Want to Get Involved in SoPo Unite?
Are you a student who is interested in helping SoPo Unite? Please contact Kara Tierney-Trevor, South Portland High School Social Worker, by email.

 Check out our YouTube Channel for videos made by SoPo Unite students!

Local Opportunities

Junior Police Academy:
The South Portland, ME, Parks and Recreation Division and the South Portland Police Department host a Junior Police Academy Camp in the summer for students entering Grades 6-8 in the fall. The week-long day camp is designed to provide participating youth with activities that develop communication decision-making skills, teamwork, and leadership.

Campers learned about the role of police in the community and the importance of the Police Department’s Guiding Values: Integrity, Respect, Service, Fairness, and Leadership. Activities included outdoor and indoor games, swimming at the Community Center pool, field trips and challenges that were designed to encourage leadership and build confidence. Campers also learned about the Police Department’s K-9 Program, crime scene investigations, and viewed presentation by the SWAT and Dive teams.

For more information about attending the camp, please contact the South Portland Police Department at (207) 874-8575.

Student Intervention and Reintegration Program (SIRP):
SIRP is an evidence-based education based program for youth (ages 13-18) experimenting with alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs.

What will you learn?

  • The effects that alcohol and drugs have on the body.
  • Be able to identify your own patterns of use and risk level.
  • Participate in activities and watch videos that help you understand the risk of addiction and how to avoid it.

Are you interested in attending a SIRP class? Please find the class schedule and contacts here.

Information on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drugs

What You Need to Know About Alcohol:

Research shows that youth who begin drinking before age 15 are 4X more likely to develop alcohol dependence. That rate drops to below 10% for those who begin drinking after age 21.

Alcohol can be a major factor in many fatal injuries such as: impaired driving, drownings, burns, falls, and alcohol overdose. It can also make a person more susceptible to sexual assault and unprotected sex.

*Information is from the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Maine

Physical impacts of alcohol:

  • Alcohol is a diuretic, making one urinate excessively, which speeds up the loss of fluid from the body, causing dehydration. Most of the nasty symptoms of a hangover, including headache, dizziness, thirst, paleness, and tremors—are caused by dehydration.
  • Even though someone who has been drinking might look as if they’re in a deep sleep, they will not be getting restorative sleep.
  • Consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one night can affect brain and body activities for up to three days.
  • Two consecutive nights of drinking five or more alcoholic beverages can affect brain and body activities for up to five days.
  • Attention span is shorter for up to 48 hours after drinking.
  • Even the effects of small amounts of alcohol (BAC of .03) can persist for a substantial period of time after the acute effects of alcohol impairment disappear.

*Information is from the University of Notre Dame

What You Need to Know About Marijuana:

Initially marijuana may calm and relax and is 4 times stronger than the natural brain chemicals that help calm a person. Over time, the brain’s natural ability to calm itself decreases as marijuana takes over. Eventually the brain can’t relax without marijuana.

Young people who use marijuana are 2 times more likely to experience depression or anxiety and 3 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

For young people using marijuana, 1 out of 6 will develop addiction.

*Information is from the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Maine

Brain and Information Processing:

Marijuana can cause slowed reaction time and reduced memory, motivation and learning. It can make processing information difficult and can cause poor sensory and time perception as well as poor coordination and concentration.

In the short-term, a person using marijuana may feel that it helps them focus-this is really an inability to shift attention to other things. Over time, a person may have a “rebound effect” where the person is not able to focus, so in order to focus they continue to use again.

Marijuana can lead to the following:

  • Altered senses
  • Altered sense of time
  • Change in mood
  • Impaired body movement
  • Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • Impaired memory

Marijuana is more potent than it was in the past: The level of THC has risen from about 4 percent in 1995 to 12 percent in 2014.

What You Need to Know About Tobacco:

Like other drugs, nicotine increases levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine.  It’s released normally when you experience something pleasurable like good food, your favorite activity, or spending time with people you care about. When a person uses tobacco products, the release of dopamine causes similar effects. This effect wears off quickly, causing people who smoke to get the urge to light up again for more of that good feeling, which can lead to addiction.

A typical smoker will take 10 puffs on a cigarette over the period of about 5 minutes that the cigarette is lit. So, a person who smokes about 1 pack (25 cigarettes) daily gets 250 “hits” of nicotine each day.

Studies suggest that other chemicals in tobacco smoke, such as acetaldehyde, may increase the effects of nicotine on the brain.

When smokeless tobacco is used, nicotine is absorbed through the mouth tissues directly into the blood, where it goes to the brain. Even after the tobacco is removed from the mouth, nicotine continues to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Also, the nicotine stays in the blood longer for users of smokeless tobacco than for smokers.

When nicotine enters the body, it initially causes the adrenal glands to release a hormone called adrenaline. The rush of adrenaline stimulates the body and causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.

Most of the harm to the body is not from the nicotine, but from other chemicals in tobacco or those produced when burning it—including carbon monoxide, tar, formaldehyde, cyanide, and ammonia. Tobacco use harms every organ in the body and can cause many problems. The health effects of smokeless tobacco are somewhat different from those of smoked tobacco, but both can cause cancer.

*Information is from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens


E-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine without the other chemicals produced by burning tobacco leaves. Puffing on the mouthpiece of the cartridge activates a battery-powered inhalation device (called a vaporizer). The vaporizer heats the liquid inside the cartridge which contains nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals. The heated liquid turns into an aerosol (vapor) which the user inhales—referred to as “vaping.”

Research so far suggests that e-cigarettes may be less harmful than cigarettes when people who regularly smoke switch to them as a complete replacement. But since they are so new, we do not know for sure. And, nicotine in any form is a highly addictive drug. Health experts have raised many questions about the safety of these products, particularly for teens:

  • Testing of some e-cigarette products found the aerosol (vapor) to contain known cancer-causing and toxic chemicals, and particles from the vaporizing mechanism that may be harmful. The health effects of repeated exposure to these chemicals are not yet clear.
  • There is animal research which shows that nicotine exposure may cause changes in the brain that make other drugs more rewarding. If this is true in humans, as some experts believe, it would mean that using nicotine in any form would increase the risk of other drug use and for addiction.
  • Some research suggests that e-cigarette use may serve as a “gateway” or introductory product for youth to try other tobacco products, including regular cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to early death. A recent study showed that students who have used e-cigarettes by the time they start 9th grade are more likely than others to start smoking traditional cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products within the next year.
  • Some research suggests that certain brands of e-cigs contain metals like nickel and chromium, possibly coming from the heating of coils.

FDA regulation also means that the Federal government will now have a lot more information about what is in e-cigarettes, the safety or harms of the ingredients, how they are made, and what risks need to be communicated to the public (for example, on health warnings on the product and in advertisements). They will also be able to stop manufacturers from making statements about their products that are not scientifically proven.

Regulation does not mean that e-cigarettes are necessarily safe for all adults to use, or that all of the health claims currently being made in advertisements by manufactures are true. But it does mean that e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, and cigars now have to follow the same type of rules as cigarette manufacturers.