which continues to grow until the late 20s.
  • Is a risk factor for heavy drinking later in life.

Youth who drink before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21. Studies have shown that two out of five kids who begin drinking before age 15 will develop alcohol abuse or dependence at some point in their lives. When they wait until they are 21, the risk for alcohol dependence drops to only one out of ten.

(Hingson, R. W., Heeren, T., & Winter, M. R. (2006). Age at drinking onset and alcohol dependence. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 160, 739-846.)