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New SAMHSA Guide: Medication for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder

A brief guide for health care providers is now available from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) with information about the use of medication-assisted treatment for patients with alcohol use and alcohol abuse problems. The guide focuses on clinical practice and includes a summary of approved medications. It also discusses screening, patient assessment, treatment planning, and patient monitoring. This free guide is available on SAMHSA’s website.

 According to SAMHSA’s 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, adults who had first used alcohol before age 15 were more than 6 times as likely to be classified with alcohol dependence or abuse than adults who had their first drink at age 21 or older (14.8 and 2.3 percent, respectively). Approximately 1.3 million youth needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in 2013, but only 122,000 received treatment at a specialty facility.

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SAMHSA Launches Suicide Prevention Mobile Application

On March 11, 2015, SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde unveiled a new, free mobile application designed to help behavioral health professionals and health care providers assess patients with suicidal ideation or behaviors.

 The mobile application includes resources to help health care providers communicate effectively with patients and families, determine appropriate next steps, and make referrals to treatment and community resources. Download the suicide prevention mobile application from the SAMHSA website.

 According to the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center, an estimated 275 alcohol-involved fatal burns, drownings, and suicides were attributable to underage drinking in 2011.

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Brief Alcohol Interventions Reduce Use and Problems in Adolescents

A systematic review of 185 research studies about brief alcohol interventions found that these types of interventions significantly reduce alcohol use and alcohol problems among adolescents. The reductions lasted for up to 1 year after the intervention was completed and were consistent across diverse demographics. These findings are promising, particularly because two other factors—the short duration of the interventions and low implementation costs—make brief alcohol interventions appealing.

This study, “Brief Alcohol Interventions for Adolescents and Young Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” was published in the April issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. It received grant support from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 

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Adolescents’ Media Use Tied to Alcohol Brand Consumption

A national survey of underage drinkers explored differences in adolescents’ media use patterns and their alcohol brand consumption. The survey included more than 1,000 underage youth ages 13‒20 who had consumed at least one alcoholic drink within the past month. The results showed that youth use media in different ways, and different types of media use are associated with consumption of specific brands of alcohol.

 The findings from this study can help inform future research about the association between youth who are exposed to specific alcohol media and their individual alcohol brand consumption.

The study, “Patterns of Media Use and Alcohol Brand Consumption Among Underage Drinking Youth in the United States,” received grant support from NIAAA and was published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Health Communication.

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SAMHSA Hosts Webinar on Happy Hour Restrictions: May 6

Please join the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for “Happy Hour” Restrictions: From Theory to Practice, on May 6, 2015, at 2:00 p.m. EDT.  During this free 1-hour webinar, Jim Mosher, Alcohol Policy Specialist, will review low-price, high-volume alcohol marketing practices, the number and extent of current state laws to restrict such practices, and potential barriers to and opportunities for passage and enforcement of similar legislation. Ted Mahony, Chief, Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, will describe Massachusetts’ experience with happy hour restrictions, which have been in existence statewide since 1983. Chief Mahony also will describe the findings of recent public meetings on whether the state should remove the restrictions in light of exemptions for newly-approved gaming establishments. Time will be provided for questions from the audience.

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SAMHSA Children's Mental Health Awareness Day Webisode Is May 8

Knowledge Network for Systems of Care (KSOC) TV is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) web-based technical assistance program featuring behavioral health experts discussing cutting-edge issues in children’s mental health.


Join SAMHSA for the next live webisode of KSOC-TV, Special Edition: National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day 2015: Strengthening Communities by Integrating Care, to air on May 7, 2015, at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, promoting the mental health of children can help reduce their risk of underage drinking and other drug use. For more information, read Why is early childhood development important to substance abuse prevention?

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Popularity Increases Risk of Alcohol Use Among High School Students

A recent study explored whether popularity and likability play a role in alcohol use among high school students. The study followed low-income high school students from 9th through 12th grade, checking in with them every 6 months. The authors found that popularity—but not likability—predicted alcohol use among the high school students, but these findings varied by ethnicity. Popularity was a risk factor for alcohol use among Caucasian and Latino students but not among African American students.

 The study, “Ethnic Differences in Associations Among Popularity, Likability, and Trajectories of Adolescents’ Alcohol Use and Frequency,” was published in the March/April 2015 issue of Child Development. A grant from the National Institutes of Health supported this research. 

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Early Initiation of Alcohol Use Increases Risk of Alcohol Problems as Adults

A new study followed nearly 1,000 young people from ages 12–24 and tracked their alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use. The study found that adolescents who started using these substances at an earlier age were more likely to develop problematic substance use in early adulthood. Also, high school students who increased their alcohol and marijuana use were at increased risk of problematic use in adulthood.

 The study, “Alcohol, Marijuana, and Tobacco Use Trajectories From Age 12 to 24 Years: Demographic Correlates and Young Adult Substance Use Problems,” was published in the February 2015 issue of Development and Psychology. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Mental Health supported this research. 

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SAMHSA Will Host a Webinar on Using Its Public-Use Data

On Thursday, April 23, at 1 p.m. EDT, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will hold the webinar Online Analysis of SAMHSA Public-Use Data With Survey Documentation and Analysis. The webinar will provide an overview of the survey documentation and analysis interface and share available resources for using the data. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive, which provides free access to current and comprehensive data on substance abuse and mental health, will conduct the webinar.

Registration for the webinar is free. 


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Prepartying and Extreme Drinking Among College Students

A recent study, “Prepartying, Drinking Games, and Extreme Drinking Among College Students: A Daily-Level Investigation,” explores the role of drinking before going out, also known as prepartying, and playing drinking games. In the study, 399 college students’ daily drinking behaviors were reviewed over the course of 14 consecutive days. The study analyzed whether extreme drinking was more likely on days when students engaged in prepartying or played drinking games.

The study found that extreme drinking was more common among students who frequently engaged in prepartying or played drinking games. Alcohol interventions for college students should consider targeting these behaviors.

This study is published in the March 2015 issue of Addictive Behaviors. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse supported this study.

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Students Hosting Non-University Guests Tend To Drink More

College students frequently host non-university guests for parties or special events. A new study explores the effects of non-university guests on college students’ drinking behaviors. A survey of 2,951 college students at a public university in the Midwest found that college students who hosted non-university guests, such as visitors for sports events or traditional party weekends, tended to be male, younger in age, and members of athletic teams. They also were more likely to have started using alcohol at younger ages. Host students also were more likely to live in off-campus housing than students who did not host guests. 

Students who hosted guests were at increased risk of heavy party-related drinking while hosting guests compared to non-hosts. The study suggests that prevention efforts at universities could benefit from targeting students who are likely to host non-university guests.

Hosting Non-University Guests and Party-Related Drinking Behaviors of College Studentsis published in the Journal of Substance Use, and was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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Flavored Alcoholic Beverages Increase Underage Drinking

A new study examined the associations between drinking flavored alcoholic beverages and risky drinking behaviors among underage drinkers. A survey of adolescents and young adults ages 13–20 shows that underage drinkers who reported exclusive consumption of flavored alcoholic beverages drank more often and were more likely to drink heavily than underage drinkers who did not drink flavored alcoholic beverages. Flavored alcoholic beverage drinkers were also more likely to get in fights or to get injured from drinking than underage drinkers who did not drink flavored alcoholic beverages.

Flavored Alcoholic Beverage Use, Risky Drinking Behaviors, and Adverse Outcomes Among Underage Drinkers: Results From the ABRAND Study” is published in the April 2015 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 

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Cultural Belonging Helps Prevent Substance Abuse Among Tribal Youth

A new intervention was recently developed by an academic and tribal partnership between the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes. The purpose of the intervention is to promote increased cultural belonging and prevent substance abuse among tribal youth. The intervention uses the canoe journey as a metaphor for life, and preliminary results from the intervention study indicate that the intervention was effective in achieving its objectives. 

The study, “Healing of the Canoe: Preliminary Results of a Culturally Grounded Intervention To Prevent Substance Abuse and Promote Tribal Identity for Native Youth in Two Pacific Northwest Tribes,” is published in American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research. The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities supported this research.

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Sipping Alcohol by Sixth Grade Increases Risk of High School Use

A new study on early use of alcohol found that early sipping of alcohol by young students is associated with risky alcohol behaviors when they enter high school. In addition, offering young people just a sip of alcohol may undermine prevention messages about alcohol for youth.

 The web-based study looked at alcohol use by 561 students at the beginning of sixth grade and again at ninth grade. Approximately one out of three study participants had sipped alcohol by the fall of sixth grade. Most participants who sipped alcohol before sixth grade had their first sip in their own home, most often from a parent. Young people who sipped alcohol by sixth grade were much more likely to consume a full drink, get drunk, and drink heavily by ninth grade than nonsippers.

 The Prospective Association Between Sipping Alcohol by the Sixth Grade and Later Substance Use” was published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The National Institutes of Health supported this research.

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CDC Offers Online Learning Materials for Public Health Professionals

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an online resources for public health professionals through the CDC Learning Connection. The site provides trainings, quick-learn lessons, and other products addressing a range of pressing public health issues, including underage drinking.

The site currently features the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact online application, which provides national and state estimates of alcohol-related health impacts, including deaths and years of potential life lost. These estimates are calculated for 54 acute and chronic causes using alcohol-attributable fractions, and are reported by age and gender for 2006‒2010.

To receive the CDC Learning Connection e-newsletter highlighting new resources and materials available on the site, sign up here.

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Rates of Underage Drinking Vary by Drinking Site

Young drinkers may experience different risks depending on where they drink alcohol. The study titled “Who Drinks Where: Youth Selection of Drinking Contexts” looked at drinking patterns among young people in different settings. The study included 665 adolescents ages 13–16 who used alcohol in the past year. The adolescents were from 50 California cities. The study looked at drinking behaviors in seven different contexts at three different times during the year, and also considered other factors such as gender, age, race, parental education, general deviance, and past-year smoking behaviors.

Adolescents who drank more often were more likely to drink at parties or at someone else’s house. Those who drank heavily were more likely to drink in parking lots or on street corners. The likelihood of young people drinking at parties or at someone else’s house increased over time, while the likelihood of drinking in parking lots or on street corners decreased. Youth who engage in deviant behaviors progressed more quickly to drinking in their own home, and at beaches, parks, and restaurants or bars. As seen in the findings, the different settings in which young people consume alcohol changed over time and varied by individual characteristics.

 The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research in March 2015. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism supported this research.

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High School Students Find Online Personalized Feedback Programs Useful

Brief interventions that offer web-based personalized feedback are effective in reducing alcohol use and related negative consequences from alcohol use among college students. A new study aimed to understand if similar web-based personalized feedback programs are an appropriate tool to reduce drinking among high school students.

The study found that a web-based personalized feedback approach is indeed appropriate for high school students. The majority of students thought the program was user-friendly and useful. Students who reported alcohol use were more likely to think the program was useful and to recommend the program to other students. Web-based personalized feedback may be more positively perceived by high school students who have initiated drinking, compared with those who do not drink.

The study is published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. The study received support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

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Alcohol and Energy Drink Combination Increases Risky Behaviors

The use of alcohol and energy drinks together is an alarming practice among young people that is raising health concerns and increasing the number of related visits to emergency departments. A recent study explored the use of alcohol and energy drinks among young people who are seen in emergency departments. The study compared young people ages 1420 who drank alcohol but not energy drinks with young people who combined alcohol and energy drinks in the same beverage or on the same occasion.

Young people shared their reasons for combining energy drinks with alcohol, with the most common reasons being to hide the flavor of alcohol and because they liked the taste. These young people reported feeling jittery (71 percent) and having trouble sleeping (46 percent) as common consequences of the mixed drinks. The study found that young people who combined alcohol with energy drinks had the highest rates of risky behaviors, including drug use, sexual risk behaviors, driving after drinking, and alcohol use severity.

Alcohol and Energy Drink Use Among Adolescents Seeking Emergency Department Care” is published in the April 2015 issue of Addictive Behaviors. The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported this research. 

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Binge Drinking in Adolescence May Cause Long-term Problems

Binge drinking during adolescence can lead to problems with executive functioning and behavioral control in adulthood, according to a new animal study conducted by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina. The study found that animals that were exposed to alcohol had behavior issues and experienced other changes to their brains. The study is published in the February 2015 issue of NIAAA Spectrum. A summary of the study findings is available online.

According to results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 4.5 percent of 14- or 15-year-olds and 13.1 percent of 16- or 17-year-olds engage in binge drinking.

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Female Juvenile Offenders May Use Alcohol to Cope With Sexual Coercion

The study “Predictors of Sexual Coercion and Alcohol Use Among Female Juvenile Offenders” found that young offenders ages 14 to 17 who experienced sexual coercion were more likely to increase their drinking behavior. An increase in alcohol use also was associated with the risk of repeated sexual coercion. According to the study’s authors, these young women may have used alcohol to help cope with feelings of victimization. The findings point to the importance of intervening early with this high-risk group of young women.

The study is published in the January 2015 issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The study received support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

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Greater Alcohol Use in High School Tied to Blackout Risk in College

This new study examined the link between high school drinking behaviors and the risk of problem drinking in college. A group of 430 first- and second-year college students who violated their schools’ alcohol policies were required to participate in a harm-reduction program. In an electronic survey, those students were asked about their drinking behaviors during high school and college. Students were grouped into low-, moderate-, or high-risk groups based on their high school drinking behaviors. The higher the risk group, the greater the likelihood that those students would experience an alcohol-related blackout in college. The findings from this study can be used to target and intervene with high-risk high school students.

This study, “High School Risk Factors Associated With Alcohol Trajectories and College Alcohol Use,” was published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse, Issue 1, 2015. The study received grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education.