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In Brief, What’s New on Underage Drinking for National Substance Abuse Prevention Month?


Now is the time to complete your plans for October, National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, and step up efforts to encourage your family and friends, as well as everyone else, to take action to maintain a healthy lifestyle! If, like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration1 (SAMHSA) and many community-based organizations, your organization recognizes underage drinking as one of its top prevention priorities, your National Substance Abuse Prevention Month plans can remind members of your community about the scope and seriousness of this problem and why they need to take action to address it. If you have not begun alerting parents of 9- to 15-year-olds in your area about SAMHSA’s 2013 “Talk. They Hear You.” underage drinking campaign, the October observance offers one more reason to do so now.

Getting communities energized and engaged in yet another awareness observance about a familiar issue can be a challenge. That’s why SAMHSA offers a new spin on the basic underage drinking statistic: “An estimated 10 million people aged 12 to 20 report drinking alcohol during the past month … there are more Americans who have engaged in underage drinking than the number of people who live in the state of Michigan.” It goes without saying that if everyone in Michigan broke the law last month, plenty of action would be taken.You may already be using similar creative epidemiology to turn your audience’s attention to local adolescent alcohol use issues. If yours is one of the hundreds of communities participating in this year’s SAMHSA’s Recovery Month (September), you may have already communicated information such as that reported by SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set; for example, that 14 percent of admissions for substance abuse treatment among persons ages 12 to 17 during 2011 were due to underage drinking.

Another key to capturing and holding the attention of those you hope will endorse, promote, and help implement your organization’s underage drinking prevention plan is to make sure that you and your staff, volunteers, community partners, and members keep up with emerging data, research, and resources. Frequent quick visits to the home page of the web portal for the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking——makes this easy. Since this time last year, about 250 brief announcements have been posted there, under Research and Resources, summarizing the latest data; published research findings; new tools to help youth, adults, and groups like yours; and details about upcoming education webinars and online trainings. Here are sample headlines of only a few that might contain information relating to issues of concern in your community:

  • Introducing Children to Alcohol at Home May Backfire [10-03-2012];
  • RU DRKN 2NITE?—Underage Drinking in a Digital Age [11-26-2012];
  • Underage Drinking Party Dispersal Training Available [12-03-2012];
  • Programs Combat Underage Drinking and Suicide in Tribal Youth [01-28-2013];
  • Drink Up, Drop Out: Underage Drinking and School Failure [02-18-2013];
  • Culturally Sensitive, Accessible Prevention Needed for LGBT Youth [03-28-2013];
  • Support Can Help Military Children on the Move Avoid Alcohol [04-09-2013];
  • Teens Among Millions Now Eligible for Free Alcohol Screening [05-07-2013];
  • “Talk. They Hear You.”, SAMHSA’s New Prevention Campaign for Parents [05-14-2013];
  • Internal Possession Laws are Reducing Underage Drinking [05-28-2013];
  • Now in Theaters: Alcohol Brand Placements in Youth Movies [06-03-2013];
  • Study: 40 Percent of Designated Drivers 18 and Over Were Drinking [06-11-2013];
  • Review Finds Tax Increase To Be Best Policy To Prevent Underage Drinking [06-28-2013];
  • Erosion of Commercial Host Liability: A Public Health Failure [08-12-2013]; and
  • Web Course Trains Health Professionals To Screen for Underage Drinking [08-20-2013].

The good news is that if you did miss any of these, they remain accessible at To find the one you want, click on “More Research and Resources>>,” and either (1) scroll down until you see the headline that interests you or (2) search the page by hitting Control and the F key on your keypad and entering key words from the headline or on another topic of interest.

These Research and Resources summaries are just that—brief and to the point so that you needn’t set aside time you may never have to read a lengthy document. For those who want more, the Research and Resources announcements include hyperlinks to source and background documents and related information, making these useful pieces easily accessible for you to adapt for your own communications. Be sure to check these announcements on a regular basis, and watch out for the upcoming announcement for 2013 National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.

Whether you are in Michigan (and abiding by the law, of course) or Timbuktu, National Substance Abuse Prevention Month is a good time to renew local interest in preventing underage drinking. It’s also a good time to catch up on the latest Research and Resources at

1 SAMHSA’s Strategic Initiatives: Goal 1.2: Prevent or reduce consequences of underage drinking and adult problem drinking.